Portland, OR: I Adore Bargains And French Food, So I Loved Chez Machin!


Chez Machin

3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
Southeast Portland – Hawthorne, Sunnyside
Phone: (503) 736-9381
Website: chezmachin.com
Prices: $$$$


Chex Machin is a small place in the Hawthorne neighborhood of Portland, my two friends and I were the only diners at 5pm on a Sunday so we got all of the attention we required even if it was unenthusiastic.
Happy Hour runs from 3 to 6pm with a $3 cup of French Onion Soup, $6 Escargots and $5 Off bottles of wine. We got two orders of escargot, a cup of soup and a bottle each of a red Bordeaux and a white Riesling ($23 each after discount). We also ordered a Brie en Croûte ($9.95) off of the main menu as well as a Salade Lyonnaise ($9.95). The escargots were tender and full of buttery, garlicky goodness, but the server seemed to be hoarding the bread, bringing out tiny soup cups with 4-5 thin, small slices of baguette at a time. The brie, in puff pastry, was served with a berry compote and was tasty, but a bit underwhelming for the $10 price tag. The onion soup was good, but not the best I have had with more bread than cheese and the Lyonnaise salad scrummy with a poached egg on top of lettuce, crispy slab bacon, and croutons. 

We decided to order three different entrees in order to taste a bit of each. I had the Boeuf Bourguignon ($15.95) and my friends ordered the Steak Marchand de Vin ($24.95) and Chicken Cordon Bleu ($15.95). The chicken and steak came with green beans, but mine came solo although I did get a Salad Maison ($3) off the Happy Hour menu that was very good. The 10 ounce flatiron steak was tender, cooked a perfect medium, and served with a delicate burgundy cream sauce as well as au gratin potatoes and sautéed green beans. The cordon bleu was also very nicely done and the dijon cream sauce was the perfect accompaniment.

The waiter was efficient enough given that fact that we were his only table, but a bit stuffy for such a relaxed, casual bistro. The three of us ate and drank very well for the $141, plus tip, I paid for dinner. Oops, I forgot to tip the waiter … just kidding! He was rewarded handsomely even if he was lacking a personality, giving him the benefit of the doubt considering that he was young and probably had a long Saturday night.

CombatCritic Gives Chez Machin 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … They Would Have Received My Top Score Had The Waiter Been Slightly Friendly … More Bombs Are Better!
Nine Bombs Equates To:



Chez Machin
Chez Machin
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Portland, OR: I Adore Bargains And French Food, So I Loved Chez Machin!

Key Words:  Portland, OR, Oregon, French, Chez Machin, chez, machin, escargot, Hawthorne, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: OOH-RAH! = “U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm”
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Portland, OR: Do Not Miss This Swiss Delight In The Quaint Northeast Alberta Neighborhhod


Swiss Hibiscus

4950 NE 14th Avenue
Portland, OR 97211
Northeast Portland, King
Phone: (503) 477-9224
Website: swisshibiscus.com
Prices: $$$$

Located in the up-and-coming, trendy Alberta neighborhood of Northeast Portland, I was surprised by Swiss Hibiscus’ appearance, expecting an older chalet-style building adorned with flower boxes and Swiss flags, but it is housed in a small modern, multi-purpose building a half block off of the main Alberta Street drag on 14th. The restaurant is small with only six or so tables inside (seating around 25) and another three or four outside (if the Portland weather cooperates), bringing the maximum seating to around 40 diners. A reservation is a must during prime hours and can be made by calling the number above.

We started with the Swiss Fondue ($24) shared among three of us and there was plenty to go around. A blend of Swiss cheeses, white wine, and kirschwasser (a clear German cherry brandy), heated in a traditional fondue pot and served with plenty of chunky French bread pieces. It was a bit pricey, but delicious and as good as any fondue I have had.
For entrees, my friend’s wife had the Emince Zurichoise ($14.50), thin slices of pork sautéed in a mushroom cream sauce reminiscent of Zurich and accompanied by handmade spätzle. Each entree was preceded by a cup of soup de jour (a creamy potato leek) or house salad with their signature dressing and their crusty, piping hot French bread.

