Special Report: Crabbageddon (Bonefish Grill, part 2)

Oh Yeah!

Oh Yeah!

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon

https://www.bonefishgrill.com/

On my first date with the woman who would become my wife, we didn’t eat crab. I knew I liked this girl, but I wasn’t about to drop crab money until I knew we were compatible. And, I knew she could eat. This was no “I’ll just have a salad” girl. So after a couple of months, we went to a restaurant and I watched Katina, this beautiful, feminine light of my life, completely ravage at least a pound of snow crab legs. It was actually a little scary, and I remember distinctly pieces of crab shell flying by my head as she cracked her crab legs. I had never had crab legs before, and eventually she got me to try them (boy was I missing out). I returned the favor be introducing Katina to lobster, and those of you who follow us know how she feels about lobster.

Bonefish Grill is one of our favorite seafood restaurants. It may not be the most expensive or the most swanky, but it’s up near the top on both of those lists. We’ve reviewed Bonefish Grill before, and our feelings toward the restaurant have not changed. The have the absolute best appetizer we’ve ever had – Bang Bang Shrimp. If you have never gone to Bonefish Grill, or you’ve been but not tried the Bang Bang Shrimp, then wake up because you’re missing it. The shrimp are the perfect size, and the sauce that they’re tossed in is to die for. So, of course on this most recent visit, we ordered the Bang Bang Shrimp. For drinks, I opted for a mojito followed by a beer, and Katina ordered some drink that was really strong and fruity, but I can’t remember the name of it (old age). The point is that Bonefish makes some mighty fine drinks, and they have really good sangria if you’re in to that kind of drink.

What brought us out to Bonefish Grill on this particular evening was crab legs. In the past, we’ve raved about Bonefish’s twin lobster tail dinner – it’s probably our favorite lobster dish ever (or it’s at least tied with Jeff Ruby’s). Bonefish cooks the tails to perfection, but the real draw in the butter (pun intended). Mixed with cream, Bonefish’s drawn butter is creamy and thick, so it sticks to the seafood and explodes in your mouth. So we figured Bonefish would use the same butter for the crab as they do for their lobster tails. We were right. For a limited time, Bonefish grill is offering up a pound of king crab legs pre-cracked, so all of us lazy folk can eat crab without all the work. The whole purpose of this post is that we are afraid some of you may not get to Bonefish and try the crab, and that would be a shame. The legs were cooked to perfection, and since they were already cracked for us, we were able to snag all of the tender meat – and there was a lot of it. In a moment of insanity, I subbed my standard sides with a cup of crab and corn chowder (note: more crab) and Bonefish’s new side, rice with lump crab meat. Note that there was yet more crab. Katina pretty much ordered the same thing, but elected for broccoli instead of the soup (I know…it confuses me, too). With the exceptions of our drinks, we pretty much had crab in or on everything. If you are a fan of crab, stop what you’re doing AND GET TO BONEFISH as soon as possible. It was perfect. Our first date in quite a while, and we were pretty much ready for the post festivity cigarette before we left the restaurant. I would like to mention that at one point, Katina poured her left over drawn butter on her crab and rice. On the surface, it was gross, but deep down I am peeved that I didn’t think of it first.

Crabbageddon wasn’t cheap. But I swear it was so close to heaven that I might of heard Jesus speak. Bonefish definitely wins the prize for the best promotion menu we’ve tried all year, and I need to reiterate that if you like crab, you have to get to Bonefish before it’s all gone. And don’t tell Katina, but I almost went back a few days later while she was a work. She’d kill me if I did, though. This was probably our last dining out experience until after the New Year, and what a way to go out. Check back near the end of 2014 (in a week or two) and check out our 2014 Best of the Best, where we’ll revisit some of the stellar establishments and dishes we got to experience in 2014. Cheers.

 

 

Report Card: El Acapulco


El Acapulco Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

http://elacapulcorestaurant.com/

Overall GrubGrade C+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: There are pretty much “authentic” Mexican restaurants on almost every corner here in Columbus, so you need to be pretty special to stand out. El Acapulco falls pretty short of that. On the outside, El Acapulco is fairly non-descript, and it turned out to be as small on the inside as it looked on the outside. The interior was clean and decorated in typical authentic cheesy Mexican décor. There weren’t many diners when we arrived, but it was starting to get packed by the time we left. It stayed fairly quiet throughout the meal, with Mexican music softly playing through the speakers. Table spacing appeared to be adequate. We are going to be honest, we really wanted to score this lower as El Acapulco was not physically impressing (kind of like the Gary Coleman of Mexican restaurants).

High marks: Clean and fairly quiet, acceptable table spacing

Low marks: Very small and under-whelming

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Service: Grade B-: We have no idea who our server was. His name wasn’t printed on the postage stamp sized receipt we received, but he spoke perfect English with minimal accent, so no language barrier. However, when we first walked into the restaurant, we were greeted with a sign that advised us to “Seat Yourself.” Okay, lets all agree on something – if we have to seat ourselves, your restaurant should have a drive-thru. Which would be okay in El Acapulco’s case since their food ranked right about even with Taco Bell. Service was okay and worthy of a B or B+ grade, but we cannot forgive having to seat ourselves – that sets a bad tone for the meal. Food arrived very quickly as is par for the course with Mexican restaurants in general, and our order was accurately prepared.

High marks: No language barrier, accurate and quick service

Low marks: “Seat Yourselves”– ’nuff said

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Food/Spirits: Grade C: We are 99% certain the complimentary chips and salsa came from a bag and jar, respectively. They were not impressive at all. For her drink, Katina ordered a strawberry daiquiri, which ended up being pretty small and tasted like there was zero alcohol in it. I stuck with the traditional Coronas served with a slice of lime. Despite what is technically the way beer is supposed to be served (sans fruit slices), Corona tastes like what I would expect a sweaty sock tastes like without the lime slice added. We ordered the queso with sausage for an appetizer. When it arrived, it was served with a few warm tortillas. We now believe that we were supposed to spread the queso on the tortillas since the queso was really too thick to use as a dip. Taste-wise, the queso was okay, but the consistency should have been much thinner (plus, a thinner texture could have helped hide the abundance of grease present from the sausage). Katina decided to get crazy and ordered the chicken fajitas (sarcasm). She found the fajitas thin on meat and heavy on the veggies, and the meat that was present was bland. Whatever time they used to marinate their meat, it wasn’t long enough. Katina rated the fajitas “not very good” and “average to below average.” Ouch! I ordered a combination platter that had 1 beef tips burrito and 1 chicken burrito. The beef burrito was sparsely filled with tough, under-seasoned beef. The chicken burrito was actually much better. The chicken actually had some flavor and just a hint of heat – plus there was a bunch of it in the burrito. They probably had a bunch left since they obviously did not use the same chicken they used in my burrito in Katina’s fajitas. The re-fried beans were okay, but nothing special.

High marks: Chicken burrito was actually pretty good

Low marks: Pretty much the rest of the food – while not awful, not impressive either

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Value: Grade C: We dropped $75 on dinner (granted, we had our kids with us, but their portion of the bill was negligible. Food quality was not high enough for us to recommend El Acapulco as a place to eat. If you drive past it in either direction, a better Mexican restaurant is probably right up the road.

