Report Card: Rainforest Cafe

Click to add a blog post for Rainforest Café on Zomato

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/animal-kingdom/rainforest-cafe-animal-kingdom/

Overall GrubGrade B+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A+: Atmosphere is one of the reasons most people would decide to eat at Rainforest Cafe. The visual experience alone is worth at least one visit, and if, like us, you’ve spent your entire day hiking across the far expanse of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Rainforest Cafe located right outside the gate to the park is a much needed break from everything. It had been rainy the day we visited, so we’re not sure the foggy mist surrounding the Rainforest Cafe was man-made or supplied by Mother Nature herself, but it gave our arrival an almost Jurassic Park kind of vibe. On the inside, it’s visually a little overwhelming (note: We normally include a photo or two with our Report Cards, but my recent upgrade to Windows 10 is making some of my normal computer functions a challenge – once I figure it out the photos will return). There’s lots of lights and sounds, some moving animals, and lots of Disney and Rainforest Cafe swag being peddled outside the main dining area. We will not lie to you…it was busy, and if you go there without making a reservation (which can be done online) then you are probably not the most organized person in the world, and Disney World has probably already kicked your ass all day. We had a fairly minimal wait for our table, and once seated we were ready to chow down.

High marks: A visual feast

Low marks: Busy and potentially overwhelming from a sensory perspective

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Service: Grade B: Our receipt says our server’s name was Kevin, but I could swear our server was female, so either my memory is toast or our receipt is incorrect. Either way, service was okay. Service at any restaurant associated with Disney World is going to be pretty good – it is the happiest place on Earth. Due to the high number of patrons, our service was a little slow, but nothing that would make me outraged. And, in our case the pace gave us a chance to chill out a bit after walking around the Animal Kingdom all day. Our food all came out as ordered, and other than the slight wait the service was pretty solid.

High marks: Solid and accurate service

Low marks: Just a bit on the slow side

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+: Rainforest Cafe is the first of quite a few Disney World dining venues we will be rating, and the reader may feel we are being a little harsh with these restaurants. We would just like to say that we are going to hold these restaurants to the same standard as we do all restaurants, and for the most part the restaurants will score in the middle of the pack since they are pretty high volume sites and have to temper quality with the volume of patrons they serve. So, for a Food grade, while B+ is really good but not AWESOME, taken in the context of other Disney World associated restaurants, it’s a pretty high score. Our daughter had a turkey club sandwich, and our son had the kid’s Jurassic Chicken. Both those dishes must have been pretty good because both kids dispatched their meals with haste. Plus, we were all pretty starving from walking around all day. Katina ordered the Coconut Shrimp, which she washed down with a strawberry mojito, and I had something called a Feijoada (which the server warned me was spicy but which I thought was pretty tame) which I washed down with some beer (Safari Amber Ale). Drinks and food were good but nothing Earth shattering. But most grown-ups would be more than satisfied with the quality and be relieved that the kids cleaned their plates. If you want a comparison that might give you a better idea of the quality of food, think in the neighborhood of a TGIFriday’s.

High marks: All the food and drinks were good

Low marks: Nothing was excellent or mind-blowing

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Value: Grade C-: Don’t go here if you are trying to eat on a budget. Dinner for 4 cost us about $130 before tip, and considering one of our for dishes was chicken tenders and one of the others was a turkey sandwich, you’re paying a high price for good (but not excellent) quality. We enjoyed it, but we were bushed and enjoyed the visual distraction and a chance to rest a bit. But honestly, any place you eat at Disney World is going to cost quite a bit.

High marks: Price might be worth it considering decent quality and neat atmosphere

Low marks: This is not the place to go it you’re trying to stretch your dollar …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Technical: Grade B: You can view the menu and make reservations online, but that’s about it. Honestly, you really don’t need much more…you should be on vacation anyway, so why are you on the computer?

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Autism Friendly Score: 5 – This is a bit tough. Depending on how many sensory issues your child has, this might be a home run or it could be a disaster. This restaurant has a lot going on from a sensory standpoint. Our son can cope with most sensory stimuli, but if noise and visual clutter bother your kiddo, then move on. The kids menu has more variety than most of the other restaurants we visited while on vacation, but it doesn’t appear to cater to any dietary quirks you might have.

 

Honorable Mention: Angelico Pizzeria

 

angelicopizzeria
Click to add a blog post for Angelico's Pizza Glover Park on Zomato
http://www.angelicopizzeria.com/

We had spent the night in Richmond, Virginia prior to setting out for our nation’s capital. It wasn’t a huge drive with respect to distance, but traffic was a bear, and once we actually got into Washington DC, the traffic was absolutely brutal. So, once we checked into our hotel in Georgetown, it was time to snag a bite to eat, and there was no way we were driving anywhere after the stressful trip in. Since we were staying right off of Wisconsin Avenue, which is brimming with businesses and places to eat, we decided to just pick a direction and walk until we arrived someplace that looked promising. Angelico Pizzeria was the first place we came to that looked like it sold more than bagels and coffee, so in we went.

Angelico Pizzeria doesn’t have servers, just someone taking your order behind a counter and ringing you up, so we can not do a full review. But we do want to mention the place since we did eat there, and DC is such a touristy place someone might be tempted to eat there and find our comments useful. If you do decide to eat there, you might want to double up on whatever cholesterol medication you’re taking, because you’re going to be eating some grease. We opted for a large specialty pizza called the Meat Classic. Sauce, cheese, crust, pepperoni, ham, bacon and Italian sausage are certainly pizza ingredients we’d consider worthy of the “classic” moniker. And as far as taste goes, the pizza tasted fine – even pretty good. However, this pizza was very, very greasy. We’re not sure if that’s because of all the meat or if greasy pies are par for the course at Angelico’s, but be warned that you might clog an artery or two while you’re there. There is grated (really it’s powdered) Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flake available if you want to kick things up a notch. We used the cheese to absorb some of the grease, which when combined together formed a tasty sludge atop the pizza. While it didn’t eliminate the grease, it did hide it from sight which allowed us to enjoy the pie a little more. As for price, the pizza was very reasonably priced, so we didn’t feel cheated.

The restaurant itself wasn’t too dirty, but we wouldn’t necessarily consider it that clean, either. There aren’t a whole lot of options other than soda and other regular drinks with which to wash down your meal. If you want decent plates and utensils, better bring them with you because the ones in the restaurant are pretty much useless. The paper plates were extremely thin – thin enough that doubling them up still didn’t stop the grease from soaking through to the table. Knives and forks were of the flimsy plastic variety, and cutting the pizza up was nearly impossible. But honestly, we think the target demo for Angelico Pizzeria is probably the inebriated folk that stumble out of one of the many nearby bars, and those folks probably could care less if they’re using their hands or a knife and fork.