My friend Mike ordered the special of the day, Chicken Valaisanne ($17.50), two chicken breast halves smothered with sauteed tomatoes and onions and melted raclette cheese perched atop a bed of spinach and accompanies by their famous rösti, crispy Swiss hash browns infused with bacon and onions … YUM!

I had the traditional Wienerschnitzel ($14.50), breaded pork cutlets sautéed in and topped with browned butter. I ordered a side of the Zurichoise mushroom cream sauce ($2) for my schnitzel and rösti, a wise choice because it made for a perfect combination similar to the Rahmschnitzel sauce I have enjoyed in Germany on many occasions. The cutlets were smaller and thinner than most I have had, but after the fondue and soup, I was quite glad that they were not of the traditional behemoth variety and was able to finish my plate.

Schnitzel Sans Gravy

Schnitzel With Gravy

A delightful and fortunate find on Yelp, we enjoyed our meal immensely, the service was friendly and efficient, and the prices very fair for the quality of the menu offerings. The only drawbacks were the smallish size of the restaurant and the somewhat limited menu.

CombatCritic Gives Swiss Hibiscus A Nearly Perfect 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better

Nine Bombs Equates To:
“U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm”

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

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Swiss Hisbiscus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Swiss HibiscusSwiss Hibiscus


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Portland, OR: Do Not Miss This Swiss Delight In The Quaint Northeast Alberta Neighborhhod

Key Words: Swiss Hibiscus, Swiss, hibiscus, Switzerland, German, French, Austrian, Alberta, Portland, Oregon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Colorado Springs, CO: Inflexible, Prima Donna Chef Rubbed Me The Wrong Way … Au Revoir La Baguette


La Baguette
4440 N. Chestnut Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Phone: (719) 599-0686
Prices: $$$$

Having traveled extensively in France, I have come to love French food (we have none in Lawrence, Kansas) and have been wanting to try La Baguette since I was in the Springs for my mom’s passing and funeral in February 2015. Being my first return since then, I decided to take my son there for dinner on my last night before heading home.

Their prices were reasonable and the menu had all of my traditional favorites, including escargots, fondue, mussels, veal, beef Bourguignon, cassoulet, steak Diane and steak frites, but the side dishes were either boring or odd. For example, the veal dish, which sounds exquisite, comes with quinoa pilaf … yuck … and the beef Bourguignon is accompanied by boiled potatoes … blah, so I asked the very nice server if it were possible to substitute mashed potatoes or French fries for the quinoa or boiled potatoes. After all, we were going to blow a C-note on dinner for two, including appetizers, entrees, and a bottle of wine, so it seemed like a simple request. Well, I guess it was not because her answer was: “the chef doesn’t like substitutions, so mashed potatoes would be an additional $6”.

Six bucks to substitute mashed potatoes for quinoa, really? I was not hearing things because she confirmed it with an “I’m sorry, but those are the rules” look on her face. I was not about to eat quinoa pilaf with a lovely veal or boiled potatoes with a rich beef Bourguignon and I definitely was not paying an additional $6 for mashed potatoes, so we left. Their prima donna of a chef should think of his customers more than his vanity and pride, after all, La Baguette is a strip mall restaurant on Chestnut in Colorado Springs, not a bistrot on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Get a clue chef.

Being rather late and hungry, we stopped at Carrabba’s on the way back to Monument and blew a C-Note there, enjoying appetizers, entrees, and a bottle of wine, leaving satiated and content because they were more than happy to make substitutions without charging an extra arm and a leg. C’est la vie … au revoir La Baguette!

