Report Card: Barrel & Boar

BarrellBoar

Barrel & Boar, 5251 N. Hamilton Road, Columbus, Ohio  43230

 

http://www.barrelboar.com/

 

Overall GrubGrade B

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: Barrel & Boar is a BBQ joint located on North Hamilton Road in Columbus, Ohio. The physical restaurant itself was fairly small and clean, and the overall impression you get when walking in is that this restaurant must be pretty new (I don’t actually know how old it is, though). When we visited, Barrel & Boar wasn’t too busy, which was good because we were starving. The inside of Barrel & Boar is adorned with fairly traditional bar décor, so there was nothing overly unique about the restaurant itself.

High marks: Clean

Low marks: Interior décor is nothing new

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Service: Grade B: We were served by a nice young lady named Emily. She was pleasant but we got this vibe from her that she was really busy, but there were almost no other customers in the restaurant other than us. Once we made our decisions on drink and food, our selections came out with minimal wait. We can’t judge whether or not this is the typical speed at which Barrel & Boar operates since the restaurant was nearly empty (I think I may have already mentioned that fact – repeatedly). We did order an appetizer that was supposed to come with a sauce but didn’t have any sauce when it came to our table, so we have a small inaccuracy with our order, but otherwise a decent service.

High marks: Minimal wait

Low marks: No sauce for our appetizer

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Food/Spirits: Grade B: I wasn’t too excited to eat at Barrel & Boar when Katina suggested we stop in for a visit. I mean, this is another BBQ restaurant, so I’m not expecting to get wowed. I really wasn’t expecting anything different than I could get at Smoky Bones or City Barbeque. But there were a few differences. We started with the Carolina Hush Puppies for an appetizer, and we each ordered a serving instead of sharing one. These hush puppies were supposed to be served with “warm barbeque sauce” according to the menu, but ours didn’t come with any barbeque sauce. Oh, there was sauce on the table, but that’s room temperature, which in our book does not qualify as “warm.” We weren’t sure what we were expecting with the hush puppies, but what we got were good, but fairly typical hush puppies. That was a little disappointing considering Katina is kind of a hush puppy connoisseur. One nice thing about Barrel & Boar that is a little different that other BBQ eateries was the decent selection of local craft beers. I selected one called Elevator Nut Brown, which was very tasty without being hoppy. Katina ordered a drink called Southern Hospitality which she felt had a nice flavor that “couldn’t taste much smoother.” For our main dishes, Katina ordered the Cast Iron Pork & Mac, which is serving of mac and cheese topped with some pulled pork. Katina has tried at least a dozen variations of this dish over the past couple of years and felt this particular dish was good but not the best version of the dish she’s had. I ordered a burger called the Boar Burger. This burger has to be a cardiologist’s dream – I imagine it might be responsible for a lot of their cardiac patients. Imagine a thick, juicy burger and then throw some house bacon on top. Sound good? Well don’t bite into it yet, because we haven’t piled on a colossal pile of pulled pork on it yet. Throw on some sweet and smoky sauce and bang – the Boar Burger. They serve this vegetarian’s nightmare on a bun, which turns out to be absolutely ridiculous since it is so massive and juicy the bun had all but disintegrated halfway through eating it. This thing was so awesome tasting and so bad for me that I’m pretty sure my heart got stretch marks from all the extra work pushing blood through my newly cholesterol laden arteries. This is definitely a burger that you don’t make it a habit of eating. But it was YUMMY.

High marks: Boar Burger is a meat lover’s dream

Low marks: Rest of meal was fairly average

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Value: Grade A-: Two appetizers, a couple of drinks each and a future appointment to get a stent in my heart ended up costing us $50 with tip, which was a pleasant surprised. Had all of the food been as good as that burger, this grade would have easily been an A+.

High marks: Lots of food for the money

Low marks: Food quality could have been higher …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Technical: Grade A: Barrel & Boar has a pretty slick website that includes their full restaurant menu (sans adult beverages) and their catering menu. Online ordering is possible as well.