The bottom line is that while we’ve had worse pizza before, we’ve had a lot better as well. Angelico Pizzeria may not have too much competition in the area, but if you’re looking for a pizza that isn’t going to increase your risk factor of a heart attack, you should probably walk past this restaurant and try another. If you could care less or you’re hammered, then Angelico Pizzeria might be just the thing you’re looking for.

 

Report Card: Houlihans

Houlihans
Click to add a blog post for Houlihan's on Zomato
http://www.houlihans.com/my-houlihans/upper-arlington

 

Overall GrubGrade B

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B+: Houlihan’s in Upper Arlington is not what we’d call an upscale restaurant, but it actually comes pretty close. We would actually classify Houlihan’s as a med-level steakhouse. From the outside, Houlihan’s looks pretty neat, with a blocky, contemporary style. The décor inside is fairly contemporary and the place was quite clean. The inside wasn’t too loud when we first arrived, but the restaurant wasn’t really very busy, either. By the time we finished eating, though, it was starting to get a little loud. Houlihan’s might have scored in the A- range except for one thing: the bench seat. Much like other restaurants that we’ve dinged for having this set-up, Houlihan’s is also guilty of having the same seating arrangement. Plus, with a nearly empty restaurant and a fairly young couple (that being us), I would expect the bench seat to be the last place we would be seated. But no. We were walked to the middle of a very long bench seat. In the case of Houlihan’s, at least they didn’t seat anyone right next to us on either side, so we were at least spared being witness to other peoples conversations against our will.

High marks: Clean, contemporary décor, fairly quiet upon arrival

Low marks: Giant bench seat

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Service: Grade B+: Our server, Tara, was quite attentive without being annoyingly clingy. She seemed to have a decent sense of humor and was sociable. We were allowed to settle into our seats before Tara arrived to take our drink order. This is important. We cannot stand when a server asks us what we want to drink before we’ve even picked up a menu. Please give us a minute or two…especially for Katina, who can be a little needy when it comes to drink menus. I can always opt for what’s on tap, but she’s a little more refined in her drink tastes. Once we ordered everything, there was minimal wait for the food. There was one error in our meal with Katina getting the wrong side dish, but otherwise the service was very solid.

High marks: Attentive without being oppressive, nice attitude and sense of humor

Low marks: One small error with our meal

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Food/Spirits: Grade B-: We started our meal by ordering the pot-stickers for our appetizer. The menu states they are pan-fried, but we felt they could have been left on the stove a little while longer. They were a little disappointing because they were soggy. Katina also had a bowl of French Onion soup and I tried the chicken tortilla soup. We both found our soups to be good, but neither of us felt they were the best versions of those soups we’ve had. The French Onion soup has less of a beefy flavor than Katina is used to, and I felt the chicken tortilla soup had a nice flavor but was a little under-seasoned, and therefore slightly bland. For her entree, Katina ordered the almond crusted tilapia and I opted for the Kansas City strip steak. Katina found the tilapia to be good, but almost all of the flavor came from the sweet, creamy sauce. I found my steak to be really good…actually better that I had anticipated. Our side dishes included green beans, chips and salsa, and some unwanted asparagus (that’s the mistake I mentioned earlier). The green beans were excellent and exceeded both of our expectations, while the chips and salsa were nothing special and tasted like they came from a bag and jar, respectively. Oh, I almost forgot our drinks…and that’s probably because they were quite forgettable. We opted for a mojito mule and a black cherry mojito, neither of which tasted like they had any liquor in them.

High marks: Better than expected steak and green beans

Low marks: Tilapia, chips and salsa, pot-stickers and drinks were all ho-hum

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Value: Grade B-: While Houlihan’s wasn’t outrageously expensive for a pseudo-steakhouse, it was the average tasting food that kept the value score low. But, Houlihan’s would make a nice first date spot…a little classy but not real expensive.

High marks: Not too expensive

Low marks: Food could be a little better …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Technical: Grade A: One bright spot for Houlihan’s is their website. Online reservations are available, as is their full menu including gluten free designations for some of their dishes. You can also find complete nutritional information for all of their dishes on their site as well. The site is very clean and easy to navigate. The only thing missing is the option of ordering online for those of us wanting to enjoy the food but not the crowd.

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Autism Friendly Score: 5: Online reservations (as mentioned above) are available, as is a gluten free menu. But no online kids menu and lack of free Wi-Fi keeps this score right in the middle of the scale for Houlihan’s. If your child has an adventurous palate they might find that Houlihan’s is not overwhelming due to sensory input it the crowd is light, but it might be too noisy if you visit during peak times.

Honorable Mention: Zoup

Zoup on Polaris Parkway

Zoup on Polaris Parkway

Click to add a blog post for Zoup! The Fresh Soup Company on Zomato
http://www.zoup.com/

Zoup is restaurant that dishes out soup (really, no joke), salads, and sandwiches. To be honest, I thought Katina was jerking my chain when she suggested we stop there and grab lunch. I had a preconceived idea of what we’d be walking into, and it was oddly similar to the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld. I wondered if I made too much eye contact or tweaked my order I’d get that “No soup for you” shouted at me by and someone who bore a remarkable resemblance to Freddy Mercury.

But that’s why Katina is the smart one and I’m the pretty one. She was right again. Zoup was awesome. First, they have a robust website that allows you to order online (which is a big plus in Katina’s opinion). And the website has the nutritional content of all their offerings. Second, the inside of the place was very clean and the service was very friendly. We stopped shortly after I started my new healthy diet, so I was very concerned with sodium content. Do any of you know how much salt is in soup? Next time you are at the grocery store, try to find a can of soup that doesn’t have an obscene amount of salt in it (if you do, post a comment so I can pick some up). It’s almost impossible to do. I though freshly made soup would be lower in sodium, but looking at the nutritional data on the Zoup website proves me wrong. Salt city, my friends. So instead, both Katina and I opted for salads. Katina ordered the Asian salad and I snagged a Loco Burrito salad. The salads were customizable (that is a word, isn’t it?) which was nice. And the salads were huge (with 1/3 of the sodium as the soups) so a whole salad was really all you’d need for lunch. We were both impressed with the quality of the ingredients as well as friendly service. Not sure where they found the two young guys working behind the counter on the day we visited, but they seemed to have a real thing for slinging soup. And while our salads weren’t the cheapest you can find, they were worth every penny spent.