CombatCritic Gives La Baguette 2 Bombs Out Of 10 … The Only Reason They Did Not Get 1 Bomb Out Of 10 And A Spot On My WALL OF SHAME Was Because Of The Nice Female Server … More Bombs Are Better!
Two Bombs Equates To
“Tits Up” 

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: Colorado Springs, CO: Inflexible, Prima Donna Chef Rubbed Me The Wrong Way … Au Revoir La Baguette

Key Words: La Baguette, la, baguette, French, Bourguignon, escargots, France, Colorado Springs, Colorado, springs, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: Tango-Uniform = “Tits-Up”

Washington DC: Oui, Oui … French With A Kick … Mon Ami


Le Grenier

502 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
H Street Corridor/Atlas District/Near Northeast
Phone: (202) 544-4999
Website: legrenierdc.com

Excellent, reasonably priced French cuisine in a historic building just northeast of the Capitol, Le Grenier was a delight.

We were cheerfully accommodated while dropping in last minute on our way back to our room in eastern DC, having decided on French instead of German while en route. The service was excellent and the food tasty, not traditional French, but spicier with possible north African or Caribbean influences. The bread was OUT OF THIS WORLD, warm and soft on the inside, crispy on the out, we ate far more than would be reasonable … oops!

I had a glass of complimentary Shiraz, courtesy of a Yelp Check-In Offer (thanks Yelp!), to start things off as well as the Casserolette de Moules (mussels and melted leeks in a creamy saffron sauce – $6.75) for my appetizer and the Pissaladière (a caramelized onion tart with herbes de Provence, creamy goat cheese, and Kalamata olives – $8.75) for my wife. The mussels were delish, but there were just five and they were, surprisingly, still in the shell, so by the time I deshelled them, there was not all that much to eat. The tart was wonderful, savory and oniony … YUM, YUM!

My wife ordered the Paupiette de Veau ($20.95), “cumin infused ground veal with crimini and oyster mushrooms wrapped in cabbage and accompanied by wild rice and a green peppercorn velouté”. The dish was excellent albeit a bit too spicy for my non-heat-seeking spouse of Italian origin, so I had to finish it for her … poor me. I had the Terre é Mer ($22.95), described as “seared merguez sausage and shrimp over chorizo confit with a goat cheese sauce, sundried tomato and pine nut dust”, accompanied by saffron infused mashed potatoes. The sole sausage was extremely thin and, unfortunately, very dry, being topped with three small grilled shrimp. The chorizo confit actually came in a flaky pastry on the side, not over, making the dish difficult to eat. Trying to get a piece of the dry sausage, shrimp, the wonderful cheese sauce, the chorizo, and the extremely flaky pastry together in one bite, with a fork no less, was next to impossible. The few times I was able to mix the appropriate ingredients together in a single bite was heavenly, but most were masticated solo or in pairs, resulting in a less than thrilling culinary experience. 

By the time we were done, we were satiated and happy, the bill coming in at $100 more or less, including tip. Not bad for a nice meal in the big city, including appetizers, entrees and two (paid for) glasses of wine.

CombatCritic Gives Le Grenier 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

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TripAdvisor – Top Contributor

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

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Le Grenier Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Washington DC: Oui, Oui … French With A Kick … Mon Ami

Key Words: Le Grenier, le, grenier, Washington DC, Washington, DC, French, cuisine, food CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

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

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


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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! 






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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

Denver, Colorado: Le Central Is "Le Bombe"


Le Central (French)

112 E 8th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
Southwest, Capitol Hill
 
Phone: (303) 863-8094
Prices: $$$$$



Escargots En Brioche – $7

Le Central is one of my favorite restaurants … anywhere … and I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the 39 countries I have visited so far. I was in India a week ago, but found out that my mom was hospitalized and dying, so I made my way over a 72 hour period to be by her side in Colorado Springs when she died on February 12th, 2015. Long story short, I was taking my wife to the Denver airport so she could return to work and we decided to stop at Le Central for their Happy Hour menu.