High marks: None, really

Low marks: Poor quality and too pricey

Report Card: B Spot


B Spot on Urbanspoon

http://bspotburgers.com/

Overall GrubGrade A-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B+: We hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We’ve been away for a couple of weeks preparing for that delicious holiday, and hopefully you all understand with that particular holiday, we skipped the normal dining out routine. This food adventure finds us visiting B Spot in Gahanna, Ohio. This burger restaurant is fairly new, so it is not surprising that it was incredibly clean on the inside. It wasn’t overly packed when we stopped by, but B Spot was still fairly noisy. The décor was contemporary but fit nicely with the theme of the restaurant. Tables weren’t too close together, but having them a smidge farther apart might have helped with the noise level. Bathrooms were a little difficult to find, but other than that minor inconvenience the atmosphere at B Spot was very pleasant. Expect a laid back and casual dining experience.

High marks: Clean, new

Low marks: Noisy

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Service: Grade B: Matthew, our server at B Spot, did a really nice job serving us on our visit. He did a good job explaining the menu and how to order, as well what to expect from the sauces located on the table. There’s not much a server can do in a burger restaurant to really impress us, so a grade of B is actually a fairly high mark. The wait for the food was minimal and our order was delivered exactly like we had ordered it.

High marks: Good service, accurate and timely

Low marks: Fairly simple menu

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Food/Spirits: Grade A: Our followers know that we have been searching for quite some time for a local replacement for our dearly departed Fuddruckers. We found a really great burger joint in Nashville called Burger Republic that ranked right at the top, but let’s face it, we’re not driving to Nashville a couple times of year for a great burger. B Spot fills that horrible void left by the closing of Fuddruckers. Those of you who watch The Chew (like Katina) should be familiar with the restaurant’s owner, Michael Symon. Mr. Symon perhaps has the biggest personality on that show, and his burgers and sauces have almost as much personality as their creator. For drinks, we started with a Wrong Island Iced Tea (Katina) and a beer called La Fin du Monde (Rick). We’ve previously discussed La Fin du Monde in another post, so we won’t repeat the same thing here. The Wrong Island Iced Tea was very smooth but you could still taste some whiskey, so if you’re a fan of whiskey, this might be a good drink to try. We ordered an appetizer called Porky Fries. As the name would suggest, the Porky Fries are fries loaded with pulled pork. Sound good? Well, they weren’t. They were freaking amazing. We particularly liked the addition of cheese whiz to the mix. These quite possibly were the best fries we’ve ever had, and I found myself not wanting to share them with Katina once I tasted them. For our burgers, Katina did a “build your own” burger and I ordered the Smasher Special (called the Red Hot), which is B Spot’s burger of the month special. Katina ordered a well done beef burger with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, and fresh onions. With that amount of onions, Katina’s lucky this wasn’t our first date, ’cause that breath would have been kicking for that first kiss. Katina found her burger to be fairly typical, but was surprised at how moist the meat was since she had asked for it to be prepared well done. The burger, by the way, was cooked to perfection. The Smasher Special was a beef patty smothered with picked jalapenos, pepper-jack cheese, pulled pork, and sriacha mayo. The burger has a nice kick and was super moist and soft (I had ordered mine medium well). I also ordered another beer, called Rivertown Roebling Porter, which was a little bitter with some heavy chocolate notes. If you a Bud Lite type of person, this is not your beer. But if you have some hair on your chest and enjoy a nice stout porter, this beer is one you should taste.

What elevates the burgers found at B Spot to the next level is the pickle bar (which definitely reminded us of the condiment bar at Fuddruckers), and the array of sauces on the table. Our followers will recognize the significance of high quality sauces since you all know I’m dining with the Sauce Czar of Columbus. Anyone whose been to a Cleveland sporting event is probably familiar with their famous stadium mustard – B Spot has it. One of Katina’s favorite sauces was the Coffee BBQ sauce. It was tasty, and Katina has a thing for bbq sauce. We both thought the Shasha sauce was the best. A mixture of bananna peppers and mustard, this sauce had a well balanced and interesting flavor. More tangy than spicy, we used that sauce on both our burgers and some of our fries. Yummy! We also found the Lola ketchup to be quite tasty as well.

High marks: Perfectly cooked burgers, pickle bar, sauce selection

Low marks: It’s across town, so we can’t eat there at least once a week

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Value: Grade A: Three drinks, and appetizer, and two of the highest quality burgers we’ve ever had set us back less than $50. Not bad at all.

High marks: Superior quality, reasonable price

Low marks: None

Report Card: Brazenhead Irish Pub


Brazenhead Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

http://www.hdrestaurants.com/brazenhead/dublin/menu.htm

grubgraders Columbus restaurants
Overall GrubGrade B

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade C: We visited Brazenhead Irish Pub in Dublin, Ohio, on a late Friday evening. On the outside, Brazenhead looked like a big red house in the middle of downtown Dublin. When we walked inside, the place was really busy. The basement area was closed off for a private party, and except for the couple of occasions where we had to crash the downstairs party to hit the restroom (we could only find ones in the basement). The rest of the restaurant seemed cramped, and since there was no hostess, we had to seat ourselves. We might have snagged the last table in the upstairs lounge area, judging by the despondent people who came in after us and couldn’t find a table. This place really needed a hostess. Once seated, it took around 10 to 15 minutes just to receive a menu. Luckily, since we’re both geniuses, we had already looked at the menu online and made our choices. Table spacing was okay, but the upstairs tables were extremely small and probably not intended for dinner service.

High marks: Okay table spacing

Low marks: No hostess, very busy, cramped interior and tiny tables

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Service: Grade B-: Our server, Kelly, did an alright job with our service. We’ve certainly had better, but we’ve had worse as well. We believe it was just too busy and noisy, and our server had to keep going up and down the stairs. She was out-shined by the food runner, who made sure we were okay every time he walked by our table. When our food arrived, we were missing silverware, but Kelly quickly corrected the situation. Other than the initial wait for menus and a rather lengthy wait for our check, the meal progressed at an acceptable pace. Had Brazenhead been anything but a madhouse, this service would have been horrible. But in the context of the situation, it was okay.

High marks: Meal progressed at good pace, attentive food runner

Low marks: Start and finish marked by lengthy waits, no silverware

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Food/Spirits: Grade A-: The start of the meal was shaky, but once we got going Brazenhead really shined. For drinks, I opted for a Hoegaarden, which in my opinion is the spiciest of the wheat beers. Katina ordered a Woodchuck Raspberry Cider, which had a really nice raspberry flavor. The cider could have been a little colder than it was when served, but other than that she really enjoyed it. For our appetizer, we selected (……dramatic pause)….pretzel sticks. Up to this point, the pretzel sticks at TGIFriday’s have ruled supreme in our opinion. Brazenhead may have usurped them from the top of the pretzel mountain. The sticks were crispy on the outside with a nice buttery flavor. On the inside, they were nice and soft. The pretzel sticks were served with a beer cheese and a spicy mustard for dipping. The cheese had a hearty flavor and was thin enough to work nicely as a dip (as opposed the the cheese “paste” we sometimes get with our pretzel sticks). The mustard was thick and creamy with a nice kick, but the spiciness was not overwhelming. Katina ordered a pulled pork sandwich for her entree, and I asked for the fish and chips. The pulled pork had a nice smoky sauce but it wasn’t as sweet as Katina likes. The sauce did have a bit of a kick, though. Served on a regular bun, the pulled pork sandwich had a generous amount of high quality meat, not the crappy, fatty meat of questionable origin that sometimes tries to pass for pulled pork. The sandwich was topped with mozzarella cheese, which complimented the smoky BBQ sauce nicely. I would be remiss if I did not mention that this might be the first time in 15 years that I have seen Katina eat something topped with sauce and not ask for an extra side of sauce. With fish and chips, it all comes down to the batter, and the tartar sauce. These particular thick cod fillets were coated in a Guinness batter and cooked perfectly. But the tartar sauce….oh, sweet Jesus! Creamy, flavorful, and smooth (all the ingredients were finely chopped), the tartar sauce at Brazenhead is the best tartar sauce I’ve ever had. The house-made chips were crispy and good, but not a star feature of the meal. But I would eat broccoli and Brussels sprouts if they were covered in that sweet, glorious tartar sauce.

