Lawrence, KS: Great Idea, So-So Execution


Pie Five
2500 Iowa St
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone: (785) 551-7170
Prices $$$$
Had to try Pie Five because I had never heard of it and it looked interesting. Great idea, so-so execution. Skimpy with the “all you want” ingredients and small (10″) pizzas for $7.50, about the size of my outstretched hand.

For an extra $3, I got a salad which was decent, but also skimpy on the carrots, onions and tomatoes, and a drink. You can get dessert or cheesy breadsticks ($1 extra) instead of salad if you like.

It’s a cheap meal, but don’t expect to be too impressed by the quality or quantity. As my Italian grandma would say, it was “mezzo-mezzo” (so-so).

CombatCritic Gives Pie Five 5 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs are Better!

Five Bombs Equates To:


“Continue Mission”


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

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Pie Five Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!



Title: Lawrence, KS: Great Idea, So-So Execution

Key Words: Pie Five, pie, five, 5 pizza, pizzeria, fast, food, Lawrence, Kansas, Iowa, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = “Continue Mission”
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Alexandria, VA: Sam Phao Means "Stuff Your Pie Hole With Great Food For Little Money"


Sam Phao Thai Cuisine
1019 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Old Town Alexandria
Phone: (703) 548-3736
To start, I love Thai food, so I appreciate good Thai when I taste it. Next, comparing the DC area to Lawrence, Kansas is like comparing Dom Perignon to Andre, “not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent”, particularly when it comes to restaurants and prices. Lawrence restaurant options are bleak at best, hardly a decent restaurant in town, but DC has an abundance of excellent restaurants and they ain’t cheap compared to the Midwest.
Enter Sam Phao, a small place in central Old Town Alexandria. I checked several menus in Old Town after a day at Mount Vernon and the prices in Alexandria (for “average” food) were not cheap. The $$ options on Yelp were running $20-$30 for an entree and we did not really want to blow another C-note for dinner (my blog is named “TravelValue” after all), then I saw Sam Phao. Their prices were very reasonable and the reviews excellent, so I hit “Directions” and off we went.
The ground floor room we entered was very small, so we were taken upstairs to a larger dining room and a table for two by the window. For starters, we ordered a Chicken Satay ($5.95) and a Crispy Wonton ($4.95). There were four large skewers of chicken satay along with the peanut sauce, cucumber relish and four 1/4 pieces of toast. The satay and peanut sauce were yummy and the toast a novelty, but it made it easy to get the chicken, peanut sauce and relish all on a fork. The six wonton had a savory minced chicken inside of the crispy fried wrapper as well as sweet and sour sauce and cucumber relish for dipping. They were excellent as well … what a great start!
For mains, my wife got the Pad Thai “J” ($10.95), thin rice noodles and mixed vegetables stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, scallions, tofu, and crushed roasted peanuts. I ordered the Yellow Curry ($13.95) with beef, potatoes, carrots, and onion, all of them my favorites are a rare find in one dish. I was not wild about the Pad Thai because of the egg (which is optional), but it was massive and my wife loved it. The yellow curry was divine, one of the best curries i have had in a long, long time. There was plenty o’ beef, big chunks of potato, large slices of carrot, and pieces of onion along with the white rice. The curry sauce was an incredible combination of hot spiciness along with a very slightly sweet aftertaste, so I dumped the rice in the bowl of curry, instead of the other way around, and delightfully spooned the contents into my pie hole until gone … HOOAH!
At $40, including tax, for two appetizers and two entrees, we could not have been more pleased. The prices rival those of similar, but inferior, restaurants in Lawrence, so in Alexandria and the DC area, this place was THE BOMB.
CombatCritic Gives Sam Phao 9 Bombs Out Of 10, A Rare And Near Perfect Rating … More Bombs Are Better Of Course!
Nine 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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Sam Phao Thai Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Alexandria, VA: Sam Phao Means “Stuff Your Pie Hole With Great Food For Little Money”

Key Words: Sam Phao Thai Cuisine, Sam Phao, Sam, Phao, Thai, cuisine, food, curry, Alexandria, VA, Virginia, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: OOH-RAH! = “U.S. Marine Expression Of Enthusiasm”

Windber, PA: Not The Best Italian I Have Had, But Well Worth The Drive


Rizzo’s Restaurant
2200 Graham Avenue
Windber, PA 15963
Phone: (814) 467-7908
Website: rizzosofwindber.com


A little over 20 miles from Interstate 70 and Somerset, Pennsylvania where we stayed in a quaint B&B, we found Rizzo’s when nothing in Somerset looked very interesting for our anniversary dinner.
Al large building in Eastern Windber, the family lives upstairs and the restaurant is downstairs. The restaurant itself is somewhat nondescript with bright lighting. The bar has a little more ambience, but we were seated in the “hallway” behind the bar, a high traffic area with little charm.

The service was friendly and efficient. I started with the house Burgundy ($4.50), coming in a small glass, it was chilled and somewhat sweet as expected of most inexpensive burgundies. My wife ordered the Fettucine Maria ($13.50), homemade fettucine noodles with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and peas in a light alfredo sauce. The noodles were perfectly cooked, but the sauce was rather bland. My wife, who is Italian and rarely adds grated cheese to her pasta, had to resort to the shaker of parmesan (parmigiano) in order to add some flavor. I had the Veal Parmigiana ($17.95), a large and very tasty cutlet topped with a delicious homemade marinara sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese and baked or broiled until melted.

The New York Cheesecake ($4.75) was rich and delicious, as good as any I have had whether or not in was made in-house. The owner’s son stopped by to chat briefly, then brought me a small glass of homemade orangecello (orange version of limoncello) as a digestivo (after dinner drink to aid in digestion).

My only gripes were the small, inexpensive, cold glass of burgundy (I was expecting something different), no soup or salad with the meal, the rather bland fettucine sauce, and the absence of much atmosphere in the restaurant. However, for under $50, Rizzo’s was a very good value and well worth the nearly 30 mile drive.

CombatCritic Gives Rizzo’s 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:

Rizzo's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato






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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Rizzo's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Windber, PA: Not The Best Italian I Have Had, But Well Worth The Drive

Key Words: Rizzo’s, Rizzo, Italian, restaurant, food, pasta, parmigiana, veal, alfredo, Windber, PA, Pennsylvania, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

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

If You Have Food Allergies, STAY AWAY From Mi Ranchito!


Mi Ranchito
707 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone: (785) 727-2005
Website: miranchitokc.com
Prices: $$$$
If you have food allergies, STAY AWAY!  For the umpteenth and last time, my wife (who is allergic to tomatoes) was brought her food order with tomatoes in it even though we specified “NO TOMATOES … SHE’S ALLERGIC!”

They also brought me a house margarita “on the rocks” instead of “blended” as I had ordered and my machaca (shredded beef) fried tacos came with ground beef, but by this time I was fed up and ate them anyway.  The blended margarita ($6.50) had little if any alcohol or taste.

We have been to Mi Ranchito on numerous occasions, but stuff like this happens every time we eat here.  I have explained to management several times how dangerous it is to ignore customer identified food allergies, but it obviously does little good.  The manager brought us a coupon for “Buy one lunch entree, get one free!”, but we do not go out for lunch, so … there you go … it’s absolutely useless and worthless as far as we are concerned.

The food is not bad by Lawrence standards, if you get what you order, but the lack of concern for their customer’s health is a major concern and will likely only be rectified after someone with a life threatening food allergy receives the food they are allergic to with potentially lethal consequences. 

Adios Mi Ranchito!

CombatCritic Gives Mi Ranchito 1 Bomb Out Of 10 … I Cannot Give Them Anything Higher Due To Their Blatant Lack Of Concern For Customer Safety … More Bombs Are Better!

One Bomb 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!



… And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title:  If You Have Food Allergies, STAY AWAY From Mi Ranchito!

Key Words: Mi Ranchito, mi, ranchito, Mexican, allergy, allergies, food, Lawrence, KS, 66046, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: FUBAR = “Fucked Up Beyond All Repair”


Lawrence, Kansas: I Have To Pay For Chips And Salsa? Really?


Tortas Jalisco
534 Frontier Road
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: (785) 865-1515
Website: tortasjalisco.com
Prices: $$$$

We used to eat here quite frequently. Now I remember why we stopped going to Tortas Jalisco.


First, you have to pay $2.79 for chips and salsa. I have never eaten at another Mexican restaurant that makes you pay for chips and salsa.

Second, the $4 house margarita is small, maybe 12 ounces tops, with little if any tequila. A waste of $4. I got a better buzz from the ice water.

Third, the guacamole ($4.99) is very small and loaded with tomatoes and onion (filler). $2.99 maybe, $4.99 forget it.
Fourth, they have raised their prices on many dishes by a buck or cut the amount of food. For example, you now only get 4 tacos for $6.99 (instead of 5) and they eliminated carne asada (steak) as a “meat” option, the only choices now being chorizo, pork (carnitas or adobada), chicken or ground beef, all of which are much less costly than steak.
Finally, the food is mediocre by California or Texas standards, but slightly above average for Lawrence. The place is always empty, likely the result of weak, overpriced margaritas and having to pay for chips and salsa … this is a college town folks!
CombatCritic Downgrades Tortas Jalisco To 5 Out Of 10 Bombs (Rounded Up To 3 Out Of 5 Stars) … 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

View my food journey on Zomato!



… And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: I Have To Pay For Chips And Salsa? Really?

Key Words: Tortas Jalisco, tortas, jalisco, Mexican, food, Lawrence, KS, 6th, street, taco, guacamole, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

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

Andre’s "Cozy B&B" (Airbnb) … Close To Center, Port, Stations, and Restaurants


Andre’s “Cozy B&B” (Airbnb)
Near Malaga’s Main Train/Bus Station
Malaga, Andalucia, Spain
Prices: € € € € 

Close to the main train and bus stations, and just a 15 minute walk from Old Town Malaga and the port, this accommodation was “as advertised”. Andre, short for Andreina, was very welcoming, friendly, and helpful, explaining about the apartment, breakfast, and her three simple rules when I arrived.


The room I stayed in was very small with hardly enough room to pass the bed to get to the window, but it had everything I needed (comfortable double bed, wardrobe, TV, fast wi-fi, ceiling fan) for my short stay of two nights.


The apartment itself is small, but has everything needed. Breakfast is included (make it yourself) and Andre had a nice selection of coffee, teas, and light breakfast options as well as unlimited access to the kitchen and refrigerator. The single bathroom (for two guest rooms) is also small, but the shower is large with plenty of hot water and shampoo, towels, soaps, even sunscreen were provided. If you plan on going to the beach, pack your own towel as Andre does not want her towels leaving the apartment.

In all, for $30 per night (including Airbnb fees), the room was a very good value and I would recommend staying with Andre if looking for an inexpensive option in the heart of Malaga.

CombatCritic Gives Andre’s “Cozy B&B” 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Are Better! 






Title: Andre’s “Cozy B&B” (Airbnb)

Key Words: Airbnb, cozy, B&B, room, apartment, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain, downtown, old town, old, town, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

Decent Tex-Mex In Spain … Que Paso?


Mexicano Tex-Mex
Calle Jose Maria Torres Murciano, 12, 
29603 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 952 866 680
Web: www.MexicanoMarbella.com
Prices: € € € € 


I saw this place on Yelp and could not resist after 2 1/2 months in Europe and NO MEXICAN FOOD. The first time I went, they were closed as it was just after 4:00pm and they did not open for dinner until 8pm (Spaniards eat late). I found myself in the area on my last full day in town, so I meandered past and sure enough they were open. 

It was about 2pm and the place was empty. It is nicely decorated inside, looking like many of their stateside cousins with sombreros and other colorful decorations adorning the walls. The owner speaks very little English, having resided in Rhode Island for a year, and his employees speak even less, but in this part of town, most of their customers are locals. A nice young lady soon arrived with some complimentary chips and chili con queso, looking like it likely came from a Tostito’s jar.

I had to try the guacamole (€5.40 – $5.85), usually a clear indication if the place is authentic or not and I have to say it was not bad. Fresh avocados mashed with onion and a little diced tomato (not very traditional) in a deep-fried flour tortilla bowl sitting atop a small lump of cold mashed potatoes. I was not sure why the potatoes were there other than to keep the bowl of guacamole from moving around, but the guacamole was pretty good, needing just a little more garlic and salt. The quality and quantity were pretty “average” compared to many stateside Mexican restaurants, and the chips were decent.

They had no combo plates and my Spanish is rudimentary at best or I would have tried a few different things, so I went with the taco plate (€7.50 – $8.10). The three taco shells looked like any other pre-fab version, not unlike many restaurants in Lawrence, Kansas where I hang out, so I cannot fault them for that. With no rice or beans, €2.50 a pop is a bit steep, but the tacos were not bad either. Containing something more resembling chili con carne than ground beef, the only other ingredient was melted cheese except for a small amount of pico di gallo on the side of the plate. Having saved some guacamole and the little bit of lettuce beneath it, I had everything I needed to compliment the tacos. The lady even brought me some salsa picante, a fiery green concoction that was very good. The tacos were a bit greasy, but the shells stood up to the moisture well and did not fall apart like many places I have been.
I also had a Negro Modelo beer (€2.90) and a tinto de verano (€1.30), so the drinks were very well priced compared to the food, which was a tad pricey, but not as bad as the many tourist traps in Marbella. I ended up paying around €15 plus tip (after my 15% discount), not that bad for a starter, main, and two drinks. The service was excellent and the staff very friendly as we attempted to bridge the communication gap.


CombatCritic Gives Mexicano Tex-Mex 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better … With An Extra Bomb Included For Effort!

Menu


As always, you can read my reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor 

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







Title: Decent Tex-Mex In Spain … Que Paso?

Key Words: Tex-Mex, Mexicano, tex, mex, food, menu, Marbella, Spain, Malaga, taco, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

A Little Slice of Bordeaux On The Costa Del Sol


Le Bordeaux
Avenida Antonio Belon 26 
29602 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 952 85 80 49
Website: Le Bordeaux
Prices: € € € 


A nice couple from Bordeaux, Christine and Marc, come to Spain, open an aptly named French restaurant, and turn out some excellent, authentic cuisine using only the freshest ingredients and voilà, you have Le Bordeaux.

I love French food and in my part of the world, French restaurants, particularly good French restaurants, are hard to find. So when I spot one, I always check out the menu. Stopping to view the menu by the door one evening, Marc was very friendly and helpful, explaining why the mussels were not available (the weather is too hot) and that he only serves escargots when he can get fresh snails, so I told him I would come back.

It was July 14th, French National Day, the equivalent of our 4th of July when I did, so Christine told me that Marc had escargot available for the celebration. After bringing me the French equivalent of tapas, four small pieces of quiche, Christine took my order. Escargot (€8) as a starter, beef tenderloin with Bordeaux mushroom sauce and hand cut French fries with Bearnaise sauce (€19) for my main, and  a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur  Chateaux Bel Air 2009 (€16.50).

The escargot, six of them, were perfectly cooked, tender and succulent in the buttery garlic sauce inside each shell. Accompanied by the soft, warm French bread, I was able to soak up every last bit of garlic butter. The only problem being that Christine had forgotten to bring me the small escargot fork to pry the snails out of their shells, so my starter was temporarily interrupted … oh well, c‘est la vie.

My steak and fries arrived shortly thereafter and having fasted throughout the day in preparation for a feast, I was slightly disappointed by the size of the cut of meat, six ounces at most. The presentation was nice and the sauce delicious, a creamy mushroom sauce albeit disappointingly lacking in mushrooms. There were just three and quite small at that. The meat was tender, juicy, and cooked perfectly “medium” as I had ordered. The potatoes were plentiful, crispy and hot and the Bearnaise sauce a nice accompaniment. 

Finally, the wine was wonderful and at just €16.50 (less than $20) a terrific bargain. A deep red, it was fruity, dry, and light as a good Bordeaux should be and an excellent addition to a very good meal.

Not exactly cheap at €43.50 for my dinner, the meal was a good value. Fresh, quality ingredients professionally prepared in one of my favorite cuisines, my meal at Le Bordeaux was quite enjoyable and I recommend you try Christine and Marc’s little slice of Bordeaux on the Costa del Sol.
CombatCritic Gives 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better! 




Menus


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

Title: A Little Slice of Bordeaux On The Costa Del Sol

Key Words: Le Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, French, Marbella, Spain, Malaga, Costa del Sol, costa, sol, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide, menu

Spain’s €6 Burger Puts Carl’s Jr’s $6 "Thickburger" To Shame


New Burger
Calle Camilo José Cela 12
29602 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 952 867 817
Facebook 
Prices: € € € € 


This review will be shorter than most because there is not a lot you can say about hamburgers other than this was one of the best I have had in quite a while! Who would think that one would find an outrageous burger joint in Spain?

I would not have known New Burger even existed had I not peered down an alley next to another restaurant while strolling down the street, but then I saw their sign. The young man at the counter, the owner’s son, spoke excellent English and was very helpful. He even bought me a beer!

Beside hamburgers, they have a range of items including bocadillos (sandwiches on a baguette – €3 to €5.80), “normal” sandwiches (e.g. club, tuna), salads, combo plates, crepes, and more. I ordered the “Doble” (double cheese burger – €6) with bacon, an order of patatas fritas (French fries – €1.80), and a glass of San Miguel beer. With my beer, I received a complimentary plateful of wonderful green olives as is the tradition here in Spain … tapas … Ole!

The fries came out first, thin, hot and crispy, just the way I like them. The burger arrived five minutes later with two beef patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and some of the best bacon I have eaten. Not your garden variety store-bought bacon, but slices of fresh bacon lightly browned and tender with little fat. All of that on a fresh bun, not the hamburger variety we are used to in the States, but more the consistency of a soft baguette. Where most burgers this size and juicy would fall apart half-way through, this bun held the contents together nicely until the last bite. I was a little sad after taking the last bite, it was so good.

All tables are outdoors, several under a covered patio next to the kitchen and many more scattered around the large terrace. There were several tables available when I arrived around 8:45pm, but less than 30 minutes later the place was packed – on a Monday night!

The only complaint I have was that the size of the order of fries was a bit small at nearly $2 a pop, but otherwise I was a very happy camper, paying less than €11 for an incredible meal. Inexpensive meal options are a rare commodity in Marbella, so New Burger was literally a breath of fresh air and an option you should not miss if in the neighborhood.

CombatCritic Gives New Burger 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better! 






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

Title: Spain’s €6 Burger Puts Carl’s Jr’s $6 “Thickburger” To Shame

Key Words: New Burger, new, burger, Marbella, menu, French, fries, bocadillo, Spain, Malaga, Andalucia, Andalusia, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide,Camilo José Cela

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
Website: eltapy.es
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

Excellent, Authentic Andalucian Food And Music … For A Song!


El Rincon De La Ribera
Calle Camilo José Cela 4
29600 Marbella, Spain
Phone: +34 684 31 89 81
Website
Prices: $$$$
Anna, the bartender at Claddagh Irish Pub in Marbella, turned me on to this new Spanish restaurant just around the corner. She told me that they had good, authentic Andelucian cuisine, excellent wines, and reasonable prices and she was absolutely right!


There was what I would call a “Mariachi” group on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant strumming four guitars and singing familiar songs I have heard many times in Mexican restaurants in California and Texas. I was told that they are called “Tunos” in Spain, but these four gentlemen were much more talented than any Mariachi group I have ever heard. The guitars and voices were melodically synchronized, rendering four part harmonies unrivaled by some of the best barber shop quartets I have heard. They performed non-stop from 9:30pm until nearly 11:30pm when I finally left for my room and they were superb.













The waiter spoke English reasonably well, suggesting wines, starters, and a main course. Nothing I ordered was on the menu. He first brought me a glass of Tempranillo, a dark, robust Spanish red wine with hints of oak along with a “tortilla”. Not the Mexican variety tortilla we expect in stateside restaurants and supermarkets, a tortilla in Spain is an omelette made with eggs and potatoes, resembling a very thick piece of quiche the size of a slice of pie. The tortilla de patatas (€2.50), two slices actually, were light yet savory and delicious.


Anna had recommended the Gambas al Pilpil (€9), an Andelucian specialty with prawns baked in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers accompanied by fresh bread for dipping. The ceramic dish came to me still bubbling with 12 small shrimp, slices of garlic, and a few diced red chili peppers. The fresh sliced baguette easily soaked up the decadent garlic infused oil, raising my cholesterol level by several hundred points. I have to admit that this was one of the best dishes I have had in quite a while.


The service was impeccable, attentive and friendly, always there when needed but not suffocating. I had no idea how much the check would be when it arrived and when it did, I was shocked! Just €16.10 (less than $18) for three glasses of wonderful wine, s starter and a main course,  while enjoying excellent, traditional Spanish melodies – what more could I ask for? Unfortunately, my wife was unable to accompany me on this trip, but even still, this was one of the most enjoyable, affordable dining experiences I have had in quite a while and I will return before leaving Marbella … sorry honey!


I always hesitate before giving the maximum score to any establishment, but I honestly could not find a fault to deduct even a single “bomb”, hence … 

CombatCritic Gives Rincon De La Ribera 10 Out Of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better … It Is “THE BOMB”!




Listen to authentic Spanish “Los Tunos”, the grandfather of Mexican “mariachis”, as I did the night I dined there …


Menu







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

Title: Great, Authentic Andalucian Food And Music For A Song

Key Words: Rincon De La Ribera, Rincon, Ribera, Andalucia, Andalucian, Spain, Marbella, Malaga, restaurant, food TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, menu, guide, gambas, Pil

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

Abondanza…Simpatico…Buonissimo…La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!



La Vinaina

Via dell’Agnolo, 48r, 50122 
Florence, Italy
Phone: +39.055.234.4120

Prices:    € €  

Around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant’Abrogio, my wife and I visited La Vinaina on several occasions with the students of the University of Kansas attending the study abroad program in Florence. Our apartment was just around the corner and we enjoyed the proximity, warm welcome, fresh ingredients, and very reasonable prices for lunch.

Being an amateur chef and restaurant critic, and having traveled to 49 countries around the world, I have eaten at few restaurants with the impeccable quality and value as we found at La Vinaina.


The pasta and bread…always fresh; the meat and fish…always prepared to perfection; the service…always attentive and friendly. I would recommend this restaurant to anybody…on a budget, like students, to more EXCLUSIVE and seasoned travelers alike. There is something for everyone at La Vinaina!

Watch my video collage dedicated to our friends at La Vinaina on CombatCritic TV:



Watch My Video of La Vinaina and Surrounding Area on CombatCritic TV!

or read more about this wonderful cucina tipica toscana in The CombatCritic Chronicle: 

http://www.CombatCritic.com

I have also posted reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Fousquare…search for “CombatCritic” and send a Friend request.







CombatCritic gives La Vinaina 7 BOMBS OUT OF 10…bombs in this case are good!

LIKE La Vinaina on Facebook!

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

Title: Abondanza…Simpatico…Buonissimo…La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!

Key Words: La Vinaina, vinaina, restaurant, trattoria, pasta, menu, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, mercato, sant’ambrogio, ambrogio, food, Florence, Italy, Firenze, travel, value, CombatCritic


The 20 Coolest Towns in the US – Matador Network


Matador Network’s Top 10 Coolest Towns

  1. Asheville, NC
  2. Frisco, CO … Been there
  3. Laguna Beach, CA … Grew up there
  4. North Charleston, SC … Done that
  5. Sun Valley, ID
  6. Missoula, MT
  7. Freeport, NY
  8. Marfa, TX … Got the t-shirt
  9. Lawrence, KS … Live here
  10. Mount Desert Island, METhe 20 coolest towns in the US - Matador Network

Lawrence, Kansas

You have to visit the Matador Network and read the article to see #11 – #20 …

The 20 coolest towns in the US – Matador Network.

Or You Can Vote for Your Favorite Here …

Photos Courtesy of the Matador Network

Title:The 20 Coolest Towns in the US – Matador Network

Key Words: 2015 asheville capacityX combatX CombatCritic TravelValue travel value food restaurant Kansas Lawrence computer critic DayTripQuip Florence Frisco inlaid Kansas Laguna Beach Lawrence Marfa Sun Valley travel TravelValue TX

Der Essen Platz … A Taste of Bavaria in Central Missouri


Der Essen Platz, Camdenton, Missouri

If visiting the Lake of the Ozarks, as far as restaurants essen1are concerned, I highly recommend a trip back to Camdenton and Der Essen Platz (German for “the Eating Place”) for some excellent and affordable German fare. They have a small, but affordable wine and beer list, and the food is excellent. I started with the Weihenstephaner Korbinian Dopple Bock ($6.50 – .5 litre), a dark, rich, robust beer with hints of chocolate and coffee, it was excellent. The soups are very good and homemade. I tried the German tomato soup which was better than most tomato soups, but nothing I would order again. The schnitzel dishes are amazing.  I had the schnitzel cordon bleu (pork cordon bleu – two breaded cutlets with ham and cheese in the middle, then baked and covered with a cream mushroom sauce) and my wife had the Jaegerschnitzel (pork cutlet served with Hunter’s Sauce, a savory brown gravy made with Jaegermeister and mushrooms).

Dinners are accompanied by soup or salad, warm homemade bread, and vegetables, potatoes, or spaetzel (a German potato dish similar to gnocchi only smaller). The Bavarian wheat loaf is homemade and delicious, so do not be too shy to ask for another! I also tried the German potato pancakes with hunter sauce (normally they come with applesauce, but I prefer the savory pancake with gravy).  essen2

Unfortunately, we were so full by the time dinner was over, we did not have time for dessert, but I am sure they are amazing as well.  Owners Noelle (the chef) and Daniel (front of house) are warm, friendly, and helpful, so do not be afraid to ask questions.  And do n ot forget the view over one branch of the expansive Lake of the Ozarks, a romantic setting for a special occasion or a weekend dinner … Guten Appetit!

CombatCritic Gives Der Essen Platz 9 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

9bombs

Title: Der Essen Platz … A Taste of Bavaria in Central Missouri

Key Words: Lake of the Ozarks Camdenton Der Essen Platz German Weihenstephaner Korbinian Dopple Bock schnitzel pork cordon bleu cutlet Jaegermeister spaetzel Bavarian wheat loaf German potato pancakes hunter

Middle-Eastern Staples … Tahini and Hummus


Tahini

tahini

Tahini can be prepared homemade or purchased at a Middle Eastern grocer in a can. It is called tahini or tahina, depending on the region.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350. Toast sesame seeds for 5-10 minutes, tossing the seeds frequently with a spatula. Do not allow to brown. Cool for 20 minutes.

Pour sesame seeds into food processor and add oil. Blend for 2 minutes. Check for consistency. The goal is a thick, yet pourable texture. Add more oil and blend until desired consistency.

Yield: 4 cups

Storing Tahini

Tahini should be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. It will keep for up to 3 months.

Hummus

Ingredients – Recipe makes 5 Cups/40 Servings

2 Cloves Garlic

2 (19 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup tahini

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper and cumin to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

hummus

Directions

  1. In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Put lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic, and salt in blender. Add salt gradually as the blending occurs. Blend until creamy and well mixed.
  1. To adjust the texture between creamy and more solid, vary the amount of liquid you drain from the can. The more liquid the creamier.
  1. Transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl and store the rest in your freezer. Sprinkle with pepper and pour olive oil over the top. Garnish with a few garbanzo beans.

Serve with baked pita chips or fresh vegetables…ENJOY!

Title: Middle-Eastern Staples … Tahini and Hummus

Key Words: Middle Eastern appetizer tahini tahina dip pita sesame seeds food processor Hummus lemon cloves garlic cumin garbanzo beans garnish lemon juice garlic blend salt pepper olive oil,

My “Top Secret” Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Sauce Recipe … If You Read This, I May Have To Kill You


Ingredients:

1lb Bacon
1 Medium Yellow Onion
2 Cups Chicken Broth
24 Ounces Broccoli Florets – No Stems
2 Clove Fresh Garlic
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
6-8 Fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon Oregano (dry is ok)
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 lbs (1 Kilo) Orecchiette Pasta (may substitute pasta)

Boil broccoli in a large sauce pan until tender. Set aside.  Pan fry bacon until crisp, but not burnt. Cut into pieces (size unimportant because bacon will be blended) and set aside. Add crushed, chopped garlic to bacon grease, adding chopped onion and simmering on medium heat until soft.

Add broccoli, bacon, garlic, and onion to large blender or food processor, bacon grease included. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, basil leaves, and oregano to mixture. Using a potato masher or similar object, push the mixture down into the blender, freeing additional space for broth. Add enough broth so mixture will not overflow when blended/processed. Blend on high speed, adding broth if necessary, until you have a thick puree.

Start boiling water in large pot, adding a small amount of olive oil and salt.

Pour broccoli puree into a large saucepan and heat on low, adding salt, pepper, Olive oil, Parmigiano (all to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding broth if necessary.  Puree should not be so thick as to be clumpy nor so thin as to be runny.

Boil pasta for 12-14 minutes (times vary depending on type, altitude), drain well, and place in large serving platter. Spoon broccoli puree over pasta until well coated, stirring gently and adding extra Parmigiano if desired.

Mangia … e buon appetito!

Serves 8-12 hungry guests

Title: Yummmm … CombatCritic’s Secret Orecchiette with Broccoli and Bacon Sauce Recipe

Key Words: orecchiette, CombatCritic pasta broccoli bacon onion basil Parmigiano puree sauce oregano chili salt garlic blend salt pepper olive oil pasta TravelValue

TravelValue™, TravelSafe™, ValueTravel™ …. “Follow Me To Travel Value”™


Copyright 2011-2015 – CombatCritic and 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Title: TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel …. “Follow Me To Travel Value”

Key Words: Trademark, Copyright, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel, Follow Me To TravelValue, CombatCritic, 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC

One Of The Best (Not Tex-Mex) Mexican Restaurants in Lawrence? Not Much To Brag About!


Mi Ranchito
707 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66046
Phone: (785) 727-2005
www.miranchitokc.com

Hours:
Sunday-Thurs 11am-10pm
Fri & Sat 11am-11pm

Prices: $$$$$
The Infamous “Bar” … My Home Away From Home

To be the BEST MEXICAN FOOD IN LAWRENCE the bar must not be set very high as I have yet to have a Mexican meal as good as the worst I have eaten in Texas, where I was a resident for 20 years, and not a single one comes close to resembling Tex-Mex. On that note, let me add my two cents …

 
The place was nearly full on a Sunday night, a rarity in Lawrence, particularly among Mexican restaurants, and normally a good sign. We were steered into the bar for some reason, asked if we wanted to sit at a “high-top” even though there were booths available in the bar and tables available in the restaurant. Maybe I look like a lush, but I think it was primarily because there was nobody in the bar and the bartender needed something to do. The lush that I am, I ordered the margarita special ($7.99), described as containing “El Jimador” tequila and not bad although the “20 ounces” were more like 13, coming in the standard “cheater” glass that looks big on the outside … well, you know what I mean. The house “grande” margarita ($6.25) was a better value, coming in the “20 ounce” glass but like its El Jimador cousin, a bit weak in terms of alcohol content.
 
The chips and salsa arrived rather quickly, the chips being far too thin and very likely out of a bag along with a red salsa and an odd looking yellowish-green sauce. The salsa was not bad with obvious hints of fresh cilantro. The other, described by one reviewer as a “lemon avocado” sauce, was strange, unlike anything I have ever had in a Mexican restaurant, but again not bad. The chips are so thin that they cannot be dipped in the salsa, which is not very thick to begin with, without breaking apart, leaving the basket more than half full of pieces of chips too small to eat.
 
Guacamole and Espinaca “Dips”

We decided on the Espinaca Cheese Dip ($5.99), a blend of hot cheese, white onions, tomatoes and spinach, and the guacamole ($6.99). The guacamole was described as “fresh and buttery avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, onions, lime juice and special spices” on the menu, but I found no evidence of either cilantro or jalapeño (or butter for that matter). I thought the price was a quite steep compared to other places in town, but the serving was large and the guacamole pretty good, not nearly as good as mine however. You can get a half and side order ($1.99) of guacamole which are not on the menu and I was told that the half order was $3.99, reasonable considering the price of the full order, but when the bill came I was charged $5.25, the equivalent of $10.50 for a full order. When I complained about the higher price, management quickly apologized and charged me the quoted $3.99 price, but insisted that $5.25 was the correct price. He told me hat he would “take it up with the company” (remember, this is a chain) to see about implementing a reasonable price.

The “espinaca” (spinach) cheese dip had too little spinach, much less name the dish after it, to mention and seemed to be more like your average chili con queso minus the chili, but it was big and decent. Again, my primary complaint being that the chips were too thin to withstand either “dip”, falling apart when submerged in either and resulting in a basket full of crumbles with very few whole chips.

 
$7.99 … Really?

Like most Italians my wife dislikes spicy food, especially Mexican (one of my favorites), ordering her standard “cheese quesadilla” … boring! At $7.99, I have to say that this was one of the most pitiful quesadillas I have ever seen and a terrible value. Charging $8 for a (small) flour tortilla, a couple ounces of cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and even less guacamole, and a thimbleful of pico de gallo (which was noticeably missing from the plate even though it is on the menu) should be a crime, highway robbery, but it’s not, so there you go.

 

As always, on my first visit to a Mexican restaurant, I ordered tacos and enchiladas to see if they could get even the simplest of recipes right, in this case el numero nueve, the #9 combo, with a burrito, taco, and enchilada, “machaca” (shredded beef) all. I have to say that the taco was the best I have had in recent years, having lived in the Midwest since 2008, being large, stuffed with plenty of machaca, deep fried, then topped with lettuce, cheese, and even some diced tomatoes. It would have been nearly perfect if the taco had a couple of thin slices of avocado on it, but we had plenty of guacamole leftover so it was not an issue, although a very good idea. The enchilada and burrito were both equally stuffed with shredded beef, but uninspiring with little to no cheese and smothered seemingly in the same red (enchilada?) sauce. The rice and beans were minimal, sprinkled with kernels of corn oddly enough and two deep-fried masa de maiz (corn meal dough) balls, another novelty … could it be Tex-Mex … not! The masa balls are excessively sweet and do not compliment the meals, so I would reduce the sugar or 86 them altogether. Beside the masa balls, everything was “OK”, but the taco was the star of the show and likely a staple if we return.

 
Cheese and Onion Enchilada ala carte ($3.19)

You can order ala carte although you would not know it from looking at the menu. I asked if I could order a cheese and onion enchilada ala carte and was told it would cost $3.19 plus tax, not unreasonable, so I decided to try one. The sauce was decent, but missing the distinct chili zing of a traditional enchilada sauce and the chili con carne you would find in authentic Tex-Mex cuisine. The cheese inside was plentiful, but a bit too runny, making it a little difficult to eat and there was not an onion in sight (or bite for that matter). Overall, it was not the best enchilada I have eaten and not the worst, but it was definitely NOT a cheese and ONION enchilada.

Service is very good and management is very responsive to customer concerns, all bending over backward to make things right and a breath of fresh air in an industry suffering from apathetic servers and managers. The prices were comparably a bit steep, except for the combinations oddly enough, the service good, and the food decent, maybe even one of the BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANTS IN LAWRENCE, but that is nothing to brag about!

 
CombatCritic Gives Mi Ranchito (Lawrence) 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … VERY AVERAGE … More Bombs Are Better!






Read More Reviews By CombatCritic, Including Mi Ranchito, On Yelp And TripAdvisor Along With Many Other Reviews And Much, Much More!

Title: One Of The Best (Not Tex-Mex) Mexican Restaurants in Lawrence … Not Much To Brag About!
 
Key Words: Mi Ranchito, mi, ranchito, Mexican, restaurant, food, taco, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, Lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

As We Say On Yelp … “Meh, I’ve Experienced Better”


Hacienda Colorado
5246 N Nevada Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Phone: (719) 418-7999
Prices: $$$$$
Three steak tacos and a few black beans – $13
You would never know you were in a Mexican restaurant by the looks of the place. It looks more like a seafood restaurant or a steak house. Anyway, unlike most of my reviews, this will be short …
 
 
 
Food … average
Service … adequate
Prices … very high … $10 for guacamole?
Value … terrible
 
CombatCritic Gives Hacienda Colorado 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
Hacienda Colorado on Urbanspoon
Portobello Burrito – $11.59 … For A Burrito With No Meat?
Cheese and Onion Enchilada Ala Carte – $3.99
Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!
Title: As We Say On Yelp … “Meh, I’ve Experienced Better”
 
Key Words: Hacienda Colorado, hacienda, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Nevada, Mexican, menu, food, restaurant, taco, enchilada, guacamole, chips, salsa, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Cibo Sano: Great Potential And Good Value With A Little Room To Grow


Cibo Sano
4821 W 6th Street, Suite K
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: (785) 856-2414

Website: cibosanoitaliangrille.com
Prices: $$$$$

My friend Doug P checked-in at Cibo Sano on Facebook while I was in India and raved about the place, so I had to give it a try when I recently returned to the States after four months abroad.

 

The signs in front of Cibo Sano indicating that parking is strictly for “10 minutes” and “carry out” customers only was a bit off-putting because we had to park 50 feet away and the temperature was in the teens … brrrrrrrrr!  I asked why 10-15 spots were reserved for carry out customers when the place was empty (when we arrived) and we were told that the signs were from businesses now closed and that they were not sure why they were still there. Paint ’em, tear ’em out, but do not leave them there because they makes no sense, not that many, three spots max.

 
pasta and proteins

The interior is modern and clean, but cold and uninviting. There is little decor and the place could use some ambiance (color, carpet, art, tablecloths). The menu is a bit overwhelming and confusing at first and the prices ($7.99 for pasta/wrap/salad) did not match those on the web ($5.99 on Yelp, $6.99 on their website), a significant difference and false advertising if you want to get technical. 

 
veggies

It would be very helpful to have a small menu sheet and a pencil available to check off which ingredients customers want on our pastas, wraps, or salads rather than having to memorize the numerous choices (pasta or orzo, 5 different sauces and proteins, 4 of 15 available toppings, 3 different cheeses … ouch, my head hurt!). Once we got to the counter it made a little more sense, but the labels on the window between me and the ingredients did not match up with what was in the containers … more confusion.

 

The employees were very friendly and helpful and our pastas were quickly assembled, coming to a little under $20 for two of us, including a “cheesy flat bread” ($2.99). I had the penne with arrabbiata (spicy tomato) sauce, spicy Italian sausage, grilled diced white onion, sautéed diced peppers, sautéed mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. My wife also had the penne, but with alfredo sauce, sautéed mushrooms, black olives, artichoke hearts, and mozzarella cheese.

 

The cheesy flat bread was good, coming with a ranch dressing and Parmesan sauce for dipping. The pastas were also tasty and a decent value even at $7.99 (extra for protein), coming in a large bowl and a good size portion. My only complaint was that both pasta dishes were lukewarm at best, not piping hot as they should be. My wife, a native Italian, said hers was good, but tasted like a pasta salad. The manager came over and asked how our meals were, so I told him they were good, but not hot enough, giving him a couple of improvement suggestions.

 
penne with alfredo sauce, mushrooms, olives, artichokes

The pasta and ingredients are pre-cooked and placed in a warming table, uncovered and not keeping them quite warm enough, a potential health hazard (e.g. sausage). I recommended that the pasta be pre-cooked al dente and dipped in boiling water for a minute prior to adding the ingredients or, better yet, adding the pasta and all of the ingredients to a frying pan, heating it for 30-60 seconds on the grill prior to serving. The manager, a very nice and open-minded young man, indicated that they had tried my second option, but that it took too long and customers ended up leaving. Microwaving should not be an option, not being optimal for texture or professionalism. Personally, I would prefer to wait a few additional minutes for hot pasta, but I am not as anal retentive as many these days … hurry, hurry, hurry … rush, rush, rush … calm down and relax for cryin’ out loud!

 
I may sound overly critical, but as I explained to the manager, I want new businesses such as Cibo Sano to succeed and my criticisms are constructive, not complaints. To summarize:
  • Get rid of the “carry out” signs in front
  • Warm the place up a bit with some fitting decor
  • Make it easier for people to order
  • Keep the website (prices, options) current
  • Serve hot pasta … figure it out


penne arrabbiata with sausage, grilled onion, peppers, and mushrooms

In all, we enjoyed our meals and will return to see if things change for the better, making Cibo Sano (“healthy food” in Italian) a contender for “best pasta value” in Lawrence, a town with a dearth of decent, reasonably priced Italian food. Another plus, you can now bring your own wine for a reasonable $2 corking fee, a nice option, so bring your favorite vino along and … buon appetito!

 
CombatCritic Gives Cibo Sano An Initial 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Room To Grow … Bombs Are Good
 
 
 
 
 
Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Cibo Sano Italian Grille on Urbanspoon









Title: Cibo Sano: Great Potential And Good Value With A Little Room To Grow

Key Words: Cibo Sano, cibo, sano, healthy. food, Italian, restaurant, menu, pasta, salad, wrap, food, eat, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Carne Asada or Tuna Taco? That Is The Question!


Monica’s Taco Shop
30 E Fillmore Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Phone: (719) 473-1996
Prices: $$$$$
 
After reading the mostly rave reviews on Yelp, I had to try Monica’s as it is just a couple blocks from the hospital where my mom is currently admitted.  Let me just say that I was not overly impressed.
 
Carne Asada Tacos – $2.15 Each
A cheese quesadilla, two carne asada tacos, chips and guacamole, and an horchata came to almost $15, not exactly cheap.  The quesadilla was nothing special, the tacos came on greasy tortillas that tasted like they were fried in dirty (fishy) oil, and the guacamole, and I use that term loosely, looked like the stuff from a tub that you get on nachos at Little League baseball games and was smothered all over the chips (fried in the same fishy grease) and topped with a little cheese. 
 
Chips and Guacamole? – $4.19
There was no need to deep fry a soft shell corn tortilla for a carne asada taco in the first place as they should have been lightly toasted on the grill prior to serving.  The contents, meat, cheese, and pico di gallo, were actually pretty good and plentiful, but I could barely stomach the greasy, fishy flavor of the fried tortillas. Non me gusto … YUK!
 
I would like to think that it was just a bad night, but I honestly cannot say that I will return to find out.
 
CombatCritic Gives Monica’s Taco Shop (Fillmore) 4 Bombs Out of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE BUENAS!
 
 
 
 
 
Monica's Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Title: Carne Asada or Tuna Taco? That Is The Question!
 
Key Words: Monica’s Taco Shop, Monica’s, Monica, taco, shop, Colorado Springs, Fillmore, chips, menu, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, eat, food, restaurant, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

India Jones and the Temple of Gloom


Coffee Temple
Varkala Cliff
Varkala, Kerala, India
I had heard that this place was “the best” and being #4 of 59 restaurants in Varkala on TripAdvisor I would have thought it was a sure bet, but nothing is for sure except the grim reaper and the taxman.
 
To be fair, I made several visits at various times of the day and I have to say the service was dismal nearly every time. On at least three occasions I sat at my table for 15 minutes or more and was totally ignored (I many times purposely do not make a fuss to see how long it will actually take), having ultimately had to either get up and ask for or retrieve my own menu. On one occasion one of the servers, who I will call “India Jones” because of his long hair, unkempt beard, tattered shirts, and “local” Kerala dress (he wears a sarong as a skirt even though he is obviously a westerner), moped around, conserving energy I assume, and lumbered past me at least ten times, never asking me if I needed a menu or wanted to order. I sometimes believe that I am invisible here because employees constantly walk by without even acknowledging my existence. 
 
Chicken Salad Sandwich – 230 Rupees
The coffee and teas are good, coming in large (10 ounce) mugs, but are a tad overpriced by Indian standards.  The food looked good from what I saw others order, but is also a bit more expensive than most places. I have to admit that the only things I tried were the the toast, three large, thick pieces of brown bread with butter and jam (80 rupees/$1.30 – I had to provide my own peanut butter even though the menu claims they make a crepe with it), a large bowl of fruit muesli (100 rupees/$1.60 and not so large) which was not bad and a fair deal, and their chicken salad sandwich (230 rupees/$3.75 with cheese), a huge disappointment.  The bread, a small baguette (see photo above) with sesame seeds on top was the highlight, but what little chicken salad there was oddly enough was served warm, the chicken mostly dark meat and full of gristle, and the mayonnaise had a rather disgusting sweet taste like Miracle Whip, which I loathe. Disappointingly small and lonely on the plate with no garnish, it was one of the worst meals and values I had at any restaurant in my nearly four months in India.
 
The place has potential with its incredible view and open air feel, but the servers need to do something about their simultaneously apathetic and arrogant attitudes and start acting like customers are important.  As far as the food was concerned, I was not impressed, but the coffee and masala chai were pretty good. The only reason I am giving them 5 bombs and not 4 is because they are about the only place on the cliff that consistently opens early (6:30), so if you are an early riser like me, not always by choice, you can at least get a coffee or breakfast with a sea view no less.
 
CombatCritic Gives Coffee Temple 5 Out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
 
 
Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Title: India Jones and the Temple of Gloom
 
Key Words: Coffee Temple, coffee, temple, Varkala, cliff, beach, Kerala, India, restaurant, cafe, food, menu, tea, sandwich, breakfast, view, sea, CombatCritic, TravelValue, TripAdvisor

A Slice of Tibet in An Unlikely Place – Pushkar, Rajasthan


Tibetan Kitchen
Opposite Dadudura Temple
Chotti Basti (Main Market Road – South End of Lake)
Pushkar, Rajasthan, 305022, India

Prices: $$$$$

Momos
Having spent close to two months in Dharamsala teaching English to Tibetan refugees, I came to know and love both the Tibetans and their cuisine. My wife spotted Tibetan Café while walking down the main market street next to the lake in Pushkar, so looking for a change from the usual curry, dal, and naan, we popped in.

The restaurant is on the rooftop overlooking the town (away from the lake) and is dark with colorful lamps and bamboo furniture offering some ambiance. The menu is quite eclectic as they have pizza, pasta, Indian, and Chinese, but being called Tibetan Kitchen, our choice was obvious.

It took ten minutes or so for the server to arrive even though we were one of three parties in the restaurant at the time, but I have grown much more patient in my two months in India as nothing happens very quickly here. He was very pleasant and the service excellent.

We ordered the potato and cheese momos (fried – 100 rupees/$1.60) and veggie thenthuk (95 rupees/$1.60), the prices and quality being equivalent to the numerous Tibetan restaurants in Dharamsala.  It took close to 30 minutes for our meal to arrive, but I could hear the chef chopping away in the kitchen so I knew our meal was being freshly prepared, a good sign.

Thenthuk
The momos were some of the best I have had, crispy and flavorful, coming with an onion broth for dipping as well as condiments (chili and soy sauces).  The thenthuk was excellent, brimming with noodles, cauliflower, potato, cabbage, carrots, and other fresh vegetables in a warm, savory broth with just a little more zing than their Dharamsala counterparts.

Coming in at a little over $7 for dinner for two including appetizer, drinks, and main course, I have to give Tibetan Kitchen high marks. Therefore, …
CombatCritic Gives Tibetan Café 8 Out Of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GREEEEEEEEEAT!




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Key Words: Tibetan Café, Tibetan, café, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, restaurant, Tibet, momo, thenthuk, thupka, pizza, pasta, CombatCritic, travel, value, food,

The Name of This Place Should Be … "WE HATE TOURISTS!"


The Mango Grove
Main Road (Opposite Newtons Supermarket)
Candolim Beach, Bardez, Goa, 403515 India
Phone: 982-323-9650
Prices $$$$$
We stopped here because the place had a nice covered patio and was relatively busy, usually a good sign. The man who “greeted” us, and I use that term loosely, grunted out what should have been a “welcome” and we were pointed, not escorted, to a table in the corner. The menu is large and diverse and being our first time here on the first day of a week long stay, they had the opportunity to earn our repeat business. As George Bush would say: “Not going to happen … wouldn’t be prudent.”
I asked a couple very simple questions like “what kind of bread does this sandwich come on”, but the server seemed quite annoyed, looking at me like he despises tourists and our ridiculous inquiries. We were not extremely hungry, so we ordered a couple of sandwiches, me a steak sandwich (200 rupees/$3.20) on a baguette, my wife a simple cheese sandwich, also on a baguette (150 rupees/$2.45), a Kingfisher beer (100 rupees/$1.60), and a mineral water (30 rupees/50 cents). He returned about 10 minutes later to tell us that there were no baguettes (at 1pm) and that we could have our sandwiches on local (pita) bread. Looking forward to a sandwich on some decent bread for the first time after more than two months in India, I was disappointed but we decided to stick around having already received our drinks.
My sandwiches (there were two because the bread was so thin and small) barely had any meat on them, a little lettuce, some grilled onions, a couple of thin slices of tomato and were accompanied by six (6) french fries (or chips as they are called here and in the UK). My wife’s sandwiches had a negligible amount of melted cheese on them, so it was basicly a pita bread and lettuce sandwich … YUM!
The meal was cheap enough, but the value was poor and many menu items are a bit more expensive than many places in India. Granted, this was also New Year’s Day in a party town, so they may not have been at their best after a long night, but we were not impressed in the least and will choose from the many other restaurants in Candolim for our next dozen or so meals. Maybe they will appreciate our business.
CombatCritic Gives The Mango Grove 3 Out of 10 Bombs … After a 2 Bomb Deduction For a Crappy Attitude … More Bombs Are Better!




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Key Words:  The Mango Grove, mango, grove, Candolim Beach, Candolim, beach, Goa, India, restaurant, menu, food, steak, sandwich, CombatCritic, review, TravelValue, travel, value

Ramana’s Garden: Good Cause, Bad Attitude, Above Average Value


Ramana’s Garden
Village Tapovan, Laxman Jhula
Rishikesh 249192, India

Having studied psychology for over 30 years, I will never completely understand the territorial nature of humans, particularly when it involves a very worthwhile charity, but I have experienced this phenomena more times than I can count, including at Ramana’s Garden in Rishikesh.

Entrance from Path

I decided to visit Ramana’s Garden after reading about the charity and café on TripAdvisor and their website, but the compound was very difficult to find. There are no maps online and the only sign I found was on a gate I spotted while on a path leading toward the Ganga (Ganges) and just happened to come across.


I asked the man behind the counter at Ramana’s if they needed any volunteers as I had about four more days in Rishikesh before heading to Delhi, but I was quickly dismissed without further inquiry. He told me that they only accept volunteers for three months or more because the children need consistency in their daily lives. I understand that the children need consistency, but when someone is kind enough to offer their time to your charity, maybe you should ask a couple questions before making them feel unneeded. I could have been CEO of a Fortune 500 company for all he knew, but he did not seem to care.

One of the Residents

In my case, being the author of two popular blogs, producer of a very successful YouTube channel (400,000+ views), a licensed professional counselor, and a retired military officer, I think I could have contributed something to their cause without being an unnecessary stress or burden on the children. I could have taught them how to make my World Famous Orecchiette with Broccoli Sauce recipe in less than an hour, but it was not meant to be.


Menu

In any case, even though I was more than a bit put off by the volunteer in question, I decided to stay for their “set menu” lunch and I am very glad I did. A tulsi (a local herbal tea-like drink), starter (soup or salad), entree, and dessert runs 400 rupees ($6.40), rather pricey by Indian standards, but a good value in this case.


The tulsi was warm, sweet, and tasty and the cup of soup of the day (a creamy kale consommé straight from the garden) flavorful and light, although rather small. Some bread, crackers, or croutons would have been a nice addition, but it was a  good start to a late lunch (they close at 4pm, so dinner was not an option) nonetheless.

Cup of Kale Soup

There were several entrées to chose from, including spinach gnocchi, pumpkin ravioli, enchiladas, and momos among others, but I went with the special of the day … cannelloni. The cannelloni (2) were large and accompanied by a few greens. Unfortunately, the pasta was lukewarm, but flavorful nonetheless, particularly for a vegetarian dish (everything on the menu is vegetarian or vegan). 


Canneloni


The chocolate cake, although very small, was decadent and rich, making me wish there were more to go with my coffee and milk (hot from the cow in the barnyard).


In all, coming in at $8 including a small donation, I have to say that the meal was a very good value. The terrace overlooking the Ganges River below was quiet and a pleasant place to enjoy a mid-afternoon meal while helping a good cause, even if it was for just an hour. Ramana’s probably would have garnered a 5 or 6 OUT OF 10 TravelValue rating if not for the kids they support and the natural, organic ingredients they use in their foods, so …

CombatCritic Gives Ramana’s Garden 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!




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Cake and Coffee

Café Entrance 

Organic Garden

Garden

View of Ganges from Terrace

Key Words: review, Ramana’s Garden, blog, CombatCritic, TravelValue, Ramana’s, Ramana, Garden, restaurant, café, cafe, food, menu, lunch, Rishikesh, India, travel, value, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor

A Tavola Con Te … Authentic Italian in Rishikesh, India


A Tavola Con Te
Badrinath Road, Tapovan Sarai (Laxman Jhula) 
Rishikesh 249192, India

Phone: +91-812-685-9654

Website

Prices: $$$$$


A Tavola con Te was recommended to me by Maria, an acquaintance from Columbia whom I met in Dharamsala. She told me that an Italian couple had just opened a restaurant and guest house in Rishikesh and that they made wood fire oven pizza, so I had to go there on my first evening in town.

The owners are from Milano (Milan) and have recently moved to Rishikesh. The property is up an alley off of the main road, so use TripAdvisor’s directions or GoogleMaps and follow the signs up the alley about 1oo meters and look for the gate with a sign on your left. From there you meander another 50 meters or so past some houses and through a garden to the restaurant and Namaste Guest House.

They have a small terrazzo (terrace) that is nicely done with bamboo roof and decorative cement pillars, overlooking the garden, giving the dining area a rustic feel, and making me feel as if I were in an agriturismo in Italy. There are also a couple of tables on the grass under the stars (or sun), but no indoor option.

They serve pizza from 5:30 PM on, so do not expect it any earlier as the oven is lit around 3PM and takes a couple hours to reach the proper temperature. I ordered the “Buffalo”, a 14 inch pizza with imported Italian (Vesuvio) tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella – a specialty of Campania, Italy), and fresh basil leaves, a favorite of pizza napolitana (from Naples, Italy) lovers, which I am one.

My pizza was very good although a little dry because the tomato sauce was very thinly spread and the heat of the wood oven had dried it out. A little more sauce (or fresh tomatoes) or some olive oil (preferably olio picante) drizzled over the top prior to serving would have been wonderful, but I wolfed down my pie nonetheless as it was very tasty and the best pizza I have had since I was in Italy last. 


My wife, being from Napoli (Naples), would complain about the crust because Neopolitans (napolitani … my wife will kill me when she reads this because she is actually Sicilian and refuses to admit that her family has lived in Naples most of her life) are pizza snobs because pizza was invented there and Naples admittedly has the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD. Pizza crust in Naples is a science and nowhere else on Earth will you find such soft, yet crisp on the bottom crust and fresh, flavorful toppings as you will find in Napoli.

The crust at A Tavola con Te is definitely “Northern Italian”, indicative of pizze (pizzas) in Rome and north and considering the fact that Il Pizzaiuolo (pizza maker) is from Milan, appropriate to the situation. I prefer the crusts in Naples, but who am I to complain because it was very good, not burnt, and crispy but still a tad chewy. Bravissimo!

I returned a few days later for my birthday dinner and everyone wished me well, very thoughtful of them to remember! I started with the pumpkin (zucca) soup, which was creamy, rich, and excellent, but just lukewarm, not hot, and accompanied by four slices of warm bread.

For my entree, I had the vegetarian lasagna (250 rupees/$4.00), a decent size slab that was, again, not very hot and layered with pasta, melanzane (eggplant), bechamel and tomato sauce, and cheese. The eggplant was a bit chewy and the lasagna needed a little more mozzarella, but otherwise it was quite tasty.

Having had the panna cotta after my previous dinner, my birthday dessert had to be the tiramisú (170 rupees/$2.70), layers of savoiardi cookies soaked in espresso, and encased in sweet mascarpone cheese, then sprinkled with cocoa powder … delicioso!


On my next visit I tried the Pizza Vegetariana (260 rupees/$4.10), coming topped with mushrooms, eggplant, onion, bell peppers, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Again, the pizza was very good, but a bit dry and with a negligible amount of mozzarella. Being 50 to 100 rupees (80 cents to $1.60) more than the “average” equivalent pizza in many restaurants in India, I would expect a bit more sauce and cheese, even if they are imported and more expensive than the varieties most Indian restaurants use.

FYI – I am much harder on Italian restaurants than I am on others because Italian food is my passion and expectations are exceedingly high, particularly when Italians are in the kitchen. So do not get me wrong by thinking I was unhappy with any of my meals here because I was not and they were the best I have had in my two months in India. A few minor tweaks and this place will be THE BOMB …

1.  They could use some antipasti on the menu (bruschetta, cheese platter, olives/grilled vegetables, insalata caprese, etc) and bread because the pizzas and pastas are not filling enough on their own. 

2. The lights are a bit bright on the terrace at night, so some lower voltage bulbs and candles or lanterns would provide a cozier, more intimate feel.

3. Portions could be just a tad bigger for the price and attention to detail, ensuring that food is appropriately warm and not too dry, will go a long way in satisfying hungry customers.

I really want this restaurant to succeed because the owners are extremely nice and have positive, professional attitudes, the location has great “bones”, the food is very well done, and the prices are reasonably fair. Please visit A Tavola con Te and tell them CombatCritic sent you because I want to come back next time I am in Rishikesh … a presto (see you soon)!


CombatCritic Gives A Tavola con Te 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More BOMBS Are Better!





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Title: A Tavola Con Te … Authentic Italian in Rishikesh, India

Key Words: Rishikesh, A Tavola con Te, tavola, con, te, Italian, restaurant, ristorante, food, pizza, pasta, Himalaya, Himalayas, Dalai Lama, dalai, lama, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, TripAdvisor

Seven Hills … A Taste of Korea In McLeod Ganj


Seven Hills of Dokkaebi
Jogiwara Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India
Prices: $$$$$

I had heard there was a good Korean restaurant in McLeod Ganj and it turned out that when I moved to a new hotel, Hotel Ekant Lodge, Seven Hills of Dokkaebi was right nextdoor.

The restaurant is situated down some stairs and around a corner just north of Ekant Lodge, so ask if you have trouble finding it. The dining room is nicely decorated and has a large fireplace which unfortunately was not lit on the cold evening of my first visit. The menu is large, but I came for the bulgogi, so it did not take long to order.

I ordered a pot of ginger lemon honey (100 rupees/$1.60) which turned out to be a good value compared to a cup (50 rupees/80 cents), having refilled my cup at least four times throughout my meal.

The full dinners are not cheap by Indian standards, but are an outstanding value considering the quality and quantity of the food. My pork bulgogi dinner (380 rupees/$6.15) was nearly enough for two and one of the best meals I have had since arriving in India. Unlike western meals, everything came at once, including assorted cold vegetables, kimchi (spicy, fermented cabbage), rice, a bowl of soup, and close to a pound of bulgogi. Although not the best bulgogi I have had, including meals in Korea and made by Korean friends, it was very good. The flavor was excellent and I was completely stuffed by the time I finished.

My entire meal set me back 500 rupees ($8.00), including tip, an expensive meal in India when you are used to paying $3 for dinner. However, a meal of this caliber in the U.S. would run $15 to $20 minimum, so it was an outstanding value which is what this blog is all about!

CombatCritic Gives Seven Hills of Dokkaebi 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!


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Key Words: Seven Hills of Dokkaebi, Jogiwara Road, McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India, seven, hills, dokkaebi, restaurant, Korea, Korean, travel, value, food, menu

One Two, Buckle My "Brew"


One Two Café
Temple Road (Across from Dalai Lama Temple)
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP, India 
Prices: $$$$$

I have to admit that I have not ordered a full meal here because it appears that is not their forté. The first time I visited One Two Café was for a quick bite to eat and a coffee while waiting for my Buddhist philosophy class upstairs. While enjoying my caffe latte and spinach quiche (more to follow), a friend of an employee brought in a meal (that looked like thenthuk) from another restaurant. Not a good sign, particularly considering that they have thenthuk on the menu.

However, my spinach quiche was quite large for the price (100 rupees/$1.60) and very good although the crust was a bit difficult to cut through and the filling not all that rich, both likely due to a lack of egg and cheese in the recipe. Still, it was very enjoyable and savory.


I have returned for their caffe latte, made from espresso on an Italian espresso machine, which is very well done and an outstanding value at 60 rupees (95 cents) for a regular and 90 rupees ($1.50) for a doppio (large).


If you want an excellent coffee, tea, or light snack while visiting the Dalai Lama’s Temple, then One Two Cafe is an excellent choice.

CombatCritic Gives One Two Café 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: caffe, café, coffee, CombatCritic, dessert, Dharamsala, Dharamshala, food, Ganj, India, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, one, One Two Café, quiche, restaurant, tea

Excellent Latte, Mediocre Sandwich, Moderate Prices


Moonpeak Espresso (Café)
Temple Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP, India
Prices: $$$$$

I have been to Moonpeak a few times for a coffee and pastry, once for lunch, and have been relatively happy even though it is not anywhere close to being the best value in town.

They have decent, free wi-fi, an excellent latte (70 rupees/$1.15), and a modern, “Western” feel (if that is something you are after). Beside the requisite coffees, teas, lassis, and juices, their menu includes breakfast, pastries, sandwiches, and light (small portions) local lunch and dinner options.

I tried the chicken and vegetable (toasted) sandwich and was not the least impressed. The white toast with a few chunks of chicken, some veggies, and a little cheese was underwhelming and barely made a dent in my appetite. My vegetarian companion had the veg Thali which looked decent for the price, including pappadum, naan, curry, paneer, and rice.

There are better “value” options in town, but if you are transiting Temple Road coming from or going to the Dalai Lama Temple, it is definitely worth a stop if nothing more than for a good latte and to check email. 

CombatCritic Gives Moonpeak Espresso 6 Bombs Out Of 10 in Terms of “Relative Value”… MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!






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Key Words: café, coffee, coffeehouse, food, free, latte, menu, Moonpeak, pastry, sandwich, tart, tea, wi-fi, espresso, caffe, Moonpeak Espresso, moon, peak, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, Temple, road, 

Just Like Momo Used To Make


Momo Café
TIPA (Dharankot) Road – Just West of Main Square
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India

Prices: $$$$$


Entrance – Dalai Lama Temple (Dharamsala, India)
I have tried to eat at Momo Café since reading the great reviews on TripAdvisor, but until today I was unsuccessful. With just three tables, seating 10 people max, you must be lucky or persistent to score a meal here.
They have all of the standard Tibetan fare … momos of course (Tibetan dumplings, steamed or fried, filled with veggies, cheese, potato, meat, or a combo thereof), thupka (long noodles in a broth with assorted veggies), and my favorite thenthuk. 

Momo Café Looks Dicey, But Is A Great Find!

As I sit waiting for my vegetable thenthuk (homemade sliced noodles in a broth chock full of vegetables – 80 rupees/$1.30), I glance at the young Tibetan women at the next table enjoying theirs and it looks pretty darn good!

Twenty five minutes later and no sign of my lunch, I am wondering if I will make it to Rinpoche’s teaching at 2 pm near the Dalai Lama Temple. Just as the ladies leave, food appears from the tiny kitchen, but alas it is for the three young men at the only other table in the place. I hear chopping from behind the curtain, obviously coming from the preparation of my thenthuk. The good news … my meal will be freshly made … the bad … I will almost surely be late for the second day in a row to my Buddhist philosophy class.

Vegetable Thenthuk – 80 Rupees ($1.30)

When the thenthuk finally arrived 40 minutes after arrival, it was in-fact fresh, hot and delicious, one of the best I have had since arriving in Dharamsala. At 105 rupees ($1.70) including a liter of mineral water, it was also one of the BEST VALUES in India so far!



CombatCritic Gives Momo Café 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!



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Key Words: Momo Café, Momo, momos, café, thenthuk, thupka, tsampa, Tibetan, food, restaurant, CombatCritic, travel, value, McLeod Ganj, mcleod, ganj, Dharamsala, India, Dalai Lama

Himalayan Café and Restaurant: Fast (Free) Internet, Nice View, Tasty Food, Excellent Prices


Himalayan Café and Restaurant
Bhagsu Road (100 meters east of Main Square)
McLeod Ganj, India

Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee/Tea, Tibetan, Chinese (Italian and Thai Available High Season)

Prices: $$$$$

Terrace and View of McLeod Ganj

I literally stumbled upon the Himalayan Cafe and Restaurant (the streets here are rough, rough, rough) while walking on Bhagsu Road, heading from the main square in McLeod Ganj toward Bhagsu Village (heading east). I might have missed it had I not seen the sign advertising “High Speed Internet”, so I walked up the steel staircase to the terrace (right).


Terrace
The covered terrace at the top of the stairs has several tables with a few overlooking the valley below and all have a nice view of the Himalayan foothills. The indoor café below has just a few tables, but is warm and inviting with a few western-style tables and one large table with Asian-style seating (pads).

Chicken Thenthuk and Tibetan Butter Tea
The menu (see photos below) is varied and the prices reasonable. They have breakfast, Tibetan and Chinese dishes year round with Italian and Thai selections during the high season. I had Tibetan butter tea (40 rupee – 65 cents) and the chicken thenthuk (100 rupee – $1.60), a Tibetan dish of handmade noodles (long, wide, and thin, then cut into small pieces) in broth with a variety of fresh vegetables. The butter tea actually has butter in it and is slightly salty, creamy, and rich, an unusual taste that works quite well actually. The chicken thenthuk was warm, delicious, and filling, chock full of veggies and noodles, and just what I needed on a cool Fall day.

Lamb Thukpa
My friend had the mutton (lamb) thukpa, a large bowl of broth with assorted vegetables, and long noodles (that look like spaghetti), topped with fine slices of crispy lamb. Chili sauce is a condiment here and can be added to any dish, making it hot and spicy, but all the dishes I have tried are well seasoned and excellent with or without any additions.

Indoor Café

Easy to miss if you are not looking closely, Himalayan Café and Restaurant is a quiet respite from the hectic pace on the street below, offering free, fast wi-fi and a chance to unwind over a cup of coffee or tea, a light snack, or a full meal. The service is efficient, but even though their English is good, I did not feel quite as welcome as in other local restaurants.

CombatCritic Gives Himalayan Café and Restaurant 8 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!




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Key Words: Bhagsu Road, breakfast, café, Chinese, Dharamsala, food, Ganj, Himalayan, Himalayan Café and Restaurant, India, internet, Italian, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, restaurant, Thai, tibetan, view, travel, value


Four Seasons Cafe (McLeod Ganj, India): little place … BIG VALUE!


Four Seasons Cafe 
Jogiwara Road
McLeod Ganj, India

Cuisine: Tibetan, Italian

Price: $$$$$

I was actually walking to another restaurant I found on TripAdvisor when I came across Four Seasons Cafe. It is a small, unassuming place on Jogiwara Road on the opposite end of the market from the main square (closer to the Dalai Lama Temple). There are only about seven tables and the walls and floors are wood, giving the dining area a rich, warm, inviting feel. I quickly looked them up on my TripAdvisor App and saw they were ranked number 12 out of 43 with 4 1/2 stars, so I went in.


Momos in Soup

The menu has many options including Tibetan and Italian, and the prices are very, very reasonable. I ordered a Tibetan herbal tea (30 rupee – 50 cents) and the vegetable and cheese momos in soup (80 rupee – $1.30), a large bowl of broth with sliced cabbage and carrot topped with six large momos (a Tibetan dumpling filled with cheese and veggies). It was delicious and filling! I was pretty hungry, so I also ordered an egg fried rice (also 80 rupee). It was not as massive as a similar dish back stateside, but was more than enough for me and also extremely good.


Fried Rice
My tab came to a whopping 190 rupee ($3.10) for an excellent, filling meal in a comfortable and friendly environment. The staff speak decent English and are efficient, warm, and spontaneous, making me feel most welcome.

On my next visit, I tried the pasta, ordering the penne “Quatro Fromaggi” (formaggio in Italian – 170 Rupees/$2.75) and garlic bread (40 Rupees – 65 cents). The pasta was perfectly “al dente” and the sauce cheesy and gooey. It was good enough, but lacking an “Italian” flavor, needing some oregano, parsley, or basil and definitely more parmigiano (parmesan for Americans) due to the noticeable absence of salt. I ended up adding salt and freshly cracked pepper to give the dish some added flavor. The garlic bread was perfectly toasted, crispy, and well seasoned.

Chicken Soutsemen

Having become somewhat of a regular, my next adventure was Chicken Soutsemen (120 Rupees – $1.95), crispy, pan fried noodles covered in a gravy-like sauce chock full of vegetables and small chunks of chicken. It was savory, tasty, and very filling.

CombatCritic Gives Four Seasons Cafe 9 Out of 10 Bombs (Based on VALUE) … MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!




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Key Words: Four Seasons Cafe, four, seasons, cafe, season, restaurant, tibetan, Italian, pasta, mom, momos, food, menu, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, Dharmsala, Dharamsala, India, CombatCritic, travel, value

Gerda’s … Gut Food, Gut Value, Guten Appetit!


Gerda’s German Restaurant & Bakery
5180 Leavenworth St Omaha, NE 

A small, unassuming building on the outskirts west of downtown, with few parking options by the way, Gerda’s did not disappoint as was the case at the Bohemian Cafe the night before.

You enter through the bakery, which is bigger than it needs to be, and into the smaller dining room. The decor is dated, with the flags of Germany (Bavaria, etc) lining one wall, but the place is clean and functional. 

For $19.95 you get a three course meal … a beer of your choice, the Jägerschnitzel (complete with soup or salad, bread, and potato/spätzel), and your choice of dessert. The schnitzel alone is $16, a beer $6, and dessert around $4, so it is quite a value.

The salad was unassuming, a traditional German salad with dressed lettuce, potato salad, and sliced cucumbers, but the soup, a thick, meaty goulash, was superb!

The Jägerschnitzel was abundant and flavorful, a large pork cutlet battered and fried to golden perfection, then doused with brown Jâgermeister and mushroom gravy … YUM! I had the fried potatoes, crispy and well seasoned with salt and paprika, and my wife tried the käse spâtzel, the more traditional cheese covered potato dumplings, both of which were excellent.

The dessert options were extensive, being a bakery after all, but we are so full we got them to go. My wife ordered the Black Forest cake and I had the cherry tart. The cake was creamy and fresh and the tart crisp and yummy, the perfect accompaniment to a well done German meal although consumed several hours after the fact.

The service was friendly and attentive. My only complaints being the lack of a German brün bier or dünkel (dark beer), so I was forced to have an amber(?) Oktobefest that was not bad, not great, and the fact that the menu does not have all that many options (a wiener schnitzel cordon blu would be also be a welcome addition).


CombatCritic Gives Gerda’s 7 Bombs Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GUT!




Gerda's German Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Key Words: Gerda’s, German, bakery, restaurant, menu, food, Omaha, Nebraska, NE, schnitzel, Jaegerschnitzel, Jägerschnitzel, goulash, eat, dinner, lunch, CombatCritic, TravelValue


Malara’s: Scrambled Egg Carbonara?


Malara’s
2123 Pierce Street Omaha, NE 


Prices: $$$$$

With a dearth of good Italian restaurants in our hometown of Lawrence (Kansas), we decided to try Malara’s on a recent trip to Omaha after having read the rave reviews on Yelp. After our dinner, however, I am left wondering how this place ended up with 4 stars.


The place is huge and the decor a bit tacky, looking as if it has not been redecorated since the 1970’s. We were seated quickly, but ignored for the first ten minutes we were there. I had to grab a wine list from another table because I could not get the server’s attention, had I known whom he or she was.

Dinners come with a salad and although fresh, there was nothing but lettuce and that was drenched in an oil and vinegar dressing. The “bread” were rolls that looked as if they came out of a bag and heated in the oven.

My wife had the spaghetti carbonara ($11.95). The spaghetti was pretty good, advertised as being homemade, but the sauce was too oily and there was hardly any bacon in sight. Instead of adding raw egg to the finished dish before tossing the pasta, they added scrambled eggs, something I have never seen done before.

I had the veal parmigiana, ($16.95) which was not bad, but far from the best I have eaten. The portion size was adequate, the sauce pretty good, although a bit sweet for my taste, and the cheese melted to perfection. As is the case in most Italian (American) restaurants, there was far too much sauce on the pasta, but it tasted OK. When I asked the server if we could get some more bread, I was told that it would cost an “extra 25 cents each”, so we SPLURGED! Enough said.

Removing the scrambled egg carbonara and 25 cent bread rolls from the equation, I would have likely given Malara’s 5, maybe 6, bombs out of 10 for the very average food at reasonable prices (value). Lose the scrambled eggs and give folks an extra roll or two … is another 50 cents really worth upsetting customers over?


CombatCritic Gives Malara’s 4 Bombs Out of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!






Malara's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon








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