We have been gone for seven years, but the place has not changed except for the being open in the afternoon with a limited, but exceptional menu. They offer a $3 glass of wine, escargots, crepes, their fabulous mussels and French fries (moules frites).
Moules Et Frites “Portugaise” – $12.95

I has a glass of pinot noir ($3), which was excellent, the escargots in brioche ($7), and the moules Portuguese ($12.95).  The pinot noir was dry, a deep red, and robust. The escargots were superb as usual and I mopped-up every last drop with the wonderful French baguette.  The Portuguese mussels were excellent with slices of chorizo and chunks of fresh tomato in the white wine based broth infused with garlic although the broth was not as plentiful as I would have liked as was the case in years past. The frites were excellent, perfectly salted and hot, but by the time I de-shelled all of my mussels, they were not as hot as I would have liked … DRAT!

The prices have gone up a bit since we were there last, but Le Central is still an outstanding value.  The service is always excellent, the food sublime and very reasonable, the wine list extensive, and the ambience country French.  If you have not tried Le Central, you do not know what you are missing!
CombatCritic Gives Le Central the Coveted 10 Out of 10 Bombs … Plus de Bombes Sont Mieux! (More Bombs Are Better)
 
 
Le Central on Urbanspoon







Read this review … and others … on Yelp (Elite ’14 and ’15) … UrbanSpoon … and TripAdvisor (Top Contributor)
 
Title: Le Central Is “Le Bombe”
 
Key Words: Le Central, le, central, French, France, restaurant, menu, escargots, wine, moules, frites, fries, Denver, Colorado, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Chez Yasu (Topeka, Kansas): Good, Overpriced French Cuisine With A Japanese Flare


Chez Yasu (Topeka, Kansas): Good, Overpriced French Cuisine With A Japanese Flare

Chez Yasu

2701 SW 17th St
Topeka, KS 66604
785-357-1003

Prices: $$$$$

A French restaurant in Topeka, Kansas with a Japanese chef? Seems a bit odd, but hey, it works!

We arrived exactly on time for our 7:30pm reservation, but had to wait 15 minutes for our table … STRIKE 1! While we waited, we had a view of the prep area where a server was taking cherry tarts out of a box that looked like something from Sam’s Club … STRIKE 2! The prices on the menu were significantly higher than the menu on their website … STRIKE 3! Normally an “out”, I have to admit that we enjoyed our dinner and may very well return to try Chez Yasu again … MAYBE.

Escargots
I love escargots (snails – $7.95 online, $8.95 in reality) and their buttery, garlicly goodness, rarely having the opportunity to order them in culturally challenged eastern Kansas, so I did (as an antipasto). Sans shells, they came six on a plate accompanied by a couple sliced mushrooms and doused with a savory garlic, parsley, and butter sauce. They were good, but nowhere near the best I have had and definitely some of the priciest at $1.50 a pop.

My wife had the potato and leek soup (potage – $3.95/$4.95) which apparently comes either hot or cold because when it arrived, it was ice-cold! We asked the server to please bring her the warm version. The soup was decent, moderately flavorful, but a little too watery for my taste. It could have been thicker with a bit more seasoning, but the bread made up for it. The server brought more freshly baked bread as needed and was actually one of the highlights of the night 

Poulet Saute

The Poulet Sauté, thinly sliced chicken breast served with a light teriyaki sauce ($16.95/$19.95 – also available with an herb or peppercorn sauce), was moist, light, and succulent with just enough teriyaki to flavor the dish without overpowering the poultry. I would have preferred the herb or peppercorn sauce in a French restaurant, but my wife does not appreciate pepper as much as I do and because she was eating it, I happily succumbed to her decision. The potatoes, not plentiful enough to last as long as the chicken, were light, good, and creamy and the green beans crisp with just enough butter and seasoning. In my opinion, $16.95 for a basic chicken dish is probably at the top of the scale, but $20 is excessive. Not a great value.


Boeuf Borguignon
Boeuf Borguignon ($21.95/$24.95), braised boneless beef short ribs, onions, and mushrooms in a red (burgundy, hence the name) wine reduction. Accompanied by the same mashed potatoes and fresh green beans, the plate was pleasing to the eye and very good. The burgundy sauce was perfect, but for such a small and inexpensive cut of meat, a couple mushrooms, potatoes, and beans, the price we paid was easily six times the food cost and again not a great value in my eyes. I believe the advertised $21.95 would be more appropriate and $19.95 would be a much better value, earning an extra bomb, maybe two in my book (or blog in this case).