High marks: Pretzel sticks with sauce, dipping sauces, tartar sauce, high quality pork

Low marks: Plain sandwich bun, good but not mind-blowing chips, cider should be colder

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Value: Grade A+: We toughed it out, and while we probably had enough room to snag dessert but showed the willpower to abstain. However, we didn’t leave hungry, and at less than $50, we feel the quality of the food warrants a visit from you if you haven’t been yet. Just try and visit on an off day or time unless you love eating amid chaos.

High marks: High quality food for a very fair price

Low marks: Chaotic

Report Card: Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy


Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy on Urbanspoon

http://www.abuelos.com

 

Overall GrubGrade B+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A-: My wife loves Easton, but I hate it. So I hope you all appreciate the sacrifice I made by accompianing Katina to Abuelo’s at Easton. Other than some parking issues, the restaurant itself is huge and very clean. The size of the interior plays games with the acoustics, and even though Abuelo’s was busy, the noise level was indicative of freight train derailment. The inside of Abuelo’s has a nice classical look, with pillars and lots of murals on the wall. We found the table spacing to be fairly generous, but the interior is cavernous and we’d be disappointed if we were sitting on top of our neighboring tables. Plus the noise level would have been intolerable. Not sure if we’d recommend Abuelo’s for a romantic interlude, but powerdrinking margaritas and eating you weight in tortillas fits nicely with the vibe. Abuelo’s is pretty nice looking and flirts with being more upscale than most Mexican eateries, but it’s relaxed enough for you to get your own bib out of your back pocket if you brought it with you.

High marks: Clean, contemporary and classic, nice table spacing

Low marks: Very noisy

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Service: Grade C+: Along with the long bench seat, one of our pet peeves is the trainee server. Sometimes it works out okay, but it usually translates to slower service and us having to repeat ourselves. It took quite a while for us to receive our first drinks from the bar. It was probably a bad night to saddle Kristin, who appeared to be fairly compentent, with a trainee. Save the training for the lunch service. Overall, even though our order was accurate, it seemed to take too long to get our food. One of the hallmarks of Mexican dining is that your meal usually arrives 5 minutes after you order – not the case on this night at Abuelo’s.

High marks: Accurate

Low marks: Slow and slower

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Food/Spirits: Grade A-: Here is where Abuelo’s shined. The complimentary chips and salsa were pretty good, with thin and fresh chips and a tasty salsa. The salsa had very little spiciness to it, but it was still flavorable enough for us to enjoy. For drinks, Katina ordered a peach margarita, which was nice to see her keep her drink selection in line with the theme of the restaurant. Katina is a bit of a wordsmith, so when I asked her to describe the drink I wasn’t surprised to hear words like “good” and “peachy” come out of her mouth (sarcasm intended). The margarita was smooth and had just a faint tequila bite to it. I have a feeling that it was stronger than it tasted because it made my face get all warm when I tried a sip, and by the time we left Katina was a little giggly. I opted for some traditional Coronas, which went down smoothly and quickly. I surprised Katina by ordering some jalapeno cheese fritters for an appetizer/side. I was afraid that since I was famished my meal wouldn’t fill me up, plus the service was so slow I had to fight the urge to do a drive by snatching of someone’s taco. The fritters were simple but tasty and they had a nice spicy kick to them. Katina even liked them, and she is not a fan of jalapeno poppers. We did find it odd that the fritters were served to us on a greasy napkin instead of small plates, but we can live with that. Katina ordered a combo of 3 enchiladas. One was ground beef and fire-roasted queso, one was chicken with sour cream, and the third one was cheese and onion with chili con carne. Katina felt the cheese and onion enchilada was the best tastine, with the chicken and sour cream taking second place. I ordered something called the Durano Burrito, which was absolutely fantastic. The meat, and there was a ton of it, had a really nice spicy kick to it, and the cheese sauce that topped it was a perfect match. Without a doubt, the Durango was one of the best burritos I’ve ever had.

High marks: Excellent Durango burrito, good enchiladas, perfectly mixed maragita

Low marks: Jalapeno cheese fritters served on a napkin

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Value: Grade A: We feasted on some pretty high quality Mexican grub and escaped barely breaking the $50 mark, which was less than we expected. Had the service been quicker, this grade would have been an A+. But if you want some good Mexican eats, Abuelo’s should be near the top of your short list – just don’t visit if you’re in a hurry.

High marks: High quality, lower than expected price

Low marks: Speed

 

Report Card: Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza

Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza in Worthington

Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza in Worthington

Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

http://www.nataliescoalfiredpizza.com

 

Overall GrubGrade B-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade C-: One of the first comments we received from a follower was a suggestion to do a review of Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza in Worthington, Ohio. Here it is, about 18 months later, and we finally made our way there. We stopped by a little after 12:00 noon on a Sunday. We had just finished the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event, and we were pretty hungry. Outside and inside, Natalie’s was quite a bit smaller than I anticipated, especially since Natalie’s also offers live music. The walls were covered with an eclectic assortment of items, but Natalie’s rubbed us the wrong way almost immediately. We felt the table spacing was terrible, but due to the live music no one was able to hear any of our lunch conversation (including us). We’re not really sure the size of Natalie’s interior lends itself to live music, and the jazz trio seemed out of place playing at a pizza joint during Sunday lunch. And, they were very LOUD. If we could rewind back to that day, we probably would have ordered our pies to go.

High marks: Interesting walls

Low marks: Poor table spacing, loud

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Service: Grade B: Initially, we felt the service was terrible. We sat for at least 10 minutes before anyone stopped by to check on us, and that visit was just to tell us that we’d be waiting for a few more minutes while our server, Kelli, took care of some of her other tables. Not only were we hungry, but we were lost-in-the-desert thirsty. Once we finally got started, Kelli did provide us with pretty decent service. It was fairly straight forward, but there wasn’t a lot of chance for conversation with the music being so loud. But, even with all that racket, Kelli got all 3 of our pizzas correct. That’s really admirable since one of them was a pepperoni/chicken combo that still has us dumbfounded to this day.