We highly recommend Zoup. It offers a nice change of pace from the traditional lunch offerings. But if your into eating healthy, we’d also recommend going online first and checking out the nutritional information on their offerings. If you really don’t care, then the menu is wide open for you..enjoy, and let us know how you liked it.

Grubgraders, Grubgraders….Wherefore art thou, Grubgraders?

Loyal followers of this blog might be wondering what has happened to the Grubgraders.  Did the dynamic duo retire?  Did either (or both) of them meet with some tragic dining accident that escaped the national news?  Actually, neither of those scenarios has happened.

A couple of months ago I was checking myself out in the mirror after my morning shower and it occurred to me…I was getting fat.  Not just the pudginess that comes with middle age.  I mean yucky, obese, Michelin Man fat (BTW, my significant other looks just as delicious as she did when I married her).  I made a vow to get my stuff together and change myself for the better.  I had been treating eating and drinking beer as Olympic events, and I was determined to take the gold.  But while my tummy was happy, the rest of me pretty much sucked.  I had no stamina and just didn’t feel like doing anything productive.

Almost twelve weeks have passed since that little epiphany, and I am happy to report that while I am still pretty far from my personal goals, I have made some substantial progress.  So fear not, loyal readers…Grubgraders shall return, and soon.  We have a couple of places to review that just haven’t been finalized yet, but you will all notice some enhancements to the site going forward.  For one, most of my dining selections will be on the healthier side of the spectrum (maybe Katina will join me on my health kick, but she doesn’t need to).  So for those of you who are health conscious, the site might help you identify those dining establishments that have selections that fit your needs.  We are also going to give each restaurant a “tech” grade (we’re not sure exactly what we are going to call it yet) that will score each restaurant’s website.  We will be looking at the accuracy of the online menu (if available), whether or not you can make online reservations (a big plus for Katina), and if the nutritional value of the dishes is available.  We might add some other things here and there, but as we evolve as critics, so must our little blog.

Also, look during the summer for report cards on restaurants in the Washington D.C. area as well as some from the happiest place on Earth (which also, in my opinion, also has the highest concentration of crying children), Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Since the latter is such a big vacation site for families (and we will have our stinkers with us as well), those report cards will be focused a little more on how well the restaurant caters to families.

I know you are all on the edge of your seats…how could you not be?  Just hang in there a little bit longer and it will all be worth it.

Honorable Mention: Tacos Hass

TacoHass
Click to add a blog post for Hass on Zomato
This Chipotle wannabe is located right on Sawmill Road in Columbus. Getting there is a bit of a hassle with road construction in the area (at least when we visited), but that can hardly be blamed on the restaurant itself.

Inside the restaurant, you can tell this is not part of a huge chain. While the place appeared to be fairly clean, it also appeared to be fairly run down as well. While we’re not sure how long Taco Hass has been open, by the looks of the tables and chairs, you might guess 100 years. But the important thing is the food, right?

Taco Hass doesn’t get a full report card since there is no table-side service to speak of. Katina ordered the Hass Quesadilla and I opted for the Burrito Hass. Katina ordered her quesadilla with chicken and no beans. Let me digress a little bit here…how can you like Mexican food and not like beans? It’s like non-alcoholic beer…why bother. Katina says it wasn’t the best quesadilla she’s ever had.  It was really messy yet had very little cheese (which is one of the defining qualities of a quesadilla).  But the quesadilla did have plenty of chicken in it.  My burrito was very large with surprising little meat in it.  It actually looked like it came from Chipotle.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t stack up to what you’d get at Chipotle. Katina washed her burrito down with a margarita that we suspect came premixed straight from a bottle, and I washed my burrito down with an ice cold Corona.

If you want to try to imagine what the Taco Hass experience is like without visiting, do this: close your eyes and imagine being in Chipotle, but with a far lower level of customization. If you were to open your eyes, you might be fooled into thinking you were at a Chipotle since the food looks similar. But that illusion would be shattered after your first bite. Plus, your paying about the same price as you would at Chipotle for food that isn’t quite on the same level. If you find yourself waiting for a gap in traffic on Sawmill Road so you can turn into the Taco Hass parking lot, do yourself a favor and pull back out into traffic. Keep going a little ways until you find a Chipotle and stop there (you shouldn’t have to drive too far since there’s one on about every corner these days).

Report Card: Gordon Biersch Brewery

Gordon Biersch Brewery in the Arena District

Gordon Biersch Brewery in the Arena District

Gordon Biersch Brewery on Urbanspoon
http://www.gordonbiersch.com/

Overall GrubGrade B

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B-: In a moment of sheer lunacy, we decided to attend the Columbus Auto Show at the Columbus Convention Center in downtown, Columbus. Attending the car show wasn’t lunacy in itself, but attending it on the same day when Nationwide Arena was hosting some of the NCAA first round Men’s Basketball Tournament games. Downtown was a madhouse, and there was nary a parking space near the downtown area. We happened to luck out and find a parking garage that most people didn’t seem to know about, but that was after battling traffic and pedestrians for about a half hour. So once we were done at the car show, we were hungry and decided it would be the most convenient to hit some place downtown. We had stopped by a Gordon Biersch many years ago, and since there was one in the Arena District, we decided “Why not?” On the inside, Gordon Biersch was decorated nicely with almost a minimalistic theme. There wasn’t a ton of wall clutter, and we sat in a fairly empty area of the restaurant (most of the other patrons were gathered in and around the bar area, where the flat screen televisions were mounted). On the negative side, the menus at Gordon Biersch were possible the dirtiest menus we’ve ever had to hold. We mean these things were absolutely scuzzy. We hoped the filthy menus weren’t going to be a reoccurring theme for our visit.

High marks: Tasteful décor and quiet dining area (at least on this visit)

Low marks: No convenient parking, and the menus were GROSS

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Service: Grade B: Our server’s name was Stephanie. There wasn’t too much that was memorable about the service, but in Stephanie’s defense, all the action in the restaurant was located elsewhere. We had minimal wait for our food, and our order was delivered with no mistakes. We did find it a little odd that when I asked for a “to go” box when our entrees came out, I kind of got just a smidge of attitude. Actually, it was more like a weird look, but the size of this entree was enormous, and I am trying to watch my figure for Pete’s sake.