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Autism Friendly Score: 2: Meat heavy menu and typical bar décor makes Barrel & Boar a place to probably avoid if your toting around your young one on the spectrum. This one is more just for the parents.

Product Review: Delmonte Chefs Pantry Meal Toppers

Recently, the good folks at Delmonte contacted the Grubgraders crew and asked us to try a new product they’re testing out in the Columbus, Ohio area and write a review of it.  Product reviews are not our forte…we like to stick to the type of meals where the only work we have to do is driving to a restaurant.  But, it is becoming increasingly hard to eat healthy while eating out, and even those of us at Grubgraders need to grab a bite at home every once in a while.

So we agreed to give it a shot.  I’m no chef, although eight years of college did teach me to do some creative things with ramen noodles.  Katina, on the other hand, is actually a pretty good cook when she gets the time to actually fire up the stove.  We received a slick black box in the mail containing the ingredient packet as well as a spiffy black apron.

20151206_121832

As you can see from the photo, we received the Southwest Beans and Corn variety to sample.  The beans and corn were in a chipotle chile sauce.  From the description on the package, this is the perfect flavor to send us.  According to the directions, just add chicken, steak, or whatever meat you’re in to at the time and some rice or pasta of your choosing and viola — instant meal.  This should be perfect…it has most of the major food groups in it, right (beans AND corn, meat, and rice/pasta).  All that’s missing is the ice cream and you’d have a complete meal (just kidding).

Preparation was fairly simple and took about 20 minutes.  Katina made ours with chicken and rice.  Once she had the chicken nearly ready, she added the ingredient packet and came out with something that looked like this:

20151206_122308

You’re not going to need to be a finalist on Master Chef to pull this dish off.  This is a product that would be perfect for that someone who wants something with a little extra flavor but is intimidated trying to season dishes or create their own sauces.  Once Katina had let the chicken and sauce simmer for the appropriate time, she whipped up a batch of white rice and poured the chicken concoction over the rice.  The results can be seen below:

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(As an aside, had this been a restaurant review, I would have given the service an “F” grade.  Not once did Katina offer to get me a beverage or see if I needed anything else with my meal.  That’s why I didn’t give her a tip).

What we liked:  The product itself is very simple to use.  And for those who are paying close attention to what they’re shoveling into their food holes, the Delmonte Chef’s Pantry Meal Toppers isn’t as much of a nutritional land mine as some similar products.  The product had substantially less salt that we expected it to have.

What we didn’t like:  Serving size might be misleading.  In our opinion, sticking with the recommended serving size does not provide enough topping to really make a large improvement in the meal.  In particular, we thought there was insufficient sauce to really add a lot of flavor to the chicken and rice.  The topper had an okay taste, but you really have to heap it on to get some flavor, and that torpedoes any attempt to keep the dish nutritionally sound.

Without knowing how much the Delmonte Chef’s Pantry Meal Topper is going to cost the consumer, it’s a little difficult to give it our stamp of approval.  We believe the product could certainly be useful to snazz up a dish that might otherwise be a little bland, but until we know the cost and what other varieties will be available, the jury is still out.

 

Don’t worry fans.  Grubgraders haven’t turned in their frequent diner cards just yet.  It’s been a bit of a challenge finding new restaurants to review that peak our interest, but we have found a few.  It’s been a bit of a slow year, which means fewer reviews but less inches on my waist.  But there is more to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Report Card: Cooper’s Hawk

CoopersHawk
Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
https://www.coopershawkwinery.com/

Overall GrubGrade A

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A+: A word of advice for any of you on the wagon…you’re not going to want to schedule your next AA meeting at Cooper’s Hawk at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. The simple, contemporary décor might be perfect, and the generous table spacing might provide you with enough privacy to carry on a conversation, but oh how you’d be tempted. That’s because there’s wine everywhere at Cooper’s Hawk. Whether it’s in the lobby/waiting area where (at least on the day we visited) there may be 20 to 40 people crowded around the bars sampling some of Cooper’s vast wine selection. Plus, at nearly every table there’s wine being consumed. If you’re into your vino, then Cooper’s Hawk should be at the top of your favorite dining establishments. The restaurant was pretty busy when we visited, but the interior is so spacious that most of the noise seems to linger in the background, allowing you and your guest the ability to carry on a conversation. Cooper’s Hawk is simultaneously contemporary looking yet simply decorated. Bare walls and dark wood with muted lighting really set a nice scene for some good eats, and Cooper’s Hawk would be a nice place to take a date if you want to come off impressive.