High marks: initial service bad

Low marks: Once meal started, service got better

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Food/Spirits: Grade B: All of the pizzas at Natalie’s seem to come in one size, which is large enough to feed two adults who aren’t starving. We had a party of 6, so we ordered 3 pizzas: one pepperoni, one pepperoni and sausage, and one pepperoni and chicken. Four of the six in our party were 12 year old girls, hence the pepperoni pizza (kids that age simply do not understand the potential of pizza). That being said, we still can’t explain why two of the girls opted for pepperoni and chicken on their pizza. The pizzas themselves were pretty good. We appreciated the grated cheese and red pepper flakes that were available for those of us who wanted to kick it up a notch. The char on the crust was different, but we’re not sure it really added anything to the pizza except for a touch of originality. While the pizza at Natalie’s was good, most pizza is good by default, and Natalie’s Pizza didn’t knock our socks off. Any dish that we could whip up with a tube of biscuits, sauce, and a few toppings would be hard to mess up. The challenge is making it memorable, and we forgot Natalie’s shortly after we swallowed our last bite.

High marks: Interesting crust

Low marks: No variety in size and nothing spectacular about the pizza

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Value: Grade B: We got 3 pizzas for $50, but we could accomplish the same feat by logging onto Donato’s website and we wouldn’t have to change out of our PJ’s or risk deafness. We feel there are just too many pizza places that have comparable or better quality for a similar price, and for reason, we suggest you skip this one.

High marks: Not super-expensive

Low marks: Same price can get you bigger and better pizzas from other establishments

Report Card: Chili’s Grill and Bar

Chili's

Chili’s

Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

http://ww3.chilis.com/EN/Pages/menuitem.aspx

 

Overall GrubGrade B-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: Those of you who follow this blog have probably realized that we attempt to stay away from the larger restaurant chains, although we are not always successful. We decided to make the trip across Columbus to check out Chili’s, a restaurant neither of us had visited in over 10 years. When we arrived, Chili’s was quite busy. Despite the volume of diners and in defiance of the Urbanspoon reviews claiming Chili’s is dirty, we found a clean restaurant, although we could tell it was well used. But that’s fine with us. We really liked the use of brass kettles for overhead lights, and we thought the wall décor abundant but not gaudy ala TGIFridays. Because of the volume, we found Chili’s to be a little on the noisy side, but nothing that would deter our meal.

High marks: Clean and interesting

Low marks: Busy and noisy

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Service: Grade B: Service was good but nothing that stood out. We had a bit of a lengthy wait to get our first drinks, but once those were delivered the rest of the food came out without much of a wait. That was actually a bit surprising considering how busy Chili’s was at the time of our visit. Our meal was prepared exactly like we requested, so our service was solid.

High marks: Minimal wait (for the most part) and accurate

Low marks: Long wait for drinks

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Food/Spirits: Grade B-: We ordered a Triple Berry Margarita and beer for drinks. The margarita had lots of berry flavor with just a hint of tequila. It was very sweet, so you’d better be in that type of mood if you order one. It’s not necessary to comment on the beer since I can’t remember which one I had but it was one I have already described in prior posts. We ordered the pretzel sticks for an appetizer. The sticks themselves were soft and salty, but we thought the cheese sauce was inferior to the cheese sauce served with the pretzel sticks at TGIFridays. This cheese was more of a paste, but it still was tasty. But the paste-like consistency doesn’t lend itself well for dipping. For entrees, we both opted for burgers. We tasted the Sweet and Smoky burger and the Southern Smokehouse burger. We found the Sweet and Smoky burger to not be all that smoky, but it was still real tasty. Cooked to the perfect temperature, the burger was topped with a subtle barbecue sauce that didn’t really taste like barbecue sauce. The Southern Smokehouse burger was excellent – nice and juicy and the garlic pickles tasted even better than they sound. The food at Chili’s was really good – much better than we anticipated. We actually were very surprised.

High marks: Really great burgers

Low marks: Cheese sauce for the pretzels could use some attention

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Value: Grade B+: Better than expected quality and a very reasonable price helped Chili’s score a pretty good grade in the value category. If you use websites like Urbanspoon to research your restaurants, make sure you take the negative comments on service and cleanliness with a grain of salt. Cleanliness is an objective quality, and we have been in some restaurants that made Chili’s dining area seem as clean as a surgical suite. If you want some good food and don’t want to drop a ton of money, you should go ahead and give Chili’s a try.

High marks: Good food and decent prices

Low marks: None…at least on this visit

 

 

Report Card: Eddie Merlot’s Part 2

Eddie Merlot's

Eddie Merlot’s

Eddie Merlot's on Urbanspoon

http://www.eddiemerlots.com/

Overall GrubGrade A-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A: We first visited Eddie Merlot’s a couple of years before we started this website. For us, Eddie’s is like that first high school crush – we couldn’t imagine any better until we got some experience. Eddie Merlot’s was one of the first upscale dining establishments we visited, and we fell in love. It was the standard by which we judged all other restaurants from that point on. We have already reviewed Eddie Merlot’s once, but we were sure that if we revisited, Eddie’s would get a better overall grade than before – and it did. But based on our previous experiences, we expect Eddie Merlot’s to score and Overall Grubgrade of A+, so the score of A- is a little disappointing to us. Inside and out, Eddie Merlot’s oozes class and upscale sophistication. The atmosphere is just about perfect, and Eddie Merlot’s is one of our top picks for a date restaurant. We had a slight issue this visit with some dirty glassware, which isn’t the end of the world but cannot be tolerated at a restaurant this upscale and that charges the amount of money Eddie Merlot’s charges.

High marks: Upscale and nearly perfect

Low marks: One dirty glass

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Service: Grade A+: Our server on this visit was named Monica. The service was flawless. Monica seemed a little too formal, but with this type of setting we really can’t fault her for taking her job seriously. Our only complaint, and it is a small one, applies to this visit to Eddie Merlot’s but also applies to a whole bunch of other visits to restaurants we’ve had. For most restaurants, the server will ask if you have dined at that establishment before. We hit Eddie Merlot’s at least 2 or 3 times a year for the past 3 to 4 years, so we’re pretty comfortable with the menu. Even after relaying this fact to Monica, she still felt the need to tell us about the toppings for the steak and how the steak is cut in house, etc, etc. Those are all great facts to know, and we would have been really impressed had this been our first dance with Eddie’s, but the spiel was really just a waste of everyone’s time. We didn’t penalize her for schooling us on all things Eddie because she is probably required to do so, but in the future we would appreciate our server to allow us to ask questions if we need to and save the script for the newbies.

High marks: Quick, accurate, flawless service

Low marks: Unnecessary lesson on steak delayed our gratification

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+: Here is where we get a tad bit disappointed. We fully expect Eddie Merlot’s, due to their reputation and the price of their food, to get no less than an A in this category. As such, we are disappointed with the B+ (actually, that is probably a bit generous in this instance). For drinks, Katina ordered a martini called a Berry White and I opted for a cocktail called Eddie’s Paradise Infusion. Katina’s martini had a pronounced berry flavor and was very sweet. The drink has a slight but very tolerable alcohol bite. The Paradise Infusion had absolutely no alcohol bite, but I am sure it did have alcohol in it because my noggin started feeling all warm and fuzzy after the first couple of sips. The Paradise Infusion has slight pineapple flavor, but the flavor wasn’t a strong as I expected. For our appetizer, we ordered the Filet Mignon Pot Stickers. The pot-stickers were good, but there wasn’t much going on with them. We frankly expected something a little less simple. The pot-stickers were crammed full of meat, but there wasn’t much else inside. We felt like more could have been done with them. Plus, the pot-stickers were served with a soy sauce that helped kick up the flavor, but we thought Eddie Merlot’s was a little skimpy with the sauce. We selected the tempura green beans for our side, and Katina ordered the twin lobster tails (don’t faint with surprise) and I ordered the Trio of Medallions for our entrees. The tempura green beans were crisp and lightly battered, and the creamy wasabi sauce was the best we’ve had. Honestly, Eddie Merlot’s has the best sides of ANY restaurant we’ve been to, with the lobster mac and cheese being the absolute cat’s pajamas. When we do lobster tails, the standard we use for comparison is Bonefish Grill. While the lobster tails at Eddie Merlot’s were bigger (and over double the price) than those at Bonefish, we still find Bonefish Grill prepares them better, and their butter sauce is the best. We thought the tails at Eddie’s were just a tad on the tough side, but Katina really liked that Monica de-shelled the tails for her. The Trio of Medallions were simply awesome. I almost didn’t order them, but I am glad I did. The medallions were perfectly cooked, and each medallion was topped with a different topping. For me, the Gorgonzola bacon topping was hands down the best tasting, with the peppercorn in second place and the Oscar-style in third. The Oscar-style topping had a brown-sugary taste to it that was inexplicable and a little off-putting.

High marks: The Trio of Medallions were awesome, tempura green beans the best we’ve had

Low marks: A little stingy with the sauce, lobster tails a little tough

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Value: Grade B-: With a coupon (which is embarrassing), we still dropped well over $150 for two of us, and we skipped dessert. The food and atmosphere are about the best you can find in Columbus, but you are certainly going to pay for it. We usually grade this category based on what we expected to spend versus what we actually do spend. We knew Eddie Merlot’s was expensive, but with skipping dessert we would have expected to spend $15 to $20 less. We highly recommend Eddie Merlot’s, especially if you are looking for a special experience, and although it is no longer our top restaurant (it is still in the top 5), it is still about the best place to indulge in Columbus.

High marks: The entire experience is about the best you can find in the area

Low marks: Seems pricier that our last visit

 

Report Card: Flannery’s Pub

Flannery's Pub in downtown Cleveland

Flannery’s Pub in downtown Cleveland

Flannery's Pub on Urbanspoon

Overall GrubGrade B+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A-: It was a windy, dark evening when we stopped by Flannery’s Pub. We had just checked into our hotel, and wanted someplace close to eat. Flannery’s was on our bucket list from our previous visit to Cleveland, but we just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. This time, however, we were on a mission. We made a beeline to Flannery’s, partly because the sky was threatening rain and partly because we were famished. Flannery’s Pub looks and feels exactly like you would expect an Irish pub should look and feel. The place was devoid of any upscale, pretentious décor, and the inside was a lot larger than we expected, especially with a downtown location. We think the threat of rain kept a lot of would be patrons inside, so there were not many people in Flannery’s at all. Well worn tables and lots of wood greeted us, and the casual atmosphere was welcomed after a day of traveling. If you’re looking for an authentic looking Irish Pub, Flannery’s should be atop your short list.

High marks: Looks and feel like an Irish pub should

Low marks: None…an A- is about as good as a pub can score in this category

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Service: Grade B+: Our server, Tim, was quite friendly and had a good sense of humor. However, the service itself was pretty straight forward. And even though our server was friendly, we didn’t seem to have a whole lot of interaction with him. I thought that was a missed opportunity, especially after we told him we were from Columbus. Since the rest of Flannery’s was empty, he missed an opportunity to give us his take on downtown Cleveland, and he probably missed out on a bigger tip. The food came out with minimal wait, and there were no glaring errors with our service.

High marks: Accurate, friendly, and fast

Low marks: A little bland

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Food/Spirits: Grade B: For drinks, Katina opted for a margarita and I ordered a couple of Boddington’s – but I didn’t order them both at the same time (that would be a cry for help). The Boddington’s were good but nothing mind blowing, but what needs to be discussed is the margarita. It wasn’t the best or the worst margarita that Katina has tasted, but who really cares. The important thing is that she ordered a margarita while at an Irish pub. You all do see why that’s messed up. If the Irish didn’t invent drinking alcohol, they certainly perfected the art. So to go Mexican just seemed sacrilegious. For our appetizer, we ordered two – I told you we were famished. We tried both the spicy garlic chicken wings and the Boom Boom Shrimp. In hindsight, it was probably a wasted opportunity. We ordered the chicken wings to see of Flannery’s could recreate the magic we experienced in Charlotte, NC when we visited Ri Ra. And while the wings were good, they weren’t close to the ones from Ri Ra. We found the spicy garlic sauce in which the wings were tossed to be very tasty, but without much spiciness. We sampled the Boom Boom Shrimp because we wanted to see if it was close to the Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill. The result was similar to the wings. The shrimp was tasty, but could have used more sauce and been a bit spicier. Katina ordered the Pub Burger for her entree and I ordered the Smoked Gouda and Bacon Meatloaf. The Pub Burger is Flannery’s take on the barbecue bacon cheeseburger. Topped with jack cheese, bacon, and house made barbecue sauce, Katina found herself enjoying the burger but could have used more sauce (she always wants more sauce). As for my dish – look at what it’s called again: Smoked Gouda and Bacon Meatloaf. How could that be anything but fantastic. Actually, I was a little taken aback by the flavor when I tried it. I didn’t feel like I could taste any of the individual ingredients but instead got the unique flavor of the combination. It was unique tasting, and I was a dozen or so bites into the meatloaf before I decided I liked it. So if you love Gouda and bacon and think you have a handle on what this meatloaf tastes like, you’re wrong. If you order it, eat at least half of it before deciding thumbs up or thumbs down.

High marks: Unique tasting meatloaf, good appetizers and burger

Low marks: Almost everything needed a little more sauce

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Value: Grade B: We kind of pigged out, so the fact the we had two appetizers, two adult beverages each, and entrees without doling out a Ben Franklin was pretty good. However, we didn’t really order any big ticket items like steak or lobster, so dropping $80 is bordering on a little steep. But the rational couple can probably have a nice meal for around $50 if you’re in the mood for some Irish pub fare. And if you are in the mood, Flannery’s Pub is a good choice.

High marks: Lot of food and booze for the money

Low marks: Still pricey considering actual food ordered

Report Card: Koto Japanese Steakhouse


Koto Japanese Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

http://kotocincinnati.com/

 

Overall GrubGrade B-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: We stopped by Koto Japanese Steakhouse in Cincinnati on our way home from Nashville. It just happened to be Katina’s birthday on the evening we visited, so I was hoping for a really nice experience. I was disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with Koto, but it is not a place to take someone for a romantic experience. First, the place was nearly impossible to find. My car’s navigation system and Katina’s Magellan-like sense of direction were both challenged trying to locate Koto. Once we finally arrived, we found a pretty typical looking Japanese steakhouse with typical Japanese steakhouse décor. There were only a few other diners in the place, and that was a good thing since Koto’s appeared to be woefully understaffed. But it was quiet while we waited to start our meal, and that at least gave Katina and I a chance to chat.

High marks: Quiet and almost empty

Low marks: Hard to locate

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Service: Grade C+: Our server’s name was Julie, and she did a fairly commendable job in taking our order and snagging us some drinks, although it did seem to take a bit before the drinks actually arrived. The poor service grade comes from the fact that there appeared to be only one hibachi samurai manning the table-side grills. So, after we arrived we had to watch this guy cook for the two tables next to us. Add the fact that we had been driving pretty much the entire day, and the restaurant staff were lucky I didn’t brain them with a wooden bowl and grill them right next to the traditional onion volcano that is always present at Japanese steakhouses. Once our “chef” got going, he whipped the food up fairly quickly and with a decent amount of showmanship. It’s just a shame there weren’t two or three of them on duty.

High marks: Decent showmanship from hibachi chef

Low marks: Very long wait to get meal started

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Food/Spirits: Grade B: Koto Japanese Steakhouse is not the best Japanese steakhouse we’ve been to, but it certainly isn’t the worst either (that would be you, Benihana). For drinks, I opted for a couple of giant-sized Sapporos, and Katina opted for a drink called Constant Buzz. The Constant Buzz was good, but not really strong enough to warrant an awesome name like Constant Buzz. Most of the beer drinkers out there have had a Sapporo before, but if you haven’t tried one you should. You might find the light taste to be right up your alley. For our entree, we ordered the Dinner for Two, which came with chicken, shrimp, lobster, and filet mignon. The food was actually pretty good once cooked, but again, we might not be objective since we were hungry enough to briefly consider cannibalism. Plus, Koto Japanese Steakhouse had their own version of Genji’s Yum-Yum sauce, and it tasted pretty close to the original. And finally, we got more fried rice with our meal than we have ever received at a Japanese steakhouse before, and the fried rice was really good.

On a side note, even though Katina and I love the hibachi style food served at Japanese steakhouses, our visit to Koto underscores one of the drawbacks to this style of dining – the other diners. Sitting at a table with a bunch of strangers inevitably leads to a conversation with said bunch of strangers, whether it is wanted or not. The other people at our table weren’t bad, though. But the real action was happening next door, at the table to our right. It was here that Katina and I watched a couple of late twenty-something/early thirty-something “studs” doing their best to pick up a couple of “wholesome young women” that were seated at their table. The “studs,” in this case, were a couple techno-nerds visiting the Queen City for something to do with cell phones. The “wholesome young women” were a couple of late 30’s/early 40’s Kim Cattral wannabes who were not playing hard to get. I imagine if we would have stuck around for another half-hour we could have watched them play spin the bottle. That was much more entertaining than our hibachi chef’s onion volcano.

High marks: Pretty good food and lots of rice

Low marks: Weak mixed drink, same old Japanese steakhouse tricks

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Value: Grade B: It’s hard to score Koto Japanese Steakhouse any higher because of the very long wait and apparent staffing issues. However, food quality and portion size were a little above average, and the entertainment was top notch. While not able to supplant Genji’s as our all time favorite in this category, Koto performed well enough on most fronts to make us feel comfortable recommending you give them a try if you’re in the neighborhood (and you can find them).

High marks: Portion size, quality

Low marks: Nothing able to make up for eternal wait

Report Card: Bon Vie Bistro


Bon Vie Bistro on Urbanspoon

http://bon-vie.com/index.html

 

Overall GrubGrade B-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: We’re fans of Brio and Bravo, so there is no reason that we wouldn’t be big fans of Bon Vie since they are all owned by the same parent company. We stopped by the Bon Vie Bistro at the Easton Town Center at about 4:30pm on a Friday. The restaurant was fairly empty, so it looked like we beat the evening dinner rush. We’re not exactly sure that Bon Vie was even ready to go with the dinner service since we were seated with lunch menus to order from. After a few minutes of looking at the menu and wondering why some of the dishes we saw on the online menu were absent, Katina figured out we had lunch menus instead of dinner menus. We stopped a passing server and were promptly brought dinner menus. The décor was nice and the restaurant was clean. But, one of our big pet peeves was present – the bench seat. Check out our review of the Cheesecake Factory to see how much we really hate the bench seat. I know my wife appears to be out of my league, but I do assume that most of the restaurant staff know that we are on a date. As such, why, may I ask, do you insist on sitting us at that stupid bench seat? Since we were the only ones there, it wasn’t a real big deal at first, but by the time we left we had groups of 4 on each side of us, so privacy was nil. Couple that with the fact that the music was too loud, and any romantic atmosphere that Bon Vie started with was quickly wiped away.

High marks: Clean, not crowded (at first), nicely decorated

Low marks: Given lunch menus, that horrific bench seat, no privacy

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Service: Grade B: If you look up the word “stiff” or “serious” in the dictionary, you might see a picture of our server, Tim, with the definition. And while all our needs were met and our service was timely and accurate, we were a little uncomfortable because our server seemed almost too intense. We certainly appreciate someone who takes their job responsibilities seriously, but diners want a relaxing experience when they visit a restaurant, and we just didn’t feel relaxed when our server was nearby. We still had to give Tim a “B” since he performed his duties professionally, but had he cracked a joke or projected some friendliness, that grade would have probably been an “A.”

High marks: Accurate, timely, very professional

Low marks: Too stiff and formal

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Food/Spirits: Grade B-: We both started out with raspberry mojitos, which has strong but not overwhelming raspberry flavor with no alcohol bite. Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of a wait for our drinks. While we were waiting, our server brought us some bread. Now since Bon Vie has a French vibe going on, we were assuming the bread would be really good. It was mediocre, and certainly not sliced at all. Other than eating crab legs, when we are paying for a meal, we’d like to keep the manual labor down to a minimum. So, Bon Vie, we suggest you take a couple of minutes and slice that loaf of bread for your patrons next time. We ordered the Sweet Chili Calamari and Shrimp for our appetizer. The calamari and shrimp were lightly breaded and had a nice flavor, but the sauce was a little on the skimpy side, and that was where most of the flavor was stashed. But, overall it was a pretty nice appetizer. By the end of our appetizer, our drinks were dry so Katina ordered a Strawberry Basil Lemonade and I ordered a beer called Kronenburg 1664. The strawberry lemonade (we’re not sure where the basil was hiding, but we never found it) was very sweet and sugary tasting. The beer, on the other hand, has almost no flavor. It would be a good beer for someone who doesn’t drink a lot of beer. For entrees, Katina ordered the Crab Crusted Tilapia and I ordered the Grilled NY Strip. The tilapia, like the appetizer, needed more sauce. The fish itself had a nice flavor, and the haricots verts that accompanied both entrees were fantastic. The tilapia also came with a vegetable blend that was also very tasty. The NY Strip was cooked to the perfect temperature, but way under-seasoned and dry. The menu stated it was supposed to come with truffle butter, but we couldn’t detect and butter anywhere in or on the dish. I opted to swap the baked potato for their fries, which was a good call as the fries were delightful. Had the quality of the preparation matched the quality of the cut of beef, then the dish would have been much, much better.

High marks: Decent calamari, great haricots verts and fries

Low marks: Entrees needed more sauce and more seasoning

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Value: Grade B-: We weren’t blown away by either the portion sizes or the quality of the food, so coming close to dropping a Benjamin for just the two of us seemed a little steep (and, I am ashamed to admit, we had a coupon – so it would have been over $100). Parts of the meal were really good, but others were just slightly better than average. Bon Vie Bistro is certainly a viable choice if you are out at Easton Town Center and want mix it up a bit, but we wouldn’t recommend making a trip out there just for the dining experience.

High marks: Parts of meal very nicely executed

Low marks: A little expensive for the quality

Report Card: Amerigo Italian Restaurant

Amerigo Italian restaurant

Amerigo Italian restaurant

Amerigo Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

http://amerigo.net/

 

Overall GrubGrade A-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade A-: After our knockout first evening in Nashville at Burger Republic, we were pretty excited to try some Italian food. Katina chose Amerigo Italian Restaurant, and she hit it out of the park. When we arrived, Amerigo’s wasn’t too busy, and we were sat in a table near the back of the restaurant. That allowed us to get a nice look at the décor of the restaurant on our way through. With the muted lighting and the dark wood paneling, Amerigo’s had a nice romantic vibe going. Add to that our server with her European accent, and we starting to border on exotic. There were no other diner’s in the area where we were sitting, so we felt as if we had the restaurant to ourselves. We found Amerigo Italian Restaurant to be very nice and bordering on the upscale, but it was just missing that something that made you feel like you were going to have an awesome dining experience.

High marks: Almost everything

Low marks: Pretty much nothing

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Service: Grade B+: We dined at Amerigo’s a little over 2 months ago. Unfortunately, we don’t remember anything specific about the dinner service except that our server had a lovely accent. The fact that we do not remember the service means two things: there was nothing wrong with the service and there was nothing special about it, either.

High marks: Nothing wrong with service

Low marks: Nothing overly special or memorable about service

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Food/Spirits: Grade A-: Katina behaved herself on this occasion and just ordered iced tea to drink. I, on the other hand, selected the Turtle Anarchy Portly Stout for my beverage. It was dark and creamy with a slight bitter finish. I found the beer to be very sessionable and found it to be one of the better new beers I’ve samples recently. For an appetizer, Katina and I shared an order of calamari. The calamari was lightly breaded and served with an excellent pesto dipping sauce. Amerigo’s was the first restaurant we’ve been to in months to nail the calamari. I also ordered the soup of the day, which happened to be homemade chicken noodle soup. Katina tasted the soup as well, and then proceeded to help me finish it. The soup was an excellent and unexpected surprise. The soup had an almost rustic flavor with an excellent broth and a ton of shredded chicken. It wasn’t thick, but it tasted thick (if that makes sense). The soup would have been perfect if there were a few more homemade noodles in it. But this was one of the best soups either of us have had, and definitely the BEST chicken noodle soup we’ve ever tasted. For entrees, Katina ordered the veal marsala and I ordered the 5-layer lasagna. Katina felt like the veal marsala had really good flavor. The veal marsala was nice and saucy (just like she prefers it) and she really enjoyed the homemade noodles. The noodles had a thicker texture and were almost dumpling-like. The marsala sauce had a great flavor with a real heartiness to it. Katina did feel like she could have used more noodles in the dish, but otherwise it was an excellent dish. The 5-layer lasagna wasn’t the best lasagna I’ve ever had. It was good, though. I found it to be a little too soupy for lasagna, but my real issue with the dish was how hot (temperature-wise) it was served. I could have gotten a similar experience eating a spoonful of lava. I do not understand how any normal human being could have been expected to eat that dish without lighting their mouth on fire. It would have been a little more tolerable if the lasagna would have been cooked 10 minutes before the rest of the food.

High marks: Noodles were excellent, excellent beer, spot on calamari, best chicken noodle soup ever

Low marks: Lasagna was more like lava than pasta

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Value: Grade B+: We didn’t have to take out a third mortgage to pay for our dinner, and the quality for most of the meal was above our expectations. If you live in Nashville, or you plan on visiting, Amerigo Italian Restaurant should be at the top of your list, especially if you have a craving for some pasta.

High marks: Superior quality

Low marks: Not the cheapest meal around (but worth it)

 

Report Card: Puffy Muffin

Puffy Muffin

Puffy Muffin

Puffy Muffin on Urbanspoon

http://www.puffymuffin.com

 

Overall GrubGrade B-

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B: First things first…do NOT Google the phrase Puffy Muffin without your parental controls turned on…at least not if your kids are in the room. The Puffy Muffin we visited was in Brentwood, TN (right outside of Nashville). We stopped to snag some breakfast prior to starting our return trek to Ohio. Puffy Muffin is a fairly small and quaint, with a lot of room dedicated to display cases filled with baked goods. This gave us the impression that the Muffin is more bakery than restaurant. There were quite a few patrons in the place when we arrived at 10:00 am, but everyone was spaced apart enough that we didn’t feel intruded upon.

High marks: Small and quaint

Low marks: More bakery than restaurant

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Service: Grade B: Our server was named Dana. Her performed adequately, but there was nothing special about the service. Again, we couldn’t help getting the impression that menu was a secondary service and that the bakery was the primary purpose of Puffy Muffin. We didn’t have too much of a wait for our food, and our order was served up accurately. We ordered some cookies to go and had a bit of a problem getting the correct ones, but once we told Dana the mistake she corrected it quickly.

High marks: Quick

Low marks: Minor error in “to go” order, not much emphasis on restaurant compared to bakery

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Food/Spirits: Grade B-: We had coffee to drink (Katina and I have reached the age where morning coffee is less a luxury and more a necessity). Our meal at Puffy Muffin reopened a debate that Katina and I have had since we started dating – Is breakfast a time of day, or a type of food? For Katina, any food is considered breakfast as long as it is the first meal of the day she eats. Anything from left-over seafood to a carton of Chinese take-out, it doesn’t matter. It is considered fair game for breakfast. I, on the other hand, contend that breakfast is a type of food, like scrambled eggs, French Toast, waffles, pancakes, and cereal. If I were to eat a waffle at 5:00pm, I would suggest that I have had breakfast for dinner. The point is that Katina ordered a chicken quesadilla for breakfast, which in turn forced me to order the Roadhouse Burger so that I wouldn’t look weird eating breakfast while the rest of my party was partaking in lunch. I mentioned in the section on service that we didn’t have much wait for our food, and you could tell by the look of Katina’s chicken quesadilla. Most of the quesadillas we’ve had were stuffed with ingredients that were diced up into fairly small bits. We wish our food would have taken an extra 5 minutes to come out to us, that way the cook would have had time to actually chop up the ingredients. Instead, we got a quesadilla stuffed with huge chunks of chicken that was very bland tasting. The Roadhouse Burger was nicely prepared, but there was nothing really special about it. The cookies we ordered to go were pretty good, but even those didn’t blow our socks off.

High marks: Decent cookies, solid Roadhouse Burger

Low marks: Poor execution on the chicken quesadilla

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Value: Grade B-: The food was decent, but nothing spectacular. We dropped $40 for breakfast (after tip) which seems a little steep considering that we weren’t pining for a Puffy Muffin to open in Columbus after we finished eating. Our suggestion is to save Puffy Muffin when you in fact need to get some muffins, and skip the whole restaurant thing with them.

High marks: Decent food (we’ve had much worse)

Low marks: Overpriced – better bakery than restaurant

 

Report Card: Burger Republic

Burger Republic

Burger Republic

Burger Republic on Urbanspoon

http://burgerrepublic.com/

 

Overall GrubGrade A+

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere: Grade B+: We were quite relieved when we finally arrived at Burger Republic. We visited the location in Brentwood, which is a suburb of Nashville. We had some difficulty finding the place, despite punching in the address in our navigation system. Take a good look at the picture above, because you might need to know what the outside of the place looks like if you aren’t familiar with the area. After some confusing walking about in circles, we finally located the entrance of Burger Republic. There’s nothing really noteworthy about the outside of the place, and on the inside, it seemed a little small. That perception might be because the place was insanely busy. The inside of Burger Republic looked like a cross between a garage, a bar, and a burger joint. We, of course, had never heard of Burger Republic, but we were definitely in the minority. We waited a good 15 to 20 minutes for a table to open up, and we had been traveling all day, so expectations were high. Read on to hear how Burger Republic shattered them.

High marks: Nice for a burger place

Low marks: Busy, noisy, and really hard to find

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Service: Grade A: It’s been a good month and a half since we visited Burger Republic, and for the life of me I can not remember the name of our server. That’s a real shame since he was fantastic. He was a little alternative looking, but other than that he provided us with phenomenal service. He was engaging and offered us some hints to tweak our dishes to make them better. He also brought us some horseradish aioli to go with our appetizer that wasn’t normally included. Our order was prepared accurately, and other than a slight delay in getting our check, everything progressed nicely even though Burger Republic was very busy. This score might have been an A+ if not for that slight delay.

High marks: Personable, accurate, great suggestions

Low marks: Delay in getting the check

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Food/Spirits: Grade A: We started our meal with Philly egg rolls for an appetizer. In order to understand that they tasted like, imagine if a Philly Cheese-steak and some egg rolls hooked up. The resulting offspring would be Philly egg rolls. Stuffed with sliced steak and finely diced onions and peppers, these lightly fried bite sized wonders were heavenly. And, as previously mentioned, our server brought us out some horseradish aioli that went perfectly with the egg rolls. For drinks, Katina ordered a Banana’s Foster milkshake (and yes, there was alcohol in it).

Bananas Foster Milkshake

Bananas Foster Milkshake

The shake tasted exactly like banana’s foster, with pronounced banana, nutmeg, and caramel flavors. I opted for a local micro-brew called Tennessee Brew Works Southern Wit. Golden and cloudy, the beer had some spicy notes but lacked the citrus characteristics most wit’s have. The beer had a nice, thick texture with just a hint of hops. It was really one of the better beers I’ve had recently.

Tennessee Brew Works Southern Wit

Tennessee Brew Works Southern Wit

For her burger, Katina ordered the Tennessee burger, and I ordered a burger called Chili Chili Bang Bang. We both ordered the bacon mac and cheese for our side. The Tennessee burger was smothered in Jack Daniels Honey BBQ sauce and served on a pretzel bun. It was cooked to perfection and came out moist and juicy. In a word, it was orgasmic (uh, using orgasmic, moist, and juicy to describe this burger is making me a little peckish). The Chili Chili Bang Bang is Burger Republic’s take on the chili cheeseburger. Smothered with a chili so tasty it would be great as a stand alone dish, the burger was perfectly cooked and amazingly delicious. Something else that should be noted was that this was the cleanest chili cheeseburger I’ve ever had. Usually, if you’re going to attempt a chili cheeseburger, you need a bib or a ton of napkins. The Chili Chili Bang Bang somehow stayed together nicely. Accompanying both burgers was a crock of bacon mac and cheese. The mac and cheese and an unbelievably creamy and delicious cheese sauce, and just the right amount of bacon and chives to make a really nice and well balanced mac and cheese.

We’ve been looking for the ultimate burger place ever since our local Fuddruckers closed. A couple places have come close, but Burger Republic is officially our new king of the burgers. While a little more upscale and pricey than most of the other burger spots we have gone to, I really hope Burger Republic expands beyond Nashville and comes to Columbus. It would we a great date spot for those who want really great food but not a whole lot of fuss.

High marks: All the food and drinks were spectacular

Low marks: There’s not one in Columbus

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Value: Grade A: We can’t remember how much we spent at Burger Republic, but it wouldn’t matter any way. Burger Republic’s superior quality means it earns an A despite the bill. If you’re in Nashville, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t stop by Burger Republic for a bite. We loved our visit to Nashville, and this burger joint is one of the reasons why.

High marks: Quality that is off the charts

Low marks: None

Report Card: Famous Dave’s

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Famous Dave's on Urbanspoon

http://www.famousdaves.com

 

Report Card: Famous Dave’s

 

Overall GrubGrade B+

 

The Breakdown:

 

Atmosphere: Grade B+: We don’t have many Famous Dave’s in Ohio, and the few we do have are not anywhere near Columbus. We’d heard of them, so when we visited Nashville and we saw there was one close to where we were staying, we had to stop by. On the inside, Famous Dave’s looks like somebody set of a hillbilly bomb. The walls were chock full pictures and paintings that were all country themed, and beneath the wall there was a definite log cabin motif. We got there right when the place opened, so the place was pretty empty and quiet. Tables looked adequately spaced, but it really didn’t matter. We were fully expecting to be offered possum pie for dessert, but once again, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

High marks: Spacious and quiet

Low marks: Very country

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Service: Grade A-: Following the theme of not judging a book by its cover, let’s talk about our server. His name was Dustin, and we we’re thinking he might have just come in from milking the cows. But, Dustin really did a very nice job taking care of us. He was friendly and personable, which was a nice change considering we were there for lunch (we usually find lunch service lacking when compared to dinner service). Service was accurate and we had a pretty minimal wait for our food (which we actually expected since there were only a couple other diners in the restaurant). It was almost a shame that we weren’t there for dinner – it would have given Dustin a chance to really shine.

High marks: Accurate, friendly, and quick service

Low marks:   Dinner would have been a better measure of server’s skills

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Food/Spirits: Grade A-: For drinks, Katina ordered something called Sweet Mama’s Punch. If you go online an read the drink description from the menu, you can probably imagine exactly what the drink tasted like (rum, amaretto, OJ and pineapple juice) – think sweet and citrusy.  I ordered a couple of Sam Adam’s, which most of you have tasted or at least heard me describe before. For her entrée, Katina ordered the Sweetwater Catfish platter and I selected the Devil’s Spit Brisket Burger. Katina found the light breading on the catfish fillets to be perfect. The brisket burger was really quite delicious as well, with a nice amount of zip from the Devil’s Spit barbecue sauce. The whole concept of mixing beef brisket with ground beef seemed moderately deranged to me…until I tasted it. This was one of the best “burgers” I’ve ever had. Plus, Famous Dave’s French fries are some of the best we’ve had. Overall, the quality of the food exceeded our expectations.

High marks: Almost everything               

Low marks: I though their beer selection could have been more diverse

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Value: Grade A: We dropped about $40 for lunch for two, and we didn’t have an appetizer or a dessert. So on the surface, a grade of A may seem a touch too high. But the food quality was so delicious we felt we had to give an A for value. Next time we’re in northern Ohio (which is pretty rare) we’re probably going to hit up the Famous Dave’s there and see how it compares. For those of you visiting Nashville or living in that area, we certainly hope you stop by Dave’s and spend a little coin. It will be worth it.

High marks: Better than expected quality

Low marks: There’s not one in Columbus