The house wine (Root: 1), a deep red, full bodies Chilean cabernet with intense fruity tones was the perfect accompaniment to the boeuf borguignon, but at $28 it was the least expensive option on a small wine menu with most bottles coming in at $40 or more.

House Wine – Root 1 (Chile – $28)

Now do not get me wrong, I have no trouble paying top dollar (or Euro) for a top-shelf meal worthy of a Michelin Star or two, but Chez Yasu will not be getting that star any time soon. I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world … Brussels, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Tokyo, Seoul, Budapest, you name it … and although decent, this small French restaurant in Topeka, Kansas is overpriced in my opinion. By comparison, one of my favorite French restaurants, Le Central in Denver (Colorado) has a much more extensive and affordable wine list, a menu offering a comparable number of options (plus an elaborate offering of mussel dishes, with unlimited French fries by the way, for under $10) all under or close to $20, and superb cuisine prepared by real French chefs. In that comparison, Chez Yasu does not even come close, hence my rating of “value” ….



CombatCritic Gives Chez Yasu 6 Bombs Out of 10 … Les Bombes Sont Bon!


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Chez Yasu on Urbanspoon

Potato-Leek Soup
Fresh, French Bread Baguette
Copyright 2011-2014 – CombatCritic and 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC – All Rights Reserved


Key Words: 66604, beef, burgundy, chez, Chez Yasu, CombatCritic, eat, food, France, French, Kansas, restaurant, Topeka, travel, TravelValue, value, yasu

Eat At Joe’s


I haven’t been to Joe’s for years, but some of my fondest memories are of French dip sandwiches and French fries … I LOVE FRENCH FOOD … with my family and friends during regular visits to Santa Barbara from LA.

Joe’s has been in the same location on State Street since 1928 and, although redecorated, retains the bones and charm of a 1920’s California diner, counter (now bar) and all.

Looking at the recent photos, the French dips have not changed with chunks of prime rib piled high on a French roll (did I tell you I LOVE FRENCH FOOD?) accompanied by crispy French fries, au jus, and a side salad. I can taste the sandwich even though I am 1,500 miles away … YUM!

I have been to 39 countries since the first time I went to Joe’s, INCLUDING FRANCE SEVERAL TIMES, and enjoyed some of the best cuisine the World has to offer, but sometimes it is the simple things in life that stand out as the finest moments. I have never eaten anything EXCEPT the FRENCH DIP at Joe’s Cafe and even though I will likely return several more tines before I die, I will go with a smile on my face, having eaten nothing else at this Santa Barbara institution. GO TO JOE’S … have a French dip and tell them CombatCritic sent you!

CombatCritic Gives Joe’s Cafe 10 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD! 

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
DempseysBurgerPub.com
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

Taco Rico Is Cheap and Muy Bueno!


Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico: Taco Rico is a small restaurant where you order at the counter, then they bring you your food. Our hosts, Tony and Bonnie, recommended Taco Rico, so we had to give it a try. It’s a small place on Route 3 adjacent to a bar/ nightclub. The owners are very friendly and the men spoke limited English, so our poor Spanish was put to the test.

Tacos are $2, burritos $3.75-$5, burgers under $4. A whole meal including drink easily had for under $7.

The owners were very friendly and the men spoke limited English, so our poor Spanish was put to the test. The microwave was broken, thank heavens, so quesadillas and burgers weren’t an option. So we went with the namesake tacos,

The shells were pre-fab, but the cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce were fresh and the meat flavorful. I had a beef burrito and at $3.75 was a great tasting value with beef, beans, lettuce, tomato and cheese. The salsa was “butt-burning” good, coming in a squeeze bottle.

For two dinners, a soft drink and two cervezas the bill came to under $15. Simple and unobtrusive, Taco Rico is nothing fancy, but was a very good value, hence my rating …

CombatCritic Gives Taco Rico 7 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBAS ARE BUENAS!

Key Words: Taco Rico, taco, rico, rich, burrito, hamburger, French, fries, travel, value, CombatCritic, TravelValue, Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico, 

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

Come with me to the Casbah, we’ll make beautiful music together!


Come with me to the Casbah, we’ll make beautiful music together!

The Burger Stand at The Casbah
803 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044

Phone: (785) 856-0543
Web: http://thecasbahburgerstand.com/THE_BURGER_STAND.html

Hours: Mon-Sat 11AM to 10PM; Sun 11AM to 9PM

We walked into the Casbah during FINAL FRIDAYS in October because I had heard good things about their food, but there was a line a mile long and a strange smell in the air, not food-borne and not in a good way. We were again in the area the other night, a Thursday, and decided to drop-in and give them a smell and a try. The aroma this time was more conducive to our appetite, so we continued in to place our order.

Orders are taken at the end of the bar furthest from the door, a location backed by a large chalkboard with menu items packed in so tightly it is a bit difficult to read. The bar is a bit of a dive, but that is a good thing because I am NOT a metro-sexual, feeling homey and full of locals with long hair, jeans, and t-shirts. The decor is eclectic to say the least, a smattering of nondescript accouterments, booths, tables, and bar stools in a semi-dark room.

Being our first visit I decided to go with the CLASSIC BURGER ($7.50), a 1/2 pound of beef on a brioche bun with Vermont white cheddar cheese and assorted locally grown greens. Thinking it strange that a so-called “classic” burger did not come with tomato, onion, or pickle, I chose to add bacon ($1.50 extra) and tomato (no charge). Ordered medium-well, when I picked-up our order at the kitchen window in the rear of the building (not an intuitive location, it took me a few seconds to figure out where to go), my burger was almost perfectly cooked. For a 1/2 pound ground beef patty, it seemed small to me (more like 1/3 of a pound) and the cheese appeared almost non-existent. The “greens” consisted of 7-8 small pieces of arugula, not nearly enough, and the tomato, although fresh and tasty, was cut too small and was difficult to keep from falling out and onto my plate. Even still, the burger was very tasty!

Offering a variety of “fries”, you have a choice of “regular” (side – $1.50/basket – $4), fried in “duck fat” ($2.50/$6), “truffle” ($3/$7), “sweet potato” ($3/$6), “Cajun” ($3/$5), and “bourbon-bacon cheddar” ($4/$8). Again, being my first visit I wanted to keep things as simple and traditional as possible to see if they get the basics right, so we ordered a basket of regular fries. They came out of the kitchen piping-hot, crispy, not burnt, and salted to perfection. I have heard good things about the truffle and duck fat fries, so I will give them a try on future visits … and there will be future visits!

My wife, who prefers vegetarian options when available, went with the “Romesco”, a lentil patty with feta cheese, toasted almonds, green beans, and roasted red pepper sauce on a brioche bun (made in-house I believe). The lentil burger was delicious and flavorful, but a bit too dry and falling apart as teeth were sunk. Green beans on a burger you ask? I asked myself the same thing and thought it a bit strange with little value added from my standpoint. I like feta, but such a dry cheese on such a dry burger probably is not the best combination and the burger could have been enhanced by a softer, more flavorful variety, gouda perhaps.

The Burger Stand at The Casbah was an enjoyable experience and a reasonable value, coming in at a bit over $25 for two of us, including two draft beers ($3 each on special). The menu could have a few more options with only 6 burger options along with a Catfish Po Boy and 4 vegetarian options. They also offer onion rings ($4/$7), root beer floats ($4), malts ($5), and shakes ($5). Not a daily staple, a good burger and fries are always a welcome combination and The Burger Stand does an excellent job on both!

CombatCritic Gives The Burger Stand at The Casbah 7 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: burger, stand, Casbah, hamburger, French, fries, shake, malt, root beer, food, eat, bar, saloon, dive, Massachusetts, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue, eZine


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