High marks: Nearly perfect in design and decor

Low marks: Parking at Easton Town Center is always a chore

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Service: Grade A: Our server, David, was spectacular. He was very friendly and sociable without coming off as silly or as a buffoon. He showed up table side shortly after we were seated and introduced himself and gave us a brief rundown of the menu before taking our drink order. That is exactly how it should be done. We always find it frustrating when a server arrives at our table immediately after we’re seated and asks for our drink order. How about you let us open our menus first, huh? David ran our service like he majored in it in college. Another nice touch added by David is that he crouched by our table when he spoke with us. That way he was eye level and we could hear each other without raising our voices. It was a really nice touch that we usually don’t see in most restaurants.

High marks: Personality and attention to detail

Low marks: None

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Food/Spirits: Grade A: Now for the good part. First off, Cooper’s Hawk has a pretty robust menu. If you are at all indecisive with your food selections, you’d be wise to visit the restaurant’s website before stopping in to explore the menu. And if you are a winer, there’s a boat load of wine selections to choose from. We started off ordering the Over the Border Egg Rolls for an appetizer and Katina opted for an Island Mojito to drink while I ordered the house brewed Cooper’s Hawk Ale. The egg rolls were amazing. Much bigger than anticipated, these egg rolls break from the traditional 99% veggie, 1% meat formula that most egg rolls seem to employ. Stuffed with seasoned chicken, these egg rolls were devoid of all veggies except for the corn contained in the corn and black bean relish. The egg rolls were served with 3 sauces: cilantro ranch, tomatillo salsa, and a cashew sauce. Yeah, we thought we misread that on the menu as well – cashew sauce? Gross, right? Wrong! Of the 3 sauces, that cashew sauce was by far the best, although all 3 sauces were excellent. There’s really no point in describing them – just order the egg rolls when you visit and see for yourself. Katina’s Island Mojito was smooth with a huge pineapple presence and no alcohol bite. If you favor pineapple, don’t order this drink – you won’t be able to stop drinking them and might find yourself unwittingly tatered. The Cooper’s Hawk Ale was really smooth with just a hint of hops but a big malt presence, which is just how I like them and probably why I sucked down 2 of them. For entrees, Katina got out of her comfort zone and ordered Fish and Chips. If you follow this blog you know that was sarcasm. The fish were nicely battered and thick cod filets that were perfectly cooked and served with some lightly seasoned and crispy fries. The fish also came with a sriracha mayo and the traditional tartar sauce. And as awesome as all the rest of the food tasted at Cooper’s Hawk, their tartar sauce blows. The tartar sauce was way out of balance and had an overwhelming pickle flavor. I ordered the Chef’s recommendation, braised short rib cannelloni. This was maybe the 2nd or 3rd dish I’ve had where I thought that I had made a mistake after taking the first bite. There was a flavor that my mouth couldn’t decide whether it liked or not when I first bit into the dish. But like those other dishes, the more I ate the better it tasted until I was tempted to wipe my plate clean with my dinner napkin, hold it above my open mouth, and wring out every last drop of the dish into my gaping food hole. But I’m not an animal after all, so I decided to share Katina’s dessert instead. She ordered the banana ice cream sandwich. If you like bananas, this is the dessert for you. It pretty much describes itself, doesn’t it?

