Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I'm Hooked

Off The Hook Seafood & More Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Several years ago a Starbucks opened near Britton and Broadway Extension in NE Oklahoma City. I thought "awesome, a Starbucks immediately available on my direct route to work!!!" Before I had a chance to fully enjoy this location being on my commute. I'm guessing that they weren't getting the business they needed; most of the traffic was on Broadway Extension and not enough people were exiting for coffee only to reenter the rush-hour traffic.

So the building sits empty.



Empty for a couple of years.

And then ... there's some obvious activity. What's it going to be? What's going to open? A restaurant? I like food! Oh I'm excited.  I'll have to check out whatever it is when it opens!

Driving home ... it looks closed.

Driving home ... it looks closed.

I pull in an check (after seeing this restaurant for over two years). They close at 4:00 each day. Bummer. I work SOUTH so lunch is out. They close at 4:00 so dinner is out.

So late this summer I made a point to get over there for lunch. The parking lot is PACKED. Every table is full. There is a line. These are all good signs.

I ordered the Fried Fish & Shrimp Basket with catfish and then the cheesy grits as my side. The shrimp had such a delicious spiciness to its batter. I found myself licking my fingers after eating each one. The catfish filet was so fresh tasting and the batter, while not as a spicy as the shrimp, was light and delicious itself. And the cheesy grits were just perfect! Tender grits, ideally cooked, buttery & creamy, with just the right amount of cheesiness.

I have been back twice since then.

For both of other times I've had the Smothered Seafood. This dish features a lobster cream sauce with shrimp, crawfish, lump crab, and baby clams all mixed together and then served over rice or french fries; both times I opted for the rice. If you order the traditional Smothered Seafood you can add either a filet of catfish or a serving of five shrimp to the order as an upgrade. OR, you can simply order the Super Smothered Seafood and get both the catfish and the shrimp included. 😉 The first of these two subsequent visits I had the Smothered Seafood and added the catfish filet and then also added an order of Cajun Butter Frog Legs--it's been YEARS (like childhood) since I've eaten frog legs and I just had to. And you know...I'll do it again soon because they were so wonderful and tender and tasted both like chicken legs and not like chicken legs at the same time (I can't explain that paradox, just know that they were good). The other time I did the Super Smothered Seafood (sadly, not pictured). That lobster sauce, whether smothered or supers mothered is just WONDERFUL with all of those seafood bits and flavors all mixed up together.

The flavors and experience all make me feel like I'm eating somewhere in southern Louisiana even though we are still in northeast Oklahoma City. I know I need to try other options on the menu, because I'm sure they will be just as wonderful!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Feeling Nostalgic

Big Ed's Hamburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoDuring the past couple of weeks I've been house-sitting for some friends and their dogs. As I would drive from their house to me house to check on things I kept passing by the sole remaining location of the Big Ed's Hamburger "empire" which had its pinnacle in the lay 1980s and early 1990s; Ed Thomas had 50 restaurants mostly in Oklahoma with a handful in southern Kansas.

My father loved to eat at Big Ed's and I remember always being fascinated by the idea that Ed offered a free meal to anyone who would order the special 12 inch loaded burger and accompanying trough of French fries if it could all be eaten within 45 minutes by a single person. I never knew of anyone who tried but I am sure many made the attempt. Big Ed's also offered a really large burger as a family style option which would be sliced like a pie for serving/sharing.

Personal financial problems stemming from health care needs for his wife following a bad car wreck compelled Ed to sell his beloved business in 1996. Ed Thomas himself died in early 2009. One location remains, located at 122nd and North Pennsylvania Avenue. You can still order the larger burger for your family.

So today for lunch, feeling a bit nostalgic for this place my father loved and that I had some pleasant memories of family time as a child, I stopped at Big Ed's. I ordered a bacon cheese burger with mayo and made it a combo with their French fries which the cut fresh each day and cook upon each order and a medium Dr. Pepper.

The burger was solid. It was clearly made to order and a had a nice taste to it. The bacon was crisp, the cheese just perfectly melted, and veggies were fresh. The fries, while clearly freshly cooked and cut just that morning, were very weak on flavor; no seasoning at all, just cut and then cooked in the hot oil before being served. They were hot which is a plus, but they were bland.

The burger will bring me back but the fries won't be ordered again. It's been years since I've eaten at Big Ed's (long before my died dad and that was 1997). 

It's funny how nostalgia works. I'm glad I stopped in as it gave me some pleasant memories and a solid burger!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Box It Up

The Boxcar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoWith the growth of the mega chains (whether retail or restaurant), there has developed a nostalgia for the "mom & pop" homegrown businesses. "Mom & pop" style places can be awesome finds; they can also be mega mistakes.

Near my home there was a "mom & pop" coffee shop that sprang up in building that was previously another "mom & pop" restaurant. Small independent coffee shops can truly present that dichotomy of the awesome finds or the mega mistakes. I wanted to try this one, but there was a problem... it was clear that from the hours they were open, they had no true comprehension of coffee drinking clientele. This place didn't open before 9:00 AM, so they were missing out on the morning off to work crowd, and they closed at 5:00 PM, so they also missed out on the even social groups and/or high school or college study groups. Basically they were missing out on two of the key demographics for success in the urban coffee house market. Before I had a chance to try out the place, they were closed. I'm sure their closing had more to do with their lack of income rather due to business hours rather than a reflection of the quality of their product.

So a friend and former colleague recently announced the opening of his own "mom & pop" coffee place in Moore (suburb of Oklahoma City). Knowing that that this could be an awesome find or a mega mistake or something somewhere in the middle, I waited a few weeks before trying it know, let them get the kinks out before the food blogging friend comes in to prep for a review 😉.

I decided not to wait too long. The social media buzz that The Boxcar has been getting was pretty strong. Moore as a city has long outgrown its bedroom community mentality and has truly boomed economically. This "mom & pop" place seemed to be continuing on the path of showcasing the new life that is now Moore. It's even become a place were a local member of the state legislature has held a "town hall" style meeting or two with his constituents. WOW! I might be late to join the band wagon... or is this just hype? Is The Boxcar really an awesome find or is it truly a mega mistake.

So I go.

I approach with a certain amount of skepticism. I know my friend will be reading this and I hope that he doesn't misread this to imply that I felt his place was going to be a flop. Sometimes I'm skeptical of hype and then I realize the hype is in fact what it's hyped up to be (the musical Hamilton far exceeds even twice the hype that it has gained, but that's a story for another time).

So I go. Preparing myself to be underwhelmed and yet also hoping to be wowed. As soon as I entered I noticed my friend and the owner, Matt Vaughan, hard at work serving as this morning's barista. We visit as I look over the menu and place my order. Drip, sandwich, and fruit.

Matt Vaughan, owner of The Boxcar
A quality coffee shop will be known by the quality of its drip coffee regardless of how many fancy frou-frou drinks it serves. So I wanted basic drip. My evaluation of quality coffee is that quality coffee will not need cream or sweetener; I realize others may disagree, but if the coffee is top-notch then does it really need anything to be added?

So I sip.

Rich. A tad nutty. Full flavor. There will be NOTHING added to this cup, because the flavor is awesome! It truly rivals my favorite Starbucks...the Komodo Dragon dark roast blend. I'll end up getting two refills before leaving. Yes; it's good!

So I eat.

While I'm waiting for the food and sipping my coffee I over hear a conversation between Matt and a local police officer. The police officer ordered the same sandwich I did: the Spicy Pig. I didn't really pay that close of attention to the ingredients as I ordered so when I heard the police officer request "no mayo" I started to freak out. Mayo? On a breakfast sandwich. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. The goodness of the coffee is about to switch the overall evaluation that leans heavily into the awesome find category and will dump it firmly into the mega mistake file. I'm trying to show a calm face while I'm panicking on the inside. What have I done? Mayo for breakfast? And then I see the cook pour Sriracha sauce on my sandwich. I'm not a fan!! How did I miss mayo AND Sriracha??? Matt, I'm so sorry, but I know I'm going to blast you on my blog!

Food arrives. I taste.

The panic quickly transitions into a smile. There is something especially magical about how the mayo and the Sriracha blend together with the rest of the ingredients (sausage patty, scrambled egg, sharp white cheddar cheese, and avocado on a Ciabatta bun) to make such a pleasant taste in my mouth. My mouth is so happy. Yes, it's spicy, but not excessive Sriracha spicy! And yet, it's creamy, but not picnic lunch mayo kind of creamy. It's just...perfect! I'm sold! Wrap it up or Box is up or whatever! Not literally, because I'm dining in. But figuratively as in "this sandwich is a winner for breakfast!"

And now the fruit.

Something that I don't find on the online menu but needs to be showcased. This is a beautiful blend of mixed fruits with a light cream sauce...enough to blend but not enough to overpower the natural flavors of the fruit. I could have eaten just a nice bowl of the fruit alone...but I won't ever do that because the Spicy Pig is just too magical.

Matt, I'm afraid. I'm afraid that you truly have a winner on your hands!

I'm proud of what you've accomplished so far with The Boxcar and I look forward to the expansion of your offerings as the permit comes through for the wine and beer selection for the evening hours.

One caution to my excitement... make those sandwiches faster 😋; hungry people are waiting!

The Boxcar is an AWESOME FIND...and it's on my route to work each morning.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Oh Sweet Brown

Georgia Brown's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoOne of our Oklahoma City based "celebrities" who had slightly longer than her 15 minutes of fame, was Sweet Brown. Her interview, by local media, of a fire within her apartment complex went viral. If you've not seen it, click here for the KFOR interview.

This, however, is not the Sweet Brown that is currently on my mind. I'm thinking of sweet Georgia Brown's restaurant in Washington, D.C. I'm in D.C. visiting from Oklahoma for a conference. My friends Amy and Bruce and their two sons are in D.C. visiting from California for their family vacation. We've been able to meet up in the evenings for dinner. Wednesday night was Amy's birthday and Georgia Brown's came as a recommendation to her. This was AWESOME as it meant going to another restaurant in D.C. to which I've never previously visited. And ... Oh Sweet Brown!

Prior to dinner we had actually been out walking among the Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial monuments. We were all hot and sweaty and our feet were tired. The COLD water was a such a relief and I know I just guzzled four glasses before I could blink. But that's not the reason for me saying "Oh Sweet Brown".

The biscuits and corn bread that were served with an amazing honey butter set the southern soul food experience ahead of us off to an amazing start. The corn bread sticks reminded me of what my mom or my Louisiana aunts might make using an old cast iron pan. The batter was sweetened to perfection and once cooked and combined with the honey butter it all just literally melted in your mouth.

not my picture; one I found online
For my entree, I had the shrimp and grits. And let's just say this was shrimp and grits LOADED: Jumbo Shrimp, Shallots, Andouille Sausage, Garlic, Scallions, mixed with Organic Stone-Milled Grits and covered with Lobster Sauce. Large juicy shrimp combined with spicy Andouille are always a great combination of flavors. To me, what "made" this dish is the lobster sauce. I want the recipe! I demand the recipe 😉. The flavor and spices within the sauce just helped to elevate this dish to a level that was pure WOW. I even used another couple of corn bread sticks to soak up the remaining sauce after eating everything else.

Amy recommends the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Bruce recommends the De-Constructed Jambalaya.

The evening ended with Amy being served an amazing Peach Cobbler a la Mode. If you've ever wondered what "the south" tastes's the peach cobbler; I'm so thanking that Amy shared her birthday treat with the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Getting Crabby Makes Me Happy

Old Ebbitt Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoOne of my most favorite places to eat while in Washington, DC is Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House. I've eaten wonderful lobster rolls and swordfish items at lunch. I've watched friends enjoy steaks (I'm not a big steak eater personally). My current Lt. Governor boasts his love for their burgers. And my personal favorite is their crab cakes.

Just before leaving for this trip to the District I learned that a friend of mine from northern California and her family would be on vacation in Washington at the same time I'd be here for a conference. Amy and I met as part of a global education program for teachers several years ago and have remained great friends; I've even flown out to California to attend an OKC Thunder v. Sacramento Kings NBA game with she and her son, Ethan, because he, like myself, is a major Thunder fan.

