Thursday, November 22, 2012

WTF: No More Keg Chicken??!!

Yes, this is somewhat old news, but frankly, I am still a bit frazzled by it.  For years, we here in River City have been the beneficiaries of a great fried chicken arch rivalry.  If you needed any proof that competition is good for consumers, you needed look no further than Bob's and The Keg for fried chicken.  Both delicious and prepared well.  I preferred the Keg, personally.

The Keg was once an east-side institution.  I recall when it was located on the corner of East 10th Street and Bahnson Avenue.  The location is now a Mint Casino.  It may have been located somewhere else in that general area.  I will have to ask one of of my forkie friends who grew up in Hilltop.  At some point, the Keg moved to the strip mall near the southeast corner of 26th and Sycamore.  Probably not as truly Keggy as the original location, but a neat place to visit.  Every so often when I found myself jonesing for a fried chicken fix, I would wander over to the Keg, occupy a bar stool, order a cold beer, and place an order to go.  The Keg bar, was ALWAYS entertaining.  There were some regular patrons there who easily could have supplied The Jerry Springer Show with months of material.  Loved it.

But alas, it was not to last.  The first only step in what we might call the rise and fall of the Keg was the opening of a second, freshly-constructed location at the T-intersection of 57th and Marion.  Looked nice enough.  I never went in there.  Why would I when I can visit the highly entertaining and conveniently located east side location?  But then, the east side location closed and became the Overtime, yet another sports bar and grille.  This would be the start of the "fall" part of the Keg.  I have never figured out what happened here, but I have theories.  Personally, I think some rocket scientist thought that shiny new 57th and Marion location would be located conveniently enough for those east sider disciples of boasted poultry to hop on 57th and cruise on over.  Buzzzzzz.  Wrong!  And what do we have for our contestants, Johnny?  Not fried chicken!

No one asked me.  I could have told anyone this would happen.  57th and Marion is a virtual dead zone for eating joints.  Need proof?  Exhibit one: Big City Burrito.  Exhibit two: Phillies.  Exhibit three: Inca Express.  Next victim: Zaroty.  (More on that later.)  Only one thing flies in that particular location.  Booze- on-sale and off-sale.  Fogie's, Billy Frog, and the Lie-brary.  I know Sioux Falls isn't THAT big, but it's big enough that people ain't driving from 18th and Bahnson to 57th and Marion.

So, congratulations, Bob, for your Clucking Good victory in the fried chicken battle.  Only a matter of time before I suspect you overtake Sneaky's, apparently a Sioux City institution strategically located in a gas station on West 12th Street.  Besides such a swell location, did I mention Sneaky's is another Sioux City import?  Like Luciano's.  And we all know how I feel about that.

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Portion Size and Food Packaging

I heard some good advice the other day about loading up a Thanksgiving plate with all those traditional goodies: If you can't see the china pattern through the food, you took too much.  This is advice I actually follow.  Thanksgiving is a tough one, mainly because someone in my family insists on an early meal.  At no other time during any given year, do I consume so many calories during one meal and so early in the day.  And, after getting up early and preparing a turkey and some sides, I usually end up conked out for several hours following the meal.  Eating like this probably works for Hutterites or crab fisherman, who have actually been working for 7 or 8 hours before 1:00 PM, but for those of us who don't, it's a challenge.  So, I try to follow the advice of looking for the china pattern through the food and eat a little less, or a lot less as the case may be.

Speaking of portion size, unless you live under a very large, moss-covered rock located in the middle of say, Haakon County, then you have probably noticed some of the shenanigans going on with portion size. The portion-creep has been occurring for years in the grocery stores.  Here is what I am talking about.  If you are over say, the age of 35, a square, cardboard container of your favorite ice cream is generally referred to as a half-gallon.  That's what it was in 1967, 1972, and 1989.  Today, it looks the same, so it must be a half-gallon, two quarts, 64 ounces, right?  Wrong.  Don't believe me?  Go open the freezer.  3.75 quarts.  That is 0.25 quart, a/k/a 8 ounces, a/k/a one cup short of a half gallon.  BUT, the price is in line as if that was still a half-gallon container.