High marks: Entrees, drinks, appetizer, cashew sauce, etc, etc, etc

Low marks: Horrible tartar sauce, but Katina doesn’t eat tartar sauce anyway so no loss

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Value: Grade A: Appetizer, entree, one drink for the lightweight and two beers for me – add on a tasty desert and we expected to hit well over $100 before tip, especially considering the quality of the food and the overall upscale experience. We barely broke $80. That was substantially lower than we were expecting, so we have to score Cooper’s Hawk an A+ for value.

High marks: High quality and extremely reasonable prices

Low marks: None …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Technical: Grade B: The website for Cooper’s Hawk is fairly robust. The entire menu is available to view online. You can also make reservations, buy some of their house made wine, or see what’s happening in many of their wine clubs. The ability to order food is not provided on the website, but Cooper’s Hawk is not really a take-out kind of place.

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Autism Friendly Score 6: Although Cooper’s Hawk probably wouldn’t be near the top of your list to dine if you’re towing around your little friend on the spectrum, if you did decide to pop in, fear not. With the simple décor and online kids and gluten-free menus, you could certainly do worse than stopping by Cooper’s Hawk. We would just recommend not going during “peak” hours because the place gets packed and can get a little noisy.

Report Card: 50’s Prime Time Cafe

50sPrimeTime
50's Prime Time Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/hollywood-studios/50s-prime-time-cafe/

Overall GrubGrade B-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade C: The 50’s Prime Time Cafe is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. This themed restaurant should have been an awesome experience, but it was actually horrific. We happened to pick the hottest day of our vacation to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. But thankfully, Katina was smart enough to make reservations for us well in advance, so no worries, right? No! For some reason, the cafe was running an hour behind on reservations. We’re not sure how reservations work in Disney’s universe, but from where we’re from, the reservation is supposed to eliminate the wait. Maybe whomever is running the Prime Time Cafe needs to consult a dictionary. The concession that the crew at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe made to us was letting us wait that extra hour inside and out of the heat. How nice. Unfortunately, we had to wait in close proximity to the bar, and every time the bartender turned on the blender, my son would start to freak out. And remember, it was hot as hell outside, so that blender was going on and off a few times every minute. The cafe itself is appropriately decorated to match its theme and it was relatively clean considering the amount of fat, sweaty people going in and out of the place, but it wasn’t enough to make up for everything else.

High marks: Appropriately decorated and clean

Low marks: Unorganized, the word “reservation” has no meaning

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Service: Grade C: As you can imagine, we were all a little cranky by the time we were seated. Our server was snippy old broad named Memory. Maybe no one clued her in to the disaster happening out in the waiting room, but nagging us about whether or not we had our elbows on the table was extremely annoying. The supposed restaurant rule is if they catch you twice you get bounced. Had that happened, I might be blogging this from a prison cell. Our order came out accurately and we didn’t have a huge wait for our food once we ordered, which was probably a good thing for all involved. Thankfully, Memory gave us a wide berth once she got the hint we weren’t in the mood for her shenanigans.

High marks: Accurate, minimal wait

Low marks: Little bit of attitude by server

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Food/Spirits: Grade B: The whole appeal to the 50’s Prime Time Cafe is that it serves the type of dinners that you might cook yourself for your family. That’s a pretty accurate claim, and overall, the food was actually pretty decent. That might not seem like a glowing endorsement, but considering how much food was flying out of the kitchen, it actually represents a fairly impressive accomplishment. Katina had the crab cake, Logan rocked some chicken nuggets, and I opted for the Chicken Caesar Salad. All of these entrees were solid but did not blow us away (although Logan made short work of those nuggets). Our daughter, Morgan, couldn’t find anything she wanted to eat so we jammed a Brownie Sundae down her picky throat. She had better enjoyed it since it’s not everyday you get to have dessert for dinner.

High marks: Decent food

Low marks: Not for picky eaters despite the variety

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Value: Grade B: We dropped $70 for lunch/dinner. Considering where we were at (Disney), that actually wasn’t too bad. Had the overall experience not been so miserable, this grade might have made it to the “A” range.