High marks: Solid, mistake free service

Low marks: Nothing spectacular, and some possible offense made by my box request

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Food/Spirits: Grade B: We skipped the appetizer on this occasion. I had just started my diet, and therefore was not willing to partake in the extra calories. I have since become less Nazi-ish in my adherence to my diet, so most of our future posts will include the appetizer. Katina ordered the sangria for her drink. It was good, but nothing too memorable. I ordered one of Gordon Biersch’s in-house specialty brews called a Rauchbier. This beer was unique in that it was smoked, so it had a really nice, hearty smoky flavor that is usually absent from most beers. It was delicious, and it happened to pair nicely with food. I would definitely consider the Rauchbier a “dinner” beer and not one that you’d drink just to have a beer. For her entree, Katina ordered the braised beef tips, and I opted for the Cajun pasta. The beef tips were very flavorful, but a little lite on the beef. Katina felt the dish was too veggie-laden to be a knock-out, but it was still tasty, which is quite the endorsement coming from someone whom I’ve rarely seen eat beef tips. The Cajun pasta was also really good, but I have had better versions of Cajun pasta. Gordon Biersch’s version suffers from the same flaw as many of the other Cajun pasta’s I’ve had – too little andouille sausage. For me, a good Cajun pasta has plentiful sausage, chicken, and shrimp. The less stellar versions are usually 90% chicken, 8% shrimp, and 2% andouille sausage. So, the pasta was tasty, but no flavor-gasm (that’s Katina’s word, not mine).

High marks: Delicious and unique beer

Low marks: Too little beef in the beef tips and too little sausage in the Cajun pasta

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Value: Grade B: I’ve seen reviews on Urbanspoon claiming that Gordon Biersch was overpriced, and we have to disagree. It’s not cheap, but we dropped $52 before tip, and that’s not too out of line with our expectations. Had the quality of the food been a tad bit higher, we might have bumped this score up to an A- or B+. But if you’re in the Arena District and you’re looking to grab a bite to eat, Gordon Biersch Brewery is a pretty solid choice.

High marks: Reasonable prices for food

Low marks: Quality needs to be a little better …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Autism Friendly Score: 3 We can’t really imagine a reason to take someone on the spectrum to Gordon Biersh unless your little one is a rabid sports fan or you just caught a concert at Nationwide. But just in case, you should be aware that the lack of convenient parking, online reservations, and online kids menu doesn’t bode well. There wasn’t much noise or visual stimuli to bother an autistic child, but if the place were packed we imagine it might be an overwhelming environment.

Progress Report: Matt the Miller’s Tavern

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Matt the Miller's Tavern on Urbanspoon

http://mtmtavern.com/

We kind of have a special place in our hearts for Matt the Miller’s Tavern. Matt’s was one of the first places we reviewed, and they scored pretty high. That was a lunch service. So we decided to head back, only this time we picked a new location (on Gemini Place) and decided to have a go at dinner service.

For some reason, the Friday we decided to swing by Matt the Miller’s Tavern was crazy. Traffic around the Polaris area was absolutely insane, and Matt the Miler’s Tavern was running a wait well over an hour long. Rather than brave the traffic, we decided to wait it out. We’ve never owned a restaurant nor are we experts on how to run one, but we were a little annoyed that there was a lengthy wait for a table and yet there were numerous tables around the restaurant not being used. That didn’t really make sense.

After the wait was over, we were seated near the bar, which was a horrible location. The table next to us consisted of a two couples apparently on a double date. They must have been there a while because the ladies WERE REALLY TALKING LOUD. Our guess is they were probably drunk. So, unfortunately our dinner conversation was a little difficult. If we were doing a full blown report card on this Matt the Miller’s location, their atmosphere score would be really low.

However, the most important thing is the food, and on this front, Matt the Miller’s Gemini location did not disappoint. We repeated the same appetizer that we had during our lunch visit (pretzel bites). Once again, the pretzel bites were really good, and the dipping sauces were phenomenal. For drinks, I had a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Katina had a drink called a Berry Tea, which had a couple of different flavored vodkas in it. It was smooth and went down easy. Katina snagged a BBQ Bacon Burger which was cooked exactly like she ordered. On this particular night, the chef’s special was a fish taco, and I decided I’d give it a try. The tacos were crazy good, and they had some tiny, bright red peppers on them that were real scorchers. I can’t remember the name of them, but damn, they were hot. These were my first fish tacos, and it’s a shame I’ve been missing out. If we were doing a full report card, then Matt the Miller’s at Gemini would score really high.

Obviously, the ginormous crowd and lengthy wait were an anomaly. Matt’s impressed us a couple of years ago, and they impressed us again. We highly recommend you eat at Matt the Miller’s Tavern.

Autism Friendly Score: 2: We didn’t have this category when we first reviewed Matt the Miller’s Tavern, so we thought it would be prudent to add it here. First, Matt the Miller’s is not really the type of place to take any young kid. They do have a kids menu online, but it’s not really robust. No free WiFi that we could see, so no tablet use for your kids on the spectrum. And if we were wrong about the wait being an anomaly, your wait with a bored autistic child would be quite unpleasant. Matt the Miller’s will be enjoyed much better if you leave your kiddos at home.

Report Card: Morlein Lager House

The Morlein Lager House

The Morlein Lager House

Moerlein Lager House on Urbanspoon

http://www.moerleinlagerhouse.com

 

Overall GrubGrade B+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A-: From an appearance standpoint, we haven’t been to many places as easy on the eyes as Morlein Lager House. The interior and exterior are both contemporary in décor with lots of dark wood accents and tasteful wall litter. Some of the walls are entirely made of glass, which provided a spectacular view of the Ohio River. Overall, you get the impression that you are dining somewhere a little more upscale than a traditional lager house. Tables spacing was appropriate and the background music was at an appropriate level to allow for dinner conversation. However, on our visit, which was on Valentine’s Day, Morlein Lager House was quite busy and very noisy.  So we’re not sure if the noise level was due to the acoustics of the dining room or the volume of customers, but it became a little challenging to have a conversation with your dinner partner, which is kind of important on a day like Valentine’s Day.

High marks: Clean, upscale, breathtaking view

Low marks: Noisy

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Service: Grade A-: Our server, Sheena, was fantastic. She was slightly engaging and attentive without being oppressive. She also provided some decent recommendations regarding the menu. For the most part, we received exactly what we ordered. We did have a smidge of a wait for some of the food and drinks, but that may be less due to our server’s skills than the volume of patrons celebrating Valentine’s Day at Morlein Lager House.

High marks: Friendly, engaging service

Low marks: A little slow in some spot

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+: For drinks, Katina started with something called a Cherry Smash. It had a strong, tart cherry flavor but no real alcohol bite to it. But we don’t think the drink was weak, because you could feel the drink on your tongue – like the alcohol was gently molesting your tongue. You probably won’t see the phrase “gently molesting” anywhere else but on this blog. I opted for one of my favorite beers, the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. A strong start and a vanilla and oak finish are the primary characteristic of this beer, and the high ABV content makes it my prime choice if I want to get to my “destination” quickly. Two or three of those and you’re almost there, and once I figure out how to brew a version at home, I might come down with a spontaneous case of agoraphobia and never leave my house again. We snagged some soft pretzels for our appetizer. They were big and soft with not too much salt. The pretzels were served with a tasty (not spicy) beer cheese and a spicy brown mustard that had a nice kick to it. They were good, but the pretzels at Brazenhead and TGIFriday’s are both better. Katina ordered crab cakes for her entree. The cakes were served on field greens dressed with a vinaigrette. Katina found the crab cakes to be good with a nice balance between the crab meat and other ingredients. The crab cakes were served with mild white sauce and a sweet and spicy tomato relish which provided a nice contrast. I opted for the NY strip for my entree. The steak was served with cheddar potatoes and something called Angry Mac and Cheese. The steak was delicious and tender despite not being cooked to the correct temperature. I had ordered it medium well, but there was nary a trace of pink on the meat. The steak was still good, but would have been better if cooked the way I had requested. The Angry Mac and Cheese is not named correctly because there’s nothing angry about it. The was a minimal spiciness from the sausage, but the mac and cheese was fairly dry and in need of more cheese sauce. The cheddar potatoes, however, were the highlight of the meal. They were creamy and delicious, and I normally shy away from “mashed potato” dishes. Why, you ask? It’s a long story about my mom pulling a fast one one me with powdered mashed potatoes that were supposed to be from a restaurant…no need for details. I don’t trust mashed potatoes anymore. They usually sit right next to ham on my list of things I avoid eating. I’ll give you the full story sometime, but you’ll have to buy me a beer to get it.

High marks: Good drinks and good food, cheddar potatoes

Low marks: Mac and cheese not spicy enough, side dish (cheddar potatoes) was highlight of meal

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Value: Grade C+: The food was really good, but not mind-blowing spectacular. We dropped a fair amount of coin for dinner, and none of the food was the best we’ve had. We think about $20 lower on the bill would bump the value grade up to something respectable. We would recommend Morlein Lager House for a special occasion because of the scenery and upscale atmosphere, but for the casual drop by it’s a little too expensive for the caliber of food served.

High marks: Good food

Low marks: A little over priced for the quality …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Autism Friendly Score: 3: Morlein Lager House has some gluten free options on their menu which might benefit parents of autistic children, and you can make reservations online. But the noise level and open scenery might be overwhelming for the sensory challenged kids, and the lack of an online children’s menu means you’d have to hope food off the grown-up menu would suffice. We recommend leaving the kiddos at home for this one.

 

Report Card: Rock Bottom Brewery

Rock Bottom Brewery at Fountain Square in Cincinnati

Rock Bottom Brewery at Fountain Square in Cincinnati

Rock Bottom Brewery on Urbanspoon
http://www.rockbottom.com/

Overall GrubGrade B+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B+: Rock Bottom Brewery is located right off of Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. We stopped by on a Friday at around 8pm, which should be right at the start of weekend rush (it is a brewery/bar, right?). So it was no surprise that we got saddled with a 20 minute wait for a table. And we probably got the best table in the restaurant…right near the kitchen (that statement should be read with a voice dripping with sarcasm). At least the tables were nicely spaced, which provided us a modicum of privacy. Rock Bottom had a definite brew-pub feel to it, especially with the rather large pane of glass behind the bar which provided a spectacular, panoramic view of the fermenting vats. The walls were decorated with bar wall litter and flat screen televisions. The place was clean, but not really unique in its appearance.

High marks: Genre specific décor, nicely spaced tables

Low marks: Minor wait for table, poor table location

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Service: Grade B: Our service was solid, good, and accurate. Our server was not really engaging, but that’s to be expected considering how busy Rock Bottom Brewery was during our visit. Our only real complaint about the service was I was frequetly caught with an empty drink in front of me. I’m not a lush, but I expect our server to ask if I need a refill when they walk by if they notice an empty glass in front of me. Once you read about what I had to eat, you’ll understand my disdain for being left dry since my mouth was en fuego.

High marks: Good service considering what a madhouse the place was

Low marks: Empty beer glasses and a hot tongue

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+: We started off with the Skillet Cheese Fries, which is Rock Bottom’s take on chili cheese fries. We both found them to be excellent. The fries were topped with a flavorful chili (and it had better be good chili if it’s coming from Cincy) and had a nice balance with the onions, cheese, and chili. For drinks, Katina started with the Sangria Rojo followed with a Peach Cuban Mojito. The sangria was sweet and fruity and tasted exactly what you’d want sangia to taste. The Peach Cuban Mojito was very refreshing with a nice, subtle peach flavor. I started with the White Tiger, which is Rock Bottom’s version of a wheat beer. That one was so yummy I decided to get a sampler – plus it cut down on my need of our server. The take home message from the sampler is this: Rock Bottom Brewery has, in my humble opinion, the absolute best IPA I’ve ever tasted. It was so balanced and drinkable that at first I thought I got the order of the beers wrong. Now if you are so addicted to hops you like your beer to taste like liquid yard clippings, this IPA is not for you. If, like me, you like a more moderate hop presence in your beer then walk, run, drive, or catch a flight to Cincy and try this beer. Katina ordered chicken enchiladas for her entree. She was very impressed at how good they tasted considering Rock Bottom is not a Mexican restaurant. The enchiladas could have had more sauce and cheese, but the sauce that did come with the dish were pretty tasty. The red salsa was pretty spicy and the green tomatilla sauce was mild. I opted for the El Diablo pizza, which is advertised on the menu as being hot. Most of the time, when menu items claim to be hot, I take that with a grain of salt because I’m usually not impressed. The El Diablo pizza tasted like it had been baked in Hell – and I mean that as a sincere compliment. It was meaty, strong, oppressive, down right rude to my tongue, but I loved every minute of it. Topped with pickled jalapenos (really HOT) and spicy, andouille sausage, this pizza is the real deal. I was impressed with the flavor and taken aback by the amount of heat. You’ll be having heartburn for dessert if you eat this pizza, but pleasure is always a little better when it hurts a little bit, too.

High marks: Awesome appetizer, one bad-assed pizza, and yummy drinks

Low marks: Enchiladas needed more sauce

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Value: Grade A: Pretty good food and really good beer. Katina enjoyed her mixed drinks and we skated out of there dropping a mere $50, which was quite surprising. If you stop by on a weekend evening, be prepared for a busy experience.

High marks: Surprisingly high quality food for a surprisingly low quality price

Low marks: Dropping by on a weekend afternoon might improve the atmosphere and service

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Autism Friendly Score: We’d have to give Rock Bottom Brewery a 3 for our Autism Friendly Score. This restaurant might score higher if visited during off-peak hours, but the noise level and chaos would not serve the sensory sensitive kiddos. We didn’t even bother to look into a kids menu– it is a bar, so kids are not its target demographic. Again, this score is only our opinion on how appropriate this dining spot would be for a child on the spectrum and not a comment on the overall quality of the restaurant.

 

Grubgraders and Autism

Morgan and Logan Ives (he's the one in the hat)

Morgan and Logan Ives (he’s the one in the hat)

 

Katina and I welcomed Logan into our lives 04/08/2008.  He has been both our biggest challenge and one of our biggest joys, along with his older sister Morgan.  Logan was diagnosed on the autism spectrum a little before his 3rd birthday.  It was devastating.  But it also gave us a name for what was wrong with him, and that allowed us to focus on what we could do to help him.  One thing that parents of other autistic children will probably agree on is that having that diagnosis makes you look at everything differently.  Noise, light, wall clutter, waiting, and gluten are all things that the parent of the autistic child have to consider when taking their children out to eat.

Having a disabled child is an incredible strain on a family, and particularly a marriage.  The divorce rate for parents of autistic children in around 80%.  The diagnosis takes over everything.  One of the ways Katina and I have been able to make our marriage work is that we still date each other.  Although it’s not as often as when I was actually trying to fool her into marrying me, we still take at least a couple of evenings a month for just us.  But not all parents have the luxury of going out without the kids.  We’ve taken Logan with us enough times to get a pretty good feel for what types of places he will tolerate and which places will set him off.

We thought it might be nice to add another category to our report cards, and we’re calling it the “Autism Friendly Score.”  This score will let caregivers of autistic or possibly other disabled children have an idea of how well a child with sensory issues and restrictive diets might handle a particular restaurant.  So, it is possible for us to score a restaurant really high overall but give them a low Autism Friendly Score if we feel the restaurant would not be a good fit for an autistic person.  Please make sure you’re not missing out on fabulous dining experiences by letting that score alter your decision to eat at a particular restaurant…unless you plan on taking someone on the spectrum along with you.

 

 

Honorable Mention: Blaze Pizza

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Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon
http://blazepizza.com/

We had never heard of Blaze Pizza prior to them contacting us and informing us of the grand opening of their Columbus, Ohio location.  We were actually really looking forward to giving them a try on their opening night.  However, it was not meant to be.  The location of the Blaze Pizza in Columbus is right near the Ohio State University campus.  We love tOSU, and personally I bleed scarlet and gray.  However, until my kids are enrolled there, they aren’t going anywhere near that campus.

 

But all was not lost.  This past weekend, we decided to hit the Cincinnati Beerfest (more details on the Beerfest later — supposedly I was in rare form).  On our way back, we happened to pass right through Mason, Ohio.  Amazingly, they have a Blaze Pizza, so why not.  I mean, the people at Blaze Pizza were kind enough to send us a couple of freebies, so at least we could give them a try.

 

First, we’re assuming the name Blaze Pizza comes from how the pies are actually cooked — they’re sort of flash baked in about 3 to 5 minutes.  However, maybe the chain should be called Kramer’s, or Cosmo’s.  Patrons at Blaze Pizza get to make their own pie, in essence.  Yes, one of the employees puts the actual ingredients on the pie, and another one slides it into the oven, but each diner is essentially in control over almost every aspect of the design of their pizza.  In other words, you make you’re own pie.  Fans of the show Seinfeld should be familiar with this concept, as it was touted numerous times as one of Kramer’s more idiotic ideas.  BUT, they were all wrong.  The concept worked very well.  If Donatos and Chipotle had a love child, it would be Blaze Pizza.  The flash baked pie had a nice, crispy crust that was ever so slightly charred.  We both opted for the Meat Eater signature pizza, and we both thought the pizza was very tasty.  The staff who topped our pizza did an impeccable job of balancing out the ingredients.  The pizza was slightly greasy, but most good pizzas are a little greasy.   The staff were very friendly, and the location was really clean.  Plus it was fairly busy considering it was a Sunday.  Even though we didn’t stop by the Columbus location, there’s nothing that would lead us to believe it wouldn’t be similar to the Mason location.

 

If you have a hankering for  pizza but you just can’t figure out where you want to go, you should visit Blaze Pizza (if there’s one close by).  The quality is surprisingly good, and the price was completely reasonable.  But take our advice and skip the signature pies.  It’s not that often you can creatively express yourself with pizza without having to worry about dropping serious bank or wasting 30 to 45 minutes, so don’t squander the opportunity Blaze Pizza give you.

 

 

Report Card: Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

Inside Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

Inside Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse on Urbanspoon
http://www.hydeparkrestaurants.com/

Overall GrubGrade A-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A-: We stopped by Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in Worthington right as they were opening on a Friday evening. Inside and out, Hyde Park wears the colors of an upscale steakhouse with pride. Hyde Park also shows their Columbus pride with both their wall decorations and their Columbus-themed menu. It was quiet and not crowded when we arrived (that’s why we visited right when they opened), but there was definitely the start of a rush by the time we left. We really liked the way the tables were set up, which offered a modicum of privacy but still allowed us to see a large portion of the restaurant. Everything was clean and tidy, and the soft music playing in the background created a nice, romantic vibe. Our only issue with Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, and it is a small one, is that there was nothing really unique about the décor, with the exception of the wall hangings. The inside just needed a little something to grab your attention.

High marks: Quiet, clean, traditional steakhouse décor, near-private seating

Low marks: Interior lacked something really eye-catching

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Service: Grade A: Our server, Michael, did a fantastic job. He gave us time to look over the menu and briefly described the highlights of the menu and features of the steaks, along with some suggestions which we promptly ignored (no offense intended – we just knew what we wanted). Michael was attentive and knowledgeable without being intrusive and coming across like he lived and breathed all things steak. We appreciated the nice balance, as well as the fact that Michael had both a personality and a sense of humor. Drinks came out with minimal delay, and once the food started to make an appearance, the pacing of the different courses was nearly perfect. Overall, this was a great service with no glaring issues, but there wasn’t that signature “above the call of duty” moment that we usually need to kick this score up to an A+.

High marks: Accurate, friendly, and nicely paced service

Low marks: Nothing – just no over-the-top “WOW” moment

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+: Let’s start, as we usually do, with the drinks. Katina ordered a drink called a Prairie Lemonade. The drink was quite sour and tart, and really needed to be a bit sweeter to be really enjoyable. This drink caught Katina’s attention because it contained pomegranate, but the overall tartness of the drink washed any hint of pomegranate away. I ordered a Blackberry Cider. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be familiar with both the nature of a cider and how it tastes. This was my first experience with a blackberry cider, and I have to admit I was greatly impressed. If only the rest of my meal tasted as good as my drink, Hyde Park’s overall score might have been stratospheric. The blackberry cider still had a nice apple flavor, but it also had a hint of blackberry on the back end that was very smooth. Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse had pretty standard appetizers on the menu, so we went with our standard selection: calamari. Hyde Park’s version of calamari contained both carrots and cashews, which was a first for us. Our normal instinct would have been to pick out those ingredients, especially the nuts, but we resisted the urge and ate the dish as-is. That worked out well, as the both the carrots and the nuts did not add much flavor but did give the calamari a nice, crunchy texture. The calamari was tossed in a well balanced sweet chili glaze that gave the dish just the right amount of heat. Katina ordered the crab cakes for her entree, and I opted for a steak called the Thad Matta Porterhouse. I should pause here and make the reader aware up front that this is the point in the meal when Katina’s experience and my experience diverged. Katina’s crab cakes were packed with large chunks of crab meat. They were moist, and the sauces that came with the crab cakes were delicious. Katina attacked the spicy mustard sauce and the red pepper aioli with equal abandon, pausing occasionally to inform me that the spicy mustard had a pretty substantial kick before she dipped her next piece of crab cake in the mustard and continued to chow down. The Thad Matta Porterhouse, however, was a complete disaster. First, it wasn’t the best cut of meat. It somehow managed to be fatty yet tough at the same time. I’ve had worse cuts of meat, but there was no way this porterhouse was worthy of the $44 price tag. Despite the poor cut, the steak was cooked to the temperature I had requested. I might have been able to get over the texture of the beef and enjoy the steak if not for the sauce. The sauce that was drizzled over the steak was wretched. I would have much preferred my steak naked. To me, the sauce tasted what I imagine under arm sweat and unwashed feet would taste like. I was quite disappointed. We opted for the lobster mac and cheese for our side. Again, this is the tale of two perspectives. Hyde Park’s version of this popular side dish had a generous amount of sliced onions. Katina loves onions – she’d eat them on almost anything. Maybe it’s her way of getting out of having to kiss me, but she will often take my onions and add them to her own to make whatever dish she’s eating extra oniony. I like the flavor of onions, but hate the texture. I need my onions finely diced so I can taste them but not feel them. Nothing grosses me out more than biting into something and getting a mouthful of slimy, booger-like onions. So the mac and cheese was out for me, and Katina got to eat the whole batch. Thank God this was the only version of lobster mac and cheese that had onions in it – and hopefully it stays that way. So to sum up, Katina’s crab cakes were the 2nd best she’s had (Columbus Fish Market has the best, in her opinion) and the 2nd best lobster mac and cheese behind Eddie Merlot’s. I had one of the worst steaks I’ve eaten, and in my opinion the lobster mac and cheese was nightmarish. I have to believe that the steak was an anomaly and my aversion to onions is unique to me and makes me the charming dude that I seem to be. So Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse gets a B+ based primarily on Katina’s experience, ’cause I’d have D’ed them up otherwise.

High marks: Blackberry cider, lobster mac and cheese (I guess), crab cakes

Low marks: Almost everything I put in my mouth

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Value: Grade B: While not the most expensive steakhouse we’ve visited, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse wasn’t the best either. As is the case with most premium steakhouses, the price tag for dinner was high, but you’re paying to be pampered a little on top of your meal. I won’t be back, but maybe somewhere in the distant future Katina can take hubby number 2 there there to eat.

High marks: Price was what you’d expect from this type of establishment

Low marks: For the price, both of us should have been satisfied

Report Card: Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe

 

Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe

Sweet Clove Sunshine Café

Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe on Urbanspoon
https://www.honeybakedforyou.com/sweet-clove-home-page.aspx

Overall GrubGrade B+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: It’s been a while since we’ve visited a restaurant that specializes in breakfast/brunch. We recently decided to swing by the Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe on Sawmill road in Columbus. Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe is the name of the breakfast eatery that is part of the HoneyBaked Ham Company. As is generally the case with breakfast/brunch specific restaurants, Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe was pretty packed when we visited. We had to wait around 20 minutes for a table to open up, so we got to explore their “lobby” area. Much like their more famous counterparts Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel, this area was full of foods and fares to take home. Personally, I’ve never had HoneyBaked Ham since I detest ham in general (it’s a long story involving a grandmother and her crippled pug) and avoid the stuff at all costs. Therefore, I had no idea what to expect. The inside of the restaurant looked very similar to what you’d expect at any other breakfast spot.

High marks: Appropriate décor and plenty to look at

Low marks: Had to wait 20 minutes for a table

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Service: Grade B+: Once we were seated and started checking out the menu, our server, Eva, came over to our table to check up on us. She did a really nice job catering to our needs and seemed very pleasant. She was completely bald, and no, I am not joking. Eva pulled the look off, though, and I hope her look is a fashion statement and not the result of a medical condition. Our beverages arrived fairly quickly, and the rest of the meal came out in a timely fashion. Eva didn’t bat an eye when Katina sent her back to the kitchen for a side of barbecue sauce (bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?). Breakfast/brunch service generally lacks the complexity of dinner service, so it’s rather difficult to amaze us on breakfast, but our server really did a great job.

High marks: Good, timely, and accurate service

Low marks: Would like to see Eva during a dinner service to really see what she can do

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+: We opted for brunch, so for drinks we had coffee and orange juice. Coffee was hot and good and the orange juice was terrific, but you’d expect those two beverages to be good at a breakfast restaurant. We both opted for burgers for our meal. Katina ordered the BBQ Cheddar Bacon Burger, and I snagged the Chipotle Bacon Cheddar Burger. If we heard our server correctly, the burgers were baked instead of fried, which led to some really juicy burgers. Additional napkins are definitely needed as we found the drippy goodness to be a little messy. The only drawback to the baked burger is that they were cooked well done, and we don’t believe there was an option to tweak the cooking temperature. Both the barbecue sauce and the chipotle mayo were tasty. Katina needed additional sauce for her burger, but don’t take that as Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe being stingy with the sauce as much as Katina having an unnatural need to slather all food items in whatever sauce in which they are served. I found the amount of chipotle mayo to be perfect – giving a bit of heat without overpowering the rest of the burger. Both burgers were covered in a generous portion of thick bacon, which had HoneBaked Ham’s traditional honey glaze on it. This bacon was sticky enough (and very delicious) to stick to the wall had we decided to hurl the bacon against it. Katina had the broccoli salad for her side and really enjoyed it. I decided on the waffle fries, which were cooked perfectly. The fries were tasty without being greasy. We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of food, and we both are looking forward to returned for a legitimate breakfast experience.

High marks: Juicy, well cooked burgers, delicious sides

Low marks: No options on cooking temperature for burgers

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Value: Grade B: We dropped around $36 (before tip) for the meal, and while that’s not a bank-breaking amount, it still just a tad steep for burgers. But there is no doubt that if you’re looking for a great place to eat breakfast that’s a little higher quality than most breakfast joints, Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe should be at the top of your short list. We definitely recommend a visit.

High marks: High quality

Low marks: A little pricey for burgers

 

2014 Grubgraders: Best of the Best

We here at Grubgraders were busy in 2014. We were mainly busy stuffing our faces, and it’s a miracle we’re both not morbidly obese. We dined at 54 different restaurants in 4 different states (Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Virginia). Now, that’s 54 different restaurants that we graded – we actually dined out at lot more than that. We visited the Winking Lizard at least 15 times this past year. Our big regret is that we didn’t make it to Boston as we had initially planned, but we had a blast at our alternate destination (Nashville). The following is our list of the best things we ate this year. If you want more details on any of the restaurants we are about to mention, please use the search option and read the entire review for yourselves:

Best Italian Restaurant: We had to choose from the following: Bucca di Beppo, Guiseppe’s, Brio, and Amerigo. The winner, without a doubt, was Amerigo. Amerigo Italian Restaurant near Nashville had better than expected quality for a reasonable price, and it was the only Italian restaurant to score in the “A” range (overall grade of A-). Watch out for that lasagna that’s cooked to the same temperature as the surface of the sun…you don’t want to leave with burned lips.

Best Mexican Restaurant: Contenders were as follows: Plaza Azteca, Cuco’s Taqueria, La Casita, Chile Verde, El Vaquero, Abuelos, and El Acapulco. The winner, hands down, was Abuelos. In 2013, we had a great year for really good Mexican restaurants. In 2014, however, that was not the case. It was a pretty lean year for Mexican restaurants, so it wasn’t hard for Abuelos to capture the title with a mix of great food for a good price despite the service not being to our normal standards.

Best Burger Joint: We had to choose between Burger Republic, Smashburger, Flipside, and B Spot. The winner was Burger Republic, but it was a tight race. Three of the 4 contenders really impressed us, making 2014 definitely the “Year of the Burger.” The atmosphere at Burger Republic allowed it to edge out B Spot, but barely.

Best Breakfast Spot: Only 3 to choose from in this category: Puffy Muffin, Shorty’s Diner, and Pocohontas Pancake. Shorty’s Diner barely edged out Pocohontas Pancake for the top honors, and despite not quite understanding what the word “stuffed” means, the breakfast at Shorty’s was quite good, and the atmosphere was a little less touristy than Pocohontas Pancake.

Best Irish Pub: Our choices were Keagan’s, Flannery’s, and Brazenhead. While all 3 were terrific spots to dine at, Keagan’s gets the top prize here. We were blown away at the quality of the food and the fun atmosphere, and I almost vetoed Katina’s suggestion we stop there. That would have been a huge mistake.

Best Seafood Restaurant: We just had Nick’s Fresh Seafood and Bonefish Grill to choose from. Obviously, if you’ve read the Crabbageddon post, you can figure out the winner here is Bonefish Grill. We’re definetely going to have to target more seafood restaurants in 2015.

Best Asian Restaurant: Contenders in this category were as follows: Koto Japanese Steakhouse, Molly Woos, J Liu, and PF Changs. With a combination of really good drinks and superior food (as long as you don’t try to reheat the leftovers), Molly Woos took the top in this category. J Liu was a close second but was a more expensive for comparable quality – thus Molly gets the nod.

Best Pizza Joint: Our choices were Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza and Villa Reale Pizzeria. Honestly, this was like trying to pick which disease you’d rather have…malaria or dysentery. We picked Natalie’s because even though Villa Reale had the same overall score, the service was so poor we could never suggest it was the best of anything.

Best Upscale Steakhouse: Our choices were Eddie Merlots, Mitchell’s Steakhouse, J Alexander’s, Ruth’s Chris, Capital Grille, and Firebirds. Mitchell’s Steakhouse took top honors this year, beating out our normal favorite of Eddie Merlots. While the quality of food between the two restaurants is simliar, the service at Mitchell’s was in a class by itself, making our evening there one of the best experiences we’ve ever had.

Best European Restaurant: We had Bon Vie and Barcelona to choose from, since Barcelona was one of the few restaurants to score an “A” this year, it is the hands down choice for best restarant in this category, and was one of the best overall restaurants we visited this year.

Best Casual American Restaurant: There were a ton of restaurants in this category (pretty much all of the restaurants we reviewed this year but haven’t mentioned yet). Columbus Brewing Company was the one true standout in this category this year, and has been one of our favorites for a while.

Individual Honors:

Best Overall Restaurant: Mitchell’s Steakhouse

Best Appetizer: Philly Egg Rolls (Burger Republic) with an honorable mention going to Bang Bang Shrimp (Bonefish Grill)

Best Dessert: Fried Cookie Dough (Keagan’s Irish Pub)

Best Burger: B Spot – Burger Republic might be the overall better restaurant, but for the actual burger itself, B Spot smokes the competition.

Best Dish: King Crab Legs (Bonefish Grill)

Best Beer: New Holland Dragon’s Milk (Flipside) with Tennessee Brew Works Southern Wit (Burger Republic) a close second

Best Mixed Drink: Banana’s Foster Milkshake (Burger Republic) with Stawberry Limeaid (Keagan’s) a close second

Best Value: Keagan’s Irish Pub

Best Atmosphere and Best Service: Mitchell’s Steakhouse