Gresham, OR: Relatively Hoppy With This Burger And Brew Experience

The Local Cow
336 N. Main Street
Gresham, OR 97030
Phone: (503) 489-5116
The Hoppy Brewer
328 N. Main Street
Gresham, OR 97030
Phone: (503) 328-8474
Good burgers and fries with a brewhouse nextdoor. What more can you ask for? Sit on the patio between the two and have a Local Cow burger and fries and a couple craft beers from the Hoppy Brewer … HOOAH!
I had a cheeseburger ($7.50) with bacon ($2) and sauteed onions ($1) for a total of $10.50. It came with fries which were paltry and uninspiring. My friends had a burger and Mount Hood Wedge ($9) and we got some beers from the adjacent Hoppy Brewer.
My burger was good, but at 1/3 pound, not particularly overwhelming and the fries were few and far between, closer to a garnish than a side. $9 for a wedge of iceberg lettuce with some cherry tomatoes, bacon bits, and balsamic vinaigrette was a tad excessive and would have been a much better value in the $5 range.
The Hoppy Brewer had some nice drafts, but the Porter from the fridge at less than $5 a pint was awesome and $5 well spent. They were knowledgable and helpful, delivering quality brews at reasonable prices. The brews from the Hoppy Brewer sealed the deal, otherwise this would have been a 5 or 6 bomb experience.
CombatCritic Gives The Local Cow And Hoppy Brewer 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:

“Shits & Grins”

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

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Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

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The Local Cow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Title: Gresham, OR: Relatively Hoppy With This Burger And Brew Experience

Key Words: Local Cow, local, cow, Hoppy Brewer, hoppy , brewer, beer, hamburger, Gresham, Oregon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: S&G = “Shits and Grins”

Dillon, CO: Dam It … Small Burgers And Hidden Upcharges Tainted This Special Occassion

Dillon Dam Brewery

100 Little Dam Street
Dillon, CO 80435
Phone: (970) 262-7777

Not bad, not great. I went with my two sons who I had not seen for 6 months and, although it was a Friday night, we were seated rather quickly. Peter, our server, promptly arrived for our drink orders. We had three of their house drafts, me a Here’s Your Dam IPA and my boys a McLuhr’s Irish Stout and Sweet George’s Brown respectively ($5 each). The beers were good, but all a bit too “smoky” for my taste, smokiness must be a Dam Brewery thing – Dam it!

For dinner we went with sandwiches, me a “Rodeo” ($11.95) with a beef patty, cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions and Bar-B-Q sauce on the side with French fries. The burger was very basic, small and uninteresting, likely a frozen patty of 5-6 ounces max. My youngest (soon to be 29) had the Munich Schnitzel Sammy ($10.95), a breaded pork cutlet and smoked gouda on a pretzel bun, accompanied by apple slaw, beer mustard, and fries. I tasted it and it was also nothing special. A “schnitzel cordon bleu” sandwich would have been much better, but my son seemed to like it.  My oldest (30) also ordered a Rodeo but with a bison patty ($4 Extra – $15.95), with cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions and Bar-B-Q sauce, opting to swap Mexican Beer Cheese Soup for the fries. The server asked if he wanted a bowl of soup instead of a cup and my son concurred, only to find out that the price had ballooned from $15.95 to $21.20 when the check arrived. It would have been nice to have been informed of the $5.25 up-charge when placing the order, but so you have it.

The sandwiches were decent, not great, the burger patties being a tad on the small side (± 5-6 ounces). My burger arrived with what I perceived to be no caramelized onions, so I sent it back. The server brought the dish back a few minutes later telling me that they were under the cheese while my son’s had been on top of his Rodeo’s cheddar cheese. Odd I thought, until the check arrived and I found out that I had not been charged for what I ordered (a Rodeo), but for a build your own burger ($9.25) with cheddar ($1.35), bacon ($1.35), caramelized onions ($1.00) for a total of $12.95, a dollar more than what I had ordered and what Peter had agreed to when I ordered it.
Rather than make a fuss about the unannounced upcharges, I simply deducted the amount we were overcharged from the 20% tip Peter would have received for the decent, not great, service he provided, leaving him with a respectable 16.5%. 
Server Lesson Learned: Give the customer what they order and, if you do not, inform them of any upcharges PRIOR to submitting their order, do not surprise us with unexpected charges when the bill arrives.

CombatCritic Gives Dillon Dam Brewery 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For Unannounced Upcharges And Mediocre Food At Above Average Prices … More Bombs Are Better!
Six Bombs Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Dillon, CO: Dam It … Small Burgers And Hidden Upcharges Tainted This Special Occassion

Key Words: Dillon Dam Brewery, Dillon, dam, brewery, CO, Colorado, beer, hamburger, pub, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: G2G = “Good To Go”

Brooklyn, NY: It’s The Little Things That Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

2826 Fort Hamilton Pkwy
Brooklyn, NY 11218
Between 5th Street 4th Street
Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Flatbush
Phone: (718) 438-0488
Prices: $$$$

As Roseanne Roseannadanna always said, “It’s always something, if it’s not one thing, it’s another” ….

It is the little things that stand out in your mind, good or bad, that shade your opinion of a place. In Hamilton’s case, it was a mere 50¢. More on that later.
We sat outside after being seated for 10 minutes before a server arrived to greet us, but when she did, I ordered a Bell’s Two Hearted IPA , but all the drafts are $6-$7, MUCH LESS than most places in the NYC metro and they have a GREAT SELECTION. I had to hunt down another server because ours was nowhere to be found, ordering a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog (also $6 on the menu), but after another 10 minutes our food had arrived and still no Smuttynose, so I reminded our server. It arrived 5 minutes later while my dinner cooled whether it needed to or not.
My wife ordered the large Salty Pretzel ($4) and a Mac and Cheese appetizer ($8). The Mac and Cheese arrived with my sandwich, but we had to remind the server about her pretzel which took an additional 5 minutes to arrive. The pretzel was good, but it was hot from the oven and too crunchy, not warm, soft, and chewy as a good pretzel should be. The mac and cheese was tasty and a decent size portion for an appetizer.
My Reuben Sandwich ($15) was piled high with “house made corned beef”, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing. It was very good overall, but the house made corned beef had a slightly strange aftertaste which I could not quite put my finger on, or my tongue in this case. The accompanying potato wedges were scarce, but decent, nothing special.
When the check arrived, I have to admit that it was one of the smallest totals we have seen since arriving in NYC, but the Smuttynose was listed at $7 instead of the $6 stated on the menu. I called our server over, showed her the menu and the check, and asked her to make the correction to the $1 error. Those things happen. But when she came back, she had NOT deducted the $1 error, but had discounted the check by a mere 50¢! Rather than argue about the 50¢, I simply deducted it from her 20% tip along with a tad more for her inattention during our meal. After all, it is always the small things folks.

CombatCritic Gives Hamilton’s 5 Bombs Out Of 10 After A 2 Bomb Service and Check Error Deduction … More Bombs Are Better!
Five Bombs Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

TripAdvisor – Top Contributor

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Brooklyn, NY: It’s The Little Things That Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Key Words: Hamilton’s, Hamilton, bar, grill, pub, beer, Brooklyn, NYC, New York City, New York, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = “Continue Mission”

Washington, DC: CombatCritic Was In The Haus … And He Wasn’t Happy

Biergarten Haus
1355 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Between N. Linden Court and N. 14th St
Phone: (202) 388-4053
I will not spend a great deal of time on this review because Biergarten Haus can be summarized very briefly, overpriced and mediocre. 

Having traveled extensively in Germany, I know good German bier and food when I taste it. A 1/2 liter of draft German beer (less than 17 ounces) was $8, so I did not taste it and drank water instead. We ordered three pretzel rolls ($5) and even though they looked appetizing, they had obviously been “nuked” (microwaved) because the outside was soft and warm, but the inside was as hard as a rock. The accompanying “homemade” mustard was good and spicy.
My wife ordered the Brauernwurst ($14), coming with a single sausage, a potato pancake, and sauerkraut. Everything tasted OK, but you normally get some bread and a salad or soup with German food. That was not the case and my wife, who is rather petite and not a big eater, was still hungry when we returned to our room, eating a yogurt from the fridge.
I had the Jägerschnitzel ($20), a breaded pork cutlet with hunter sauce (a brown, mushroom gravy). The cutlet was of decent proportion, but the breading was soft, not crispy as it should have been, obviously nuked like the pretzels. The hunter sauce was watery and bland, adding little taste to the dish. The fries were the decent, nothing special. I was also a bit hungry afterward, so I also had a snack in our room because we were not about to pay $8 for a nuked apple strüdel.
Coming in at $50 (for two), including tip, this meal was not a good value and an overall disappointment. The only reason they get 4 bombs instead of 3 was the service. The bartender who took and served our order was extremely kind and efficient, and for that we were grateful.
CombatCritic Gives Biergarten Haus 4 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
Four Bombs Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

TripAdvisor – Top Contributor

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!

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Biergarten Haus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Washington, DC: CombatCritic Was In The Haus … And He Wasn’t Happy

Key Words: Biergarten Haus, biergarten, bier, garten, beer, garden, German, Washington Dc, Washington, DC, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: BOHICA = “Bend Over, Here It Comes Again”

Inexpensive Drinks, Complimentary Tapas, Friendly Service … What More Could You Ask For?

El Tapy
Calle Madre de Dios, 42
29012 Malaga, Costa del Sol, Spain
+34 605 234 441
Prices: $$$$

Inexpensive drinks, complimentary tapas, friendly service … what more could you ask for? The appropriately named “El Tapy”, located near Picasso’s boyhood home on Plaza Merced (Merced Square) in the northern portion of Málaga’s “Old Town”, is much larger than it appears from the street. There is a maze of several large air conditioned rooms as you meander your way toward the kitchen in the back. 

Menus are on the walls and the table with cheap drinks (draft beer €1-€3 and tinto de verano €1.20) and array of Spanish foods to choose from. I ordered a tinto de verano, a refreshing summer drink (hence the name) with a mix of local red wine, sparkling lemonade, and a slice of lemon. When it arrived, the waiter also brought a small plate of paella as a free tapa. A drink and a plate of food for €1.20 … unheard of!

I made the mistake of ordering the Patatas Bravas (sliced potatoes in a spicy chili sauce – €4) and Chorizo Rojos (red Spanish sausage – €5) before my next drink (and complimentary tapa)
arrived, this time an Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad, aka potato salad). My sausage and potatoes were soon delivered, the potatoes, too much to eat for one person, and the sausages (3) were very good, but when my next drink arrived (the tintos are quite small by the way), it was accompanied by another free tapa, this time two large marinated chicken wings.

By the time I left I was stuffed, but the bill for four drinks (two tintos, two cervesas), three tapas, potatoes, and sausages came to a little over €16, quite cheap for the amount of food I received. The food was decent, the portions fair, and the prices reasonable.

CombatCritic Gives El Tapy 7 Out Of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: Inexpensive drinks, complimentary tapas, friendly service … what more could you ask for?

Key Words: El Tapy, tapy, tapa, tapas, bar, Malaga, Spain, food, menu, beer, tinto de verano, tinto, verano, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

Free in Florence: Apriti Cinema International Film Festival – 29 June through 21 July 2015

Free entry to Apriti cinema, an international film festival from 29 June to 21 July 2015. Films start at 21:30 nightly and there are hamburgers (€5), french fries (€2.50), and artisan beers (€4) available for purchase.
Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Free in Florence (Italy): Apriti Cinema International Film Festival – 29 June through 21 July 2015

Key Words: Free, Florence, Italy, Apriti Cinema, International Film Festival, Apriti, cinema, international, film, festival, Firenze, movie, outdoor, food, beer, travel, value, CombatCritic

Carpe Diem: Sieze the "Lait" … "Cafe au" That Is!

Carpe Diem Restaurant and Pizzeria
Jogiwara Road – Above Cinema
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India

Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee/Tea/Beer, Indian, Italian, Thai

Prices: $$$$$

Rooftop Terrace

I heard good things about the pizza, understanding that they have a wood-fire oven. The place is not easy to find unless to look up to the third floor of the building above the cinema on Jogiwara Road. The indoor restaurant is up one flight of stairs, but the rooftop terrace is quite nice if the weather permits.

The indoor restaurant was empty at 8PM on a Sunday night, but the terrace was packed, leaving one table for me. The crowd seemed to be young, American/European/Australian bohemians dressed in baggy clothes with dreadlocks, which is extremely common in McLeod Ganj at least. There are six or seven tables with chairs and a sitting area with low tables and mats to sit on (do not forget to take off your shoes).

Mutton (Lamb) Pepperoni Pizza – 210 Rupees ($3.40)

The menu is eclectic, but I had to try the “excellent pizza” I had heard so much about. I ordered the non-vegetarian pepperoni pizza (210 rupees – $3.45), thinking that it would be the standard spicy, greasy, pork variety we American expect (“pepperoni” in Italy is green bell peppers). The pizza came rather quickly and looked quite good actually. Not huge, it was thin and crispy, much like the pizzas you get in Rome and the flavor was also decent … until I got my first bite of pepperoni. I actually like lamb from time to time, but not on my pizza. The pepperoni was obviously made of lamb (mutton here) and although not disgusting by any stretch, it was a little off-putting because it was not expected. Beside the taste of lamb sausage, the pizza was good, but next time I think I will order a vegetarian option or go with a Thai green curry or Indian dish.

One of the few restaurants that serves beer (you better like Kingfisher), the menu is huge and the prices are fair, a little higher than many places around town. The service was fast and friendly.

CombatCritic Gives Carpe Diem An Initial 6 Bombs Out of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: CarpeDiem, carpe, diem, Jogiwara Road, breakfast, café, Thai, pizza, Dharamsala, food, Ganj, restaurant, beer, India, internet, Italian, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, restaurant, Thai, Indian, terrace, travel, value, CombatCritic

Hey Chubby, Let’s Do The Twisters … Grill and Bar That Is

  • Twisters Grill and Bar
  • 13100 Kansas Ave
    Bonner Springs, KS 66012
  • Phone number(913) 667-3700
  • Website
  • Prices: $$$$$

We found Twisters on Yelp after attending a Yelp Elite Event near Bonner Springs, about 20 miles east of our home in Lawrence, Kansas. I saw photos of their tacos and they looked better than any we have tried in Lawrence, so we decided to give them a go.

Twisters sits in the corner of a strip mall just off Interstate 70. For a Sunday night, they were rather busy with only a few open tables. The atmosphere is very casual with groups of friends, couples, and families scattered about. For example, there was a couple at the table next to us with a 10-year old boy who had ranch dressing accidentally dropped on his head by a passing server (I hope his meal was comped!). TVs abound with sports playing around the large room and sports memorabilia dotting the walls, from football jerseys to posters. The kitchen sits behind the busy bar where the friendly servers scramble back and forth while serving hungry customers.

The menu is eclectic, from Mexican fare (tacos, enchiladas, nachos) to burgers to meatloaf and sandwiches. I ordered a Dos Equis Amber draft on special for $2, some beef tacos ($2.25 each), and cheese and onion enchiladas (also $2.25 each). The taco shells were obviously deep fried in-house, stuffed with ground beef, lettuce, plenty of cheese, and diced tomatoes complimented with what appeared to be store bought salsa. They were the best tacos I have eaten since moving from Kansas City last year (Rancho Grande) minus the guacamole (or avocado), hence my only complaint … there was no guacamole available on the menu as either an appetizer or a side. The enchiladas were also very good with plenty of cheese and a tasty red sauce with hints of what seemed to be mole (a Mexican savory chocolate sauce). The tacos and enchiladas were better than any I have eaten at any of the dozen or so Mexican restaurants we have tried since moving to Lawrence last year and this from a bar and grill!

My wife ordered the half-pound (8 oz) Mushroom and Swiss Hamburger with fresh onion rings. The patty appeared smaller than 8 ounces and was not handmade, probably frozen from Sam’s Club, Cisco, or another restaurant supply chain. The bun was fresh, but the burger bland. The onion rings were made with fresh onion and deep fried, piping hot and missing only a bit of seasoning.

I would return for the tacos and enchiladas, but would pass on the burgers, trying the meatloaf instead, hopefully being homemade and not “Stoufer’s” or some other frozen variety.

CombatCritic Gives Twisters Grill and Bar 7 Out of 10 Bombs (for the tacos and enchiladas) and 6 Out of 10 Bombs Overall (for VALUE) … Bombs Are GOOD!

Key Words: Twisters Grill and Bar, twisters, twister’s, bar, grill, beer, Mexican, food, taco, enchilada, tacos, enchiladas, nachos, burger, hamburger, menu, Bonner, Springs, Kansas, Yelp, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Balmy Nights, Harbor Lights

On my first visit, the place was quiet being a Thursday night before 8 pm. A few folks on the back patio, a group of noisy guys at a table, and a few “locals” bellied up to the bar, including me I guess.

I ordered an O’Dells IPA, not inexpensive at $5 for an  “American” pint (16 ounces versus 19.2 in an “Imperial”, British, pint), but not outrageous, with a head so big that a Brit would seethe. It was cold and wet, not room temperature like a traditional English IPA would be, but hey … THIS IS LAWRENCE … WE ARE IN KANSAS DOROTHY … Heeee heeee heeee heeee, I’ll get you my pretty AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO!

The bartender, a 30-something woman in jeans and t-shirt named Heather, was quiet yet nice and the only person to actually acknowledge my existence.  A few neon signs, a dirty floor, a couple of pool tables and dart boards, the place is a bit divey, but isn’t that the way bars should be?

I’ll be updating this review as the summer languishes and I become more familiar with Lawrence’s public houses.

CombatCritic Gives Harbor Lights 6 Out Of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: Harbor Lights, harbor, lights, pub, bar, beer, drink, Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Massachusetts, Mass, street, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, combat, critic, menu

Big Pizza Plus Little Pints Equal Mild Disappointment at Johnny’s Tavern West

  • Johnny’s Tavern West
  • 721 Wakarusa, Ste 100
    Lawrence, Kansas 66047

  • (785) 843-0704

Price: $$$$$

A tentative review, I was invited to Johnny’s last night by some new friends and did more talking than eating and drinking.

I was warmly welcomed by the lovely bartender who attempted to help me find my party. Once found, I imbibed in a couple pieces of sausage and pepperoni pizza and a glass of draft IPA.

The pizza was the right thickness and consistency for NY style pizza, standing up well to the sauce and remaining firm enough to eat by hand. Cheese to sauce ratio was right on although the sauce had an odd taste that was slightly off-putting. The toppings were abundant and delicious.

The IPA, oddly enough, came in an unusual glass, maybe 12 ounces instead of the “pint” I was expecting. IPA is uniquely English and should come in a pint glass, preferably AN ENGLISH PINT which is a little over 19 ounces as compared to the whimpy US pints (16 ounces) we colonials have somehow become accustomed to. It was tasty enough, but another 4 to 7 ounces would have quenched my thirst much better.

Our young blonde server was very sweet and attentive, a former swimmer with an engaging personality and a keen eye for empty glasses. She hovered around just enough to keep everyone happy, removing waste as she came and went. The service was excellent!

CombatCritic Gives Johnny’s Tavern West a Tentative 5 Out of 10 Bombs with room to grow … MORE BOMBS ARE GREAT!

Johnny's on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Johnny’s Tavern West, Johnny’s, tavern, west, Lawrence, Kansas, Wakarusa, 6th, street, pizza, beer, ale, IPA, food, eat, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Uwe’s: Great, Filling German Food, Reasonable Prices … NUFF SAID!

Uwe’s German Restaurant

Category: German
31 Iowa Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
(719) 475-1611

Price Range: $$$$$

I have been eating at Uwe’s since the late 1980’s and nothing has changed, not a single thing except the prices and they are still very fair!

Large portions, rich sauces, tender schnitzel, succulent bratwürst, homemade späetzel, fresh bread, delicious salads, frothy beer, and zesty goulash, everything you would expect from a German restaurant, all set the tone for authentic German dining right here in Colorado Springs.

My favorite is the wiener (veal) schnitzel cordon bleu, two breaded veal cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese then baked to gooey perfection, served with a side of Hunter’s (mushroom) sauce, crispy home fries, and veggie of the day. Meals are preceded by fresh pumpernickel bread and an assortment of German potato salad, crisp greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers topped with a light vinaigrette dressing or soup.

The roulade is a traditional Bavarian stuffed cabbage with ground meat, rice, and spices enveloped with fresh cabbage leaves and topped with a light tomato sauce, accompanied by German potato dumplings (späetzel) and red cabbage.

For those with a zest for the spicy, the Hungarian Paprika Schnitzel ($14.25) is a good choice and the Jäegerschnitzel ($14.25), breaded pork cutlets covered with a thick mushroom sauce is always a hearty, filling, rib-sticking meal.

Uwe’s has a nice selection of beer, domestic and import, with the Wärsteiner Dünkel, a dark, frothy, delight being my go-to beer for German meals. Desserts are traditional and inexpensive with apple strüdel ($3.50) and ice cream ($.50) taking center stage for those with voracious appetites and room leftover for a little sweetness.

The service is always good and, as you would expect in a German establishment, efficient with little small talk while remaining friendly and helpful.

CombatCritic Gives Uwe’s German Restaurant 9 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Uwe's German Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Uwe’s, Uwe, German, restaurant, 80909, food, schnitzel, weiner, veal, wine, beer, Jäeger, Jäegermeister, Wärsteiner, dünkel, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Colorado Springs

Deliciously Greasy Burgers, Cold Beer … And Air … Yummy Truffle Fries – Must Be Dempsey’s!

Dempsey’s Burger Pub
623 Vermont Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66044
(785) 856-5460
Price: $$$$$

I was a bit reluctant to try Dempsey’s after reading recent reviews by my Elite ’14 brothers and sisters in Lawrence, Kansas saying that “things have gone downhill” and that the burgers are “greasy”, but heck … don’t burgers and grease go hand-in-hand? I am sure glad we gave ’em a shot!

Don’t want to gross you out, but in preparation for two scopes being inserted into my body, one in each end so to speak, two days later and the inevitable PREPeration (H), I knew I would not have a decent meal for at least 36 hours, so a big greasy burger and basket of truffle fries sounded pretty darn good!

The place is a local haunt for KU (college basketball powerhouse University of Kansas) students and this particular Tuesday night in Lawrence was no exception. With about half of their burgers being offered at half-price ($4-$5 a pop) to students, I know why they were busy. But a pub with just 5 or 6 draughts available on-tap was a bit unusual.  I ordered an O’Dell (not O’Doules) IPA and at $4.50 for a British-size pint it was a good value with a strong, rich, hoppy flavor as all good IPAs do.

Mushroom, Bacon, Swiss Burger
We decided on a Mushroom, Bacon, and Swiss burger ($9), a House Burger with Bacon and Cheddar ($8.50), and a basket of Truffle Fries ($4).

The fries were plentiful and awesome! Lightly salted, the hand cut fries were sprinkled with Parmesan (parmigiana in the old country) cheese, parsley, and accompanied by no less than 6 different sauces (catsup, spicy mustard, old bay and tomato coulis aioli, sweet chili aioli, truffle cream, and roasted garlic aioli … all made from scratch). We barely made a notch in the basket, taking half home for my wife to eat the next night while I fasted in prep for the next morning’s procedure under the influence of “Milk of Amnesia”.

House Burger with Bacon
As usual, on my first visit to this and many other restaurants, I ordered the simplest burger on the menu, the “House” cheeseburger ($7.50) medium-well with cheddar cheese, a big piece of butter lettuce, two thick slices of tomato, homemade dill pickle, and both grilled white (as I had asked) and raw red onion. I added bacon for an extra buck, well cooked but not too crispy. The bun was nicely toasted, looking like a “pretzel” bun even though that was not the way it was described on the menu. The burger was in-fact greasy, but perfectly so, thick, and cooked just as I had ordered it. The bun was in a bit of disarray by the time I finished, but held together until the last bite, keeping my hands relatively clean although I did go through about 20 of the rather thin napkins supplied on the table.

The Bacon Mushroom Swiss Burger ($9) comes with sauteed shitake and portabello mushrooms, Gruyere and Swiss cheeses, and Applewood bacon on a toasted pretzel bun. Unfortunately, on this particular night at least, the bun was not toasted and, in-fact, was slightly cold to the touch. The burger was delicious nonetheless, an 8 ounce patty cooked to perfection with melted cheese oozing out of the side of the bun.

Basket O’ Truffle Fries  ($4)
The service was very good, especially considering the large, energetic crown consuming burgers along with mass quantities of beer. The place is a bit of a dive, plain with lots of rough wood and glass, making the room rather chilly, particularly next to the window on a cold winter night where we needed to keep our coats on during our meal. Who knows, maybe KU research indicates that beer consumption is inversely proportionate to the temperature of the room?

CombatCritic Gives Dempsey’s Burger Pub A Solid 7 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Dempsey's Burger Pub on Urbanspoon

Title: Deliciously Greasy Burgers, Cold Beer … And Air … Yummy Truffle Fries – Must Be Dempsey’s!

Key Words: Dempsey’s Burger Pub, Dempsey’s, burger, hamburger, pub, bar, fries, truffle, French, food, eat, beer, drink, Vermont, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Lawrence, Kansas

Pasta y Pueblo: An Italian Flare in Puerto Rican Cuisine

Pasta y Pueblo
Luquillo, Puerto Rico

Dining Room – Five (5) Tables
We went to El Junque for the day and stopped in Luquillo to try the famous kiosks, but most were closed on New Years Eve. I searched Yelp nearby and found Pasta y Pueblo, but the map led us on a wild goose chase. I persisted and finally found the place using the photos.

The reviews raved about the food, so expectations were high. The place is literally a shack across from the beach, open air with a stiff breeze coming through the openings where windows should be. With just 5 tables, we had to wait about 45 minutes before being seated.

Scallops and Penne Carbonara ($20)
The young lady who took our name was also our server. My wife ordered the scallops and carbonara ($20.00), six nicely seared scallops marinated in a mild sauce atop a bed of penne carbonara (no egg or onion, but tasty nonetheless). I had the grilled skirt steak also with carbonara ($16.50), about 8 ounces of marinated deliciousness.

They have wine, $6/glass and $25 a bottle, beer and an assortment of soft drinks and juices. I had a generous glass of Spanish Tempranillo with dinner.

Skirt Steak with Penne Carbonara ($16)
For dessert there was room for a shared slice of guava cheesecake, at just $3.50 it was the best value in the menu. Thick and rich, the thin guava topping was just enough to accent the taste without overpowering.

A delightful experience with excellent food, fair prices and superb service, we may very we’ll return before heading West next week.

CombatCritic Gives Pasta y Pueblo 8 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBAS ARE BUENO!

Guava Cheesecake ($3.50)

Key Words: combat, CombatCritic, critic, Luquillo, pasta, Pasta y Pueblo, pueblo, steak, scallops, chicken, mussles, wine, beer, puerto, Puerto Rico, rico, TravelValue

The Leaning Tower of San Juan … El Hamburguer

El Hamurguer
298 Ave Muñoz Rivera
San JuanPuerto Rico 00901

(787) 721-4269


San Juan, Puerto Rico: Feeling burger deprived all day after our horrible experience at El Patio de Sam last night, we walked 2 km (uphill in the snow … both ways!) for a real burger at El Hamburger!

My wife says she saw Anthony Bordain … “I eat, I travel, I drink too much” … eating there on one of his episodes in Puerto Rico and Yelp reviews were mostly 5 stars, so we had to try it. We almost literally ran into the place on Christmas day coming home from El Escambrón beach, so I knew where it was.

The place looks like it’s on fire with smoke billowing out the top and across the busy street from the dozens of small, very thick burgers being prepared for inhalation by their many ravenous patrons. It is rather small with one dining area seating about 40, a small counter, and another small room that we did not see well because of the crowd around the front door. The place was packed!

Counter and Cash Register

They had two servers, as far as we could tell, doing a remarkably fine job considering the number of people crammed inside. We ordered the bacon cheddar burgers ($3.60 each), a side of French fries, onion rings, a root beer, and a Medalla beer.

Leaning Tower of San Juan – $3.60

The burger patty, like El Patio de Sam, were smallish but thick, probably 5 ounces or so (but also $7 less than Sam) and smothered with cheddar cheese. There were several pieces of bacon wrapped in a heap on one bun and our server brought a container with plenty of lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. By the time I built my burger, it looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The onion rings were good and plentiful for $1.90, but a little too well done for my taste. The fries were abundant for the $1.90 price, the shoestring variety, hot and crispy just the way I like them. Root beer is root beer ($1.49) and the local Medalla Light thirst quenchingly cold and at $3.60 a reasonable price.

Dining Area – Couples and Families

The servers are nice and the crowd mostly couples and families, so the noise level is moderate. They only take cash, so bring enough with or use the convenient ATM they parked right outside the door and you must pay the quiet, burly man behind the cash register before you leave.

El Hamburger serves a great, reasonably priced burger and all of the usual accompaniments, so if you are hungry for the all American meal, by all means … give them a try!

CombatCritic Gives El Hamburger 8 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!


Key Words: El Hamburger, hamburger, burger, French, fries, onion, rings, beer, soda, pop, Coke, Medalla, bacon, cheese, eat, food, lunch, dinner, CombatCritic, combat

Nothing Is Free at Free State Brew Pub Where a Terrible $6 Burger Costs $9!

Nothing Is Free at Free State Brew Pub Where a Terrible $6 Burger Costs $9!

Free State Brew Pub
636 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
(785) 843-4555
Mon-Sat: 11am-Midnight
Sun: Noon-11pm

Small Bar with Beer Barrels Behind
Free State Brewery … Free State Brewery … that is all I have heard since moving to Lawrence in August … “Free State Brewery”.  I have tasted some of their micro brews and they are excellent, but every time we wanted to try the food, the place was jam-packed.  Now I know why while at the same time wondering … WHY?

The reason WHY people are always outside the door on Mass (Massachusetts Street – Downtown Lawrence, Kansas), I now know, is because there is so little room inside.  The massive aluminum brewing barrels occupy a large percentage of the interior space, leaving room for a small bar and maybe 10-15 tables.  There appear to be more tables upstairs, but the rather large space is dominated by the massive beer making equipment, leaving much less room for patrons.

The reason WHY I wonder what makes this establishment attractive to their many customers is because our recent dining experience was UNDERwhelming!

We were walking down Mass last Saturday night looking at the Christmas lights and considering stopping for a bite to eat.  As we made our way north to the 700 block, I noticed that there was an absence of humans outside of Free State Brew Pub, so we went in.  We were quickly seated at a small table next to the bar and a four-top occupied by two attractive young lovebirds.  Let me digress for a moment …

What I am about to say is a generalization, but it is an observation that has become more and more frequent of late.  This lovely couple was sitting next to each other, he with his legs propped up on the chair across from him as if he were lounging in his apartment, not a restaurant full of people.  When they did not have their tongues in each other’s ears, they were both simultaneously buried in their cell phones, eagerly texting away, probably to each other!  I call it “social dystrophy”, the inability of many people, particularly the younger generation, but not exclusively, to communicate effectively with fellow human beings.  If interested, you can read more in my article “Social Dystrophy: Are Technology or Values to Blame”.

Brewery Burger with Cheddar and Fries – $8.80
Back to Free State Brew Pub.  The place was full, but not packed, yet the noise-level was high.  After 20 years in the Air Force working around very loud jet engines, my hearing is not great and I had a hard time hearing my wife from across the small table.  Wood and glass dominate the large open room, the lighting not too bright and not dim, making the setting comfortable except for the decibel-level.

Our server, a nice young man who never mentioned his name, arrived promptly to take our drink order.  I decided to go with one of two stouts ($4 for an American pint) on the menu, I tried the other later, a flavorful thick, rich chocolaty concoction that was complex, yet smooth.  The second, an oatmeal stout, was also very tasty and smooth with less complexity than the first, but it was delicious.

I ordered the Brewery Burger medium-well with cheddar cheese, figuring a brew pub would have a top-notch burger, especially at $8.25 “without cheese”.  The menu states that it is a “1/3-pound patty of Kansas pride, Creekstone Farms seasoned premium charbroiled ground beef on an onion bun, slice of onion, leaf of lettuce and a pickle spear. Hot fries stand ready to complete the feast.” Adding Provolone, Blue, Swiss, Jack or Cheddar cheese is an extra 55¢, bringing the price to nearly $9. 

When our order arrived, I was shocked by the size of the hamburger and not in a good way.  The plate was dominated by overcooked French fries that sat upon a single flaccid piece of wilted lettuce, NO ONION, and a small dill pickle spear hidden under the fries, leaving the small onion roll containing the meat and cheese.  That was it, a beef patty the size of a McDonalds ¼-pounder and cheese, no mayo, no catsup, no tomato, NO TASTE!  First of all, the beef patty was medium or medium-rare, pink throughout and NOT medium-well as I had ordered.  I added some catsup out of the bottle and rather than ask for some tomato or onion, deciding to eat it as is and thinking that maybe they knew something I did not … that it should be eaten this way, it should not!

Based on value, this was one o
f the worst hamburgers I have ever eaten … and people wait outside in the rain and cold for this?  Five Guy’s burgers, at less than $6, are eons better than this sad excuse for a hamburger and even (dare I say it?) Burger King’s Whopper is tastier, cheaper, and COMES WITH ONION AND TOMATO!

Gorgonzola and Mushrrom Gnocchi – $9.99
My wife had the Gorgonzola and Mushroom Gnocchi – $9.95 – consisting of Shiitake and button mushrooms sautéed with julienne red onions, then simmered in a creamy Gorgonzola white wine sauce with fresh made potato gnocchi and finished with sliced black mission figs, local micro greens and toasted rosemary focaccia.  Her dish was attractive and flavorful enough, except for the fact that the red onions had not only been caramelized, they had been burnt.  The burnt onion flavor overwhelmed the otherwise tasty, creamy Gorgonzola and white wine sauce which had just the right amount of the strong cheese which can be overpowering if not done correctly.  The gnocchi were cooked perfectly, not too soft and not too firm, making the dish a decent value except for the fact that the burnt onions ruined it.  For $10, a side salad would be nice considering the fact that sandwiches come with a choice of potato or salad, but that is not the case.

I honestly have no idea why this place is so popular other than the fact that it may have become “the place to be seen” by the local college crowd, the same folks that give Chipotle 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp.  The beer was very good, the food extremely disappointing.  Based on our experience and the few available options on the menu, I doubt if we will be back except to have a beer, but based on the size of the bar and the usual crowds, I also doubt if it will be worth the wait.

CombatCritic Gives Free State Brew Pub 5 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Free State Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

Key Words: free, state, brew, pub, brewery, beer, food, hamburger, stout, pasta, gnocchi, cheese, French, fries, eat, drink, Lawrence, Kansas, Massachusetts, downtown, CombatCritic

The Mad Greek … Good Greek Cuisine, Moderate Prices

The Mad Greek … Good Greek Cuisine, Moderate Prices

Mad Greek Restaurant
907 Massachusetts
Lawrence, KS 66044

Phone: 785-843-2441

If you like arsenic, you will love the Mad Greek in downtown Lawrence! Seriously, this restaurant is actually pretty good and reasonably priced. The reason I made that comment is because they seem to serve rice and green beans with EVERY dish and rice has been linked to high arsenic content with recommendations, according to and others, to limit rice consumption to once a week among other precautions.

Greek “Side” Salad

On our first visit to The Mad Greek, my wife ordered the spinach pie ($7.99), spinach and feta cheese with herbs baked in a light phyllo dough with tzatziki (a creamy cucumber sauce used extensively in Grecian cooking) and fresh pita bread. The spinach pies were light and flaky with a perfect ratio of filling to crust. For the price, I would think a salad would be included, but you must pay $1.99 to add a Greek salad ($1.59 for “house” salad) to any entrée. My wife and I both ordered a Greek salad with our meals and at $1.99 extra, not a bad deal considering the quality. Fresh romaine lettuce, tomato, Greek Calamata olives, and crumbled feta cheese in a Greek olive oil and vinegar dressing. I would prefer chunks of feta over the fine crumbles, but the taste is the same either way…very good.

Moussaka with Pita Bread and Fries
I ordered the gyros platter, a reasonable ($9.99 – not abundant) amount of sliced gyro meat (a combination of seasoned beef and lamb), pita bread, tzatziki, green beans, and rice (of course). The gyro meat was fresh and tasty, and the tzatziki delicious, but the pita bread was a little too soft for my taste. The green beans were simmered in a tomato sauce and were “OK” and the rice was similarly boring, but I am not a huge rice lover. I ordered a side of french fries ($2.99), which were hot and crunchy just the way I like them, but I will probably ask to substitute fries for the rice and green beans on our next visit.

On our second visit it was my wife’s birthday, so I ordered the “flaming” saganaki, a slab of fresh Greek goat cheese soaked in batter, deep fried, and served in a flaming extravaganza table side. The “oohs” and “aahs” of fellow customers followed the lighting of the cheese, but at $7.99 the dish was overpriced by AT LEAST $2.00 in my opinion, coming with one slice of pita bread (cut into six pieces). The birthday girl ordered the moussaka, one of her staples (along with Greek salad) during our month-long visit to Greece in 2005. The moussaka – eggplant, ground beef and other ingredients covered with a béchamel sauce and baked – looked as though it had been sitting for a while and the serving was small, a cube no more than two and a half inches in diameter and at $9.99, about one quarter of the size of servings we received in Greece. The moussaka came with pita bread, rice and green beans, so my wife substituted french fries at no additional charge. She did not like it and I thought it was very “average”, being overpriced for the serving size.

Cannelloni Florentine

I decided to try one of the Italian offerings, so I ordered the cannelloni Florentine, pasta tubes stuffed with veal, spinach and seasonings then baked after being covered with alfredo (white) and red sauce. The cannelloni was actually pretty good, but the sauces were both rather boring, most likely coming from a can or jar, not homemade. Again, we had to pay $1.99 each to add a Greek salad and mine came with two small pieces of garlic bread ($9.99 for pasta and bread, $11.98 including the salad, not bad, but NOT A GREAT VALUE).

Wine is reasonable at $3.50 per glass for the house wine, a tasty, inexpensive burgundy that went well with both meals. They have a full bar and prices seem fairly reasonable with a decent selection of drafts at $3.99 to $4.59 (stout). Water is served wit a lemon slice, but I had to ask for refills, something that should not have happened considering the small number of customers that night.

The Mad Greek has original Greek recipes and decent food, but the value for the price is questionable. Ordering “ala carte” should be reserved for restaurants with cloth napkins and severs who take your payment rather than making customers stand in line to pay our bills (as is the case at The Mad Greek). I would recommend including a Greek salad with entrees and maybe increasing the price by fifty cents to a dollar to offset the cost and having servers handle payments as is done in even the cheapest sit-down restaurants these days. People should feel as if they are receiving a “good value” for their money and NOT feel like we are eating at McDonalds after having spent $25 each for dinner.

CombatCritic gives The Mad Greek 6 Bombs Out of 10 … Bombs Are Good!
Mad Greek Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Key Words: mad, Greek, Greece, restaurant, gyros, moussaka, mousaka, phyllo, pita, bread, souvlaki, tzatziki, hummus, food, eat, wine, beer, CombatCritic, Lawrence, Kansas