High marks: Decent quality for a fair price

Low marks: Low price couldn’t make up for poor execution …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Technical: Grade C: The menu is available online, as is the ability to make reservations. But that’s about it.

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Autism Friendly Score 1: Very noisy and distracting black and white TV’s in each booth might overwhelm your sensitive little ones. On a much less busy day, it might be tolerable, but let’s face it…how many slow days is a restaurant at Disney World going to have?

The 5th Annual Columbus Food Truck Festival

Food

 

Who says you need 4 walls, a table, and chairs to enjoy a good meal?  Not the people who run food trucks or the on-the-go people who frequent them.  While grabbing a bite from a mobile greasy spoon is not usually high up on our list of things to do, we’ve wanted to visit  the Columbus Food Truck Festival for a couple of years.  Unfortunately, we usually missed the festival because we had other commitments.  So this year, when the dates of the 5th Annual Columbus Food Truck Festival were announced, we made sure we cleared our schedule.

The 5th Annual Columbus Food Truck Festival was held on August 14th thru August 16th in downtown Columbus, Ohio.  One thing that people who are not Ohio natives may not realize is how freaking hot and humid the middle of August gets around here.  So imagine packing over 67 food trucks and vendors into 1&1/2 city blocks, throw in a couple thousand sweaty, mostly overweight Columbus natives, and broil them for hours in 90 degree heat and you get an idea of what you might encounter at the Food Truck Festival.  Normally, we enter a dining situation looking for food quality, service, atmosphere, and value.  On the day we hit the Food Truck Festival, we were just hoping to snag some decent food without picking up a case of the runs.

Since this was our first visit to the Food Truck Festival, you need to understand that there are probably a thousand ways to maximize the number of trucks you visit.  Our strategy was to order one item from each truck we wanted to try and share it.  We were expecting to be able to hit 6 to 8 trucks.  We got to 3 of them.  So our advice is to visit the festival early in the day or in the evening, and go hungry.  If you decide to go in the evening, you run the risk of some of the trucks running out of some of their featured items.  We visited the following trucks:  Tortilla Street Eats, Holy Smoke BBQ, and Weldon’s Ice Cream Concessions.

Initially, we were going to visit a different food truck next to Tortilla Street Eats but when we saw how long the line was for Tortilla Street Eats, we figured it must be really good.  That might be the case, but not if you got the nachos like we did.  The item description for the nachos stated that they came with “diced” onions.  They came with onions, but I’m not sure how the people at Tortilla Street Eats called them diced — they were rather large chunks.  In addition, cheese is one of the defining properties of a nacho, and these nachos had almost no cheese.  What little cheese they did have was runny and wouldn’t stick to the chips and instead pooled at the bottom of the nacho container.  We were not impressed.

We had better luck at Holy Smoke BBQ.  We decided to try one of their creations cleverly named the Daddy Mac.  The Daddy Mac was macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork and smothered in a spicy BBQ sauce.  We’ve had versions of this dish at some of the restaurants we’ve tried, and the version at Holy Smoke BBQ stacked up pretty well.  The spicy BBQ sauce had a nice kick but wasn’t super hot, which was nice considering how much it cost to get a beer at the festival.

Realizing that our ambitious plan to visit a half dozen trucks didn’t get cleared by our stomachs, we decided to try a dessert truck for our final truck.  We stopped by Weldon’s Ice Cream Concessions for a sundae.  The sundae was pretty yummy, but it wouldn’t stack up to a sundae you’d get at Coldstone Creamery or Graeter’s.  That might be an unfair comparison since we are comparing a rolling ice cream shop to a couple of established ice cream heavyweights, and the fact that we were tired, hot, and very sweaty might have made the sundae taste better than it normally would.  But we would visit the Weldon’s truck again, unless it was parked within walking distance to a Coldstone or a Graeters.

We definitely plan to visit the next Columbus Food Truck Festival.  We might need to visit each day it is going on, or we might need to fast for a few days, but hopefully next time we can visit more of a variety of trucks.

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.