This sort of thing is going on all through the aisles of groceries.  Things look the same, and they are priced the same, but they are not the same.  Check out sugar packaging like my favorite economist blogger, who also happens to love food and cooking, Meghan McArdle, has to say about this.  Here.  Call it what you will, it's a price increase that producers and distributors are trying to obfuscate.  Personally, I am waiting to see if these packaging pirates can figure out how to sell you 10 eggs for the price of a dozen in a package that makes you think you are still getting 12 eggs.  Stay tuned for that one.

Well, the very same thing is occurring under our very noses in restaurants here in River City.

Example One.  The first example, I am guessing, has been noticed by many folks.  I call it "The Great Jumbo Wing-Ding" at Buffalo Wild Wings.  As you may recall, I loves me some B-Dubs wings.  If you've been to B-Dubs like twice in your life and ordered wings, ( and I mean traditional wings, not the McNuggets) then you probably have it in your mind that they are priced per 6 wings.  Or, were, as it turns out.  B-Dubs decided to start delivering different product, a so-called JUMBO wing.  And, true that, the wings were bigger.  However, the geniuses in accounting on the 38th floor of B-Dub Tower decided that those wings were so JUMBO and over the top huge and generously sized, that it was necessary to reduce the allotted portion from the relatively standard SIX wings to FIVE, because hell, you are getting as much or more fried, sauced, gooey protein and chicken skin per order at the same price.  Maybe.

But there's a twist to this story.  First, as the SSS and I can both attest, the bigger JUMBO wings sucked.  Some fried chicken wing magic seems to get lost in that marginal up-sizing.  They never seemed cooked as well or sauced to specs.  Second, and it's extremely difficult to tell whether this was the plan all along concocted in the B-Dub Board room on the 65th floor of B-Dub Tower, or whether it was a reaction to bitching, but the wing size has been dialed back to the more standard sized wing.  What didn't dial back up?  The portion size.  Still FIVE wings.  Seems like it would have been a hell of a lot easier to just scootch up the price and leave the damned wings as they were.  Do the math next time you are in there.  About a buck a wing.

Example Two.  I don't eat chicken wings all the time.  Those things will kill you for crying out loud.  So, the other day, a couple of us decide to hit Chevy's for lunch.  I run hot and cold on Chevy's, but one thing I can always count on there is the Santa Fe Chopped salad with the apple chipotle vinaigrette.  Pretty good salad and always made pretty well.  Cold, crisp romaine lettuce, avocado, some blue cheese, roasted corn, red bell pepper, a little bacon and some grilled chicken.  Seriously, a pretty nice salad.

So, when we were at Chevy's, it appears a new menu is out.  It seems Chevy's has been screwing with their lunch menu for an extended period of time.  Sure enough, the Santa Fe Chopped Salad remains on the menu.  And, it is available in a regular entree size for just shy of 12 bucks, or a luncheon-sized portion for, I believe, $6.99.  Well, it's lunch, so let's have the luncheon size.  I suspected we would be sorry we did this, and, as usual, I should have listened to my gut instinct.

Turns out the luncheon size, which you'd expect to be about half the size of the regular portion, (the math certainly suggests that) was really along the lines of a side salad.  Small salad/pasta bowl holding a damned small salad.  Less than a handful of romaine with about a tablespoon each, maybe, of the other goodies.  I suspect if the two of us would have combined our two luncheon sized salads, we would have had about half to two-thirds of the regular salad.  Total rip off.  Next time, we'll order the regular size and two forks.

One of my golden standards for a good restaurant is consistency.  It's important to know exactly what you are going to get in terms of quality AND quantity for a given price.  That means when it comes to portion size, the best thing to do is to adopt Ron Popeil's slogan for the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie: Set it and Forget it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I See Starz! New Sportz Bar Open!

I happened to be driving down 57th Street today around noon and noticed Starz, the new sports bar in the former Joey's Seafood location is now open.  I know from intrepid research that Starz is billed as an old-school sports joint.  Music from the 50s and 60s and old-school beers on tap.

Well, as I mentioned, the soft opening was today.  So, what the fork, we stopped in.

The place looks good inside.  Darker than Joey's (if you can remember back to then).  There is dark brick on the walls, a good parcel of TVs and sports memorabilia all over the walls.  A lot of it is comprised of covers of old sports magazines from the 50s and 60s.  Pretty cool looking joint.

Nice parcel of beers on tap, including several that you just don't see around, like Hamm's, PBR, Old Style, and Schlitz.  And, of course, the standards that no bar should be without, like Miller Lite.  It's easy to poo-poo beers like Schlitz and Grain Belt, but seriously, if you haven't tried them lately, especially on tap, you are missing out.  Give them a try.

Menu is interesting.  Exciting?  Not to me, but interesting.  The good news is, it's not the same old same old that you will find in almost any other sports bar joint.  The bad news is, you aren't going to recognize the stuff.  Yes, there are burgers, available in single, double and triple patty form.  With fries (not as good as the Coalinga) or potato salad.  Baskets of fried potatoes or tater tots, even made into nachos, if you think your arteries can handle it.  Appetizers that include gizzards.  Winner!  Then it gets kind of off the path.  There are hot dogs on the menu, which is something I do not think of ordering when I go out to eat. There are also interesting combinations of things like pot roast with cheddar on Texas toast.  Or a meatloaf sandwich.  Amazingly, I think thee guys managed to really nail the whole old-school thing.  If I hit a joint in 1962, I'd expect exactly these goods and exactly these beers.

So, Starz managed to defy the sports bar mold here in River City.  The questions I have are these:  (1) Are people gonna go for it?  (2) If so can Starz make it in this goofy, hard to get into location.  I am excited to find out.

P.S.  For weeks, I have thought that the whole Starz logo is pretty much a trademark rip off of an old, long defunct beer label: Storz.  I know this only by virtue of a bottle opener that my beer-drinking grandparents owned during the hey day of such beers.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sushi Masa. Alive and Kicking (Ass).

What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

I don't necessarily get downtown as much as I want to sometimes.  Especially for fish, and especially for lunch.  But when I want fish downtown, I immediately think of Sushi Masa.  Damned good stuff.

Well, of late, I have been confused.  I have heard that, perhaps, GASP, Sushi Masa is closed.  (Sorry, Cory, you confused the hell out of me there.) Say it ain't so, Fume, say it ain't so!

Well, turns out Sushi Masa is only closed for lunch.  Not dinner.  Matter of fact, I just finished an amazing dinner here and am very happy to report that any rumors of the demise of Sushi Masa are most definitely premature.

So, get downtown and get that raw fish!

Monday, September 3, 2012

WTF: Kid In Bars

It occurs to me that there is such a thing here in South Dakota that I would call the "Family Bar."  Face it, if you find yourself off of I-90 of I-29, especially if more than by, say, 20-30 miles, you are going to find yourself in a small town.  Chances are, that if the town is franchise free (including grocery stores), then there might be a place that serves food.  But, that place is also probably the town bar. So, if you are going to eat, bowl, play video lottery, shoot pool, watch football on the NFL Package, or play Golden Tee, this is it.  Chances further are, the kids who are running around the joint are related to you or are kids of friends you know or at least like.

In Sioux Falls, this isn't true.  At all.  We have places where families can eat, and mommie and daddy can get some alcohol- think Granite City, Applebees, Olive Garden, or any other number of places.  But, there are also places that are more bar, or all bar, that just happen to serve food.  I am thinking of places like T.C.'s Referee, Cherry Creek or The Attic.  Most of these places try to have a couple "sides" of the joint, i.e. a bar side versus the restaurant side.  Granted, this is even better since the smoking ban because no place was really smoke free previously.  This is great if you like to have your kids experience bar food.  It's bad, however, if you like bar sans kids.

Look, I have a simple plea:  If you bring your kids to a place where adults (21, or so, and up) are hanging out drinking, eating, and doing whatever, please control your forking kids.  I am sure they are really adorable and all.  I am sure grandma and grandpa love them.  I am sure they are harmless.  BUT, I don't want them forking with a dart game I have going with the SSS because they are intrigued by the lights and sounds.  And, I don't want to teach your kids new vocabulary words.  (Think of things that rhyme with "Duck" and especially things that rhyme with "Mother Ducker.")

If you are going to bring your kid(s) to a bar here in Sioux Falls, for the forking love of God, exercise a great deal of parental control.  Watch them.  Don't allow them to run around with a dollar to put in any flashing machine without supervision,  And, whatever you do, do NOT just let them roam.  I am sure your kids are lovely.  But think of it this way: If you take your kids to a sitter so you and a few other friends or couples friends can have a diner party at your house, don't turn your little darlings loose on me in my bar.

Am I clear?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Check This Out: Khorasan Kabob House

Okay, so I got to tell you about this place.  The SSS and I have recently been on a mission to go to places to eat that we talk about, but don't seem to ever actually visit.  Big hit this last week at Khorasan Kabob House.

Khorasan is located across from the Western Mall at 41st and Elmwood.  The location was previously occupied by Troika, a European grocery store and eatery.  Okay, it's an old 7-11.  No Slurpees anymore, but I did see a mango lassi or two make their way by.

The decor is nothing to brag about.  The interior of the restaurant is small and the decor fairly sparse.  There is a great collection of carpets in the dining room.  But trust me, you aren't going to care about the decor.

The food is Asian in the sense that India and Afghanistan is part of Asia.  Sure, as the name promises, kabobs are available and there is the omnipresent Butter Chicken on the menu, but there are also several highly authentic Afghan and Indian dishes on the menu.  Make sure you try some roti with your meal and also be sure to get the stuffed grape leaves for an appetizer.  The entrees are reasonably priced and really tasty.  One word of caution, though.  If you can't navigate the anatomy of a chicken that has been cut into about 15 pieces, bone on, then you might want to look at lamb or beef dishes.

Get in there and try it, though.  Super good stuff.  And while you are at it, get yourself out of your usual routine.  There is a ton of great food here in Sioux Falls.  Go try it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Holy Forking Clairvoyance, Batman!

We are clearly into extreme bonus material here.  On August 21, I wrote this.  The very next day, the professional journalists over at The Atlantic Wire posted this.  Well, you're totally welcome, Atlantic.

You'd think it was Secret Fork Day or something.

Bummer! It's a Bugger of a Burger Brain Buster!

Check it out, Forkies.  Two posts in the same day!

I have been thinking a LOT about burgers lately.  I love burgers.  Good burgers.  Especially burgers with eggs.  And burgers with jalapenos.  I love going new places for burgers.  Last week, the SSS and I found an interesting array of burgers at Rookie's.  Kind of a typical west-sidey sport's bar, but nice effort on the burger varieties!

So, while thinking a lot about burgers, I noted there are several schools of thought when it comes to burgers.  For, instance:

  • Meat.  Ground beef, of course, but not necessarily.  I like a fattier blend of good ground beef.  80-20 (check) is about right.  You need to have some fat to get the flavor.  It mostly cooks out and self-bastes the burgers.  Ground pork can make for an interesting burger, as well.  Lamb? Sha-BOOM!  However, being a native South Dakota and very beef-centric, I gravitate to beef burgers,  Lately, I have been obsessed with trying to figure out a proper blend of chuck, brisket, and short ribs, and that leads me to the sub topic of:
    • Grinding.  Got yourself a grinder yