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.