On a trip to DC related to that global education program, Amy and I along with another of our friends from the same program at Old Ebbitt. As her family arrived into town last night she mentioned that she wanted to go there for dinner that night. So we went.

Amy, Ethan, and I got super Crabby (and, thus really happy) with our crab cakes, while her husband, Bruce, enjoyed some oysters and her younger son, Cade, enjoyed pizza and tater tots. I can honestly say that I've never had better crab cakes than at Old Ebbitt. If you know of someplace (even far away from Washington, DC) to get better crab cakes please let me know. I'll try out your suggestion, because I just love to get Crabby 😉.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Making Italian Mommas Happy

Otello Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoOne of my favorite restaurants in Washington, DC is Otello. Located just off of DuPont Circle, Otello is an awesome Italian restaurant.

The daughter of some friends of mine lives in the DC area; she's stationed here as part of here military duties. She and her siblings like to call me "Uncle David" even though there is no real blood-family relationship. I had written to her a few weeks about about having dinner while I was in town and we set something up for this past Friday evening. Her boyfriend, also military, was able to join us.

As they got to the restaurant they both admitted to being skeptical about this place. His family is of Italian descent and his momma is known for her cooking. So they were prepared to be disappointed it.

She ordered Fettuccine Alfredo and he and I both ordered the Gnocchi Della Casa. The skepticism on their faces was completely wiped away. He started talking about how his mom would LOVE to eat this and they both talked about how they should bring her to eat at Otello the next time that she is in DC. While she was not able to finish her big bowl of fettuccine, he did eat all of his gnocchi. He had sauce left and got a to go box for the sauce so that he could pour it over his own pasta the next night.

I just smiled. 😊 This was my third visit to Otello. I remember having lasagna and spaghetti before. I knew that tonight would not disappoint!!

Not one of my pictures; I was too hungry to wait.
I found this one online and I hope there are no copyright violations.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fire in the House

Columbia Firehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoDuring my visit in Washington, D.C. I decided to venture out to old town Alexandria, VA for part of Sunday. Ever since I first visited Christ Church in 7th grade I've wanted to attend Sunday church services there. Christ Church is the home church of George Washington; Mount Vernon, his plantation, is located just a little ways outside of Alexandria. It was rather neat to spend today, Father's Day, at the home church of the "Father of our Country".

After church I was hungry and so I walked a few blocks to find a restaurant that was 1) open at 11:15, and 2) not totally booked up due to Father's Day Sunday Brunch reservations. About two blocks from Christ Church (south and east) I found Columbia Firehouse. There was PLENTY of room at the bar (I"m not a lush, I promise).

Being brunch time, I opted for an order of the Southern [Eggs] Benedict: BBQ Pork, Poached Eggs, Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit, Beernaise, served with a missed green salad with citrus dressing. Knowing that Eggs Benedict and a salad could be rather light and might not hold me over until the dinner at my conference, I also ordered a bowl of the Crab Chowder (sweet corn, crab meat, old bay crackers) as an appetizer.

The chowder was very flavorful! It was obvious that there was some spice to it and that suited me just fine. I do like spicy foods. There was the perfect amount of crab...that means there was a lot. The old bay crackers helped with some texture, but I could have used a few more of those.

The Southern Benedict was just also very flavorful. The pork had a wonderful tangyness that truly enhanced the pairing with the egg and biscuit. There was just a hint of jalapeno in the biscuit, but enough to tell it was there. The poached egg was just a tad under-cooked for my tastes, but it was still good. The salad, especially the dressing, was an amazingly refreshing surprise; the citrus was more of a sweet orange flavor rather than a strong lemon or lime flavor. Just perfect.

Of course, since I'm sitting at the bar and it is brunch time, I did try their Firehouse Bloody Mary. Before I settled on that choice, the bartender did give me a sample of the Bloody Mary was rich and spicy. My only complaint with the actual Bloody Mary as fully made is that the garnish was carrot and cauliflower. I would have much preferred green olives and/or celery. Their garnish did not help, nor did it hurt, the flavor of the Bloody Mary; it just made it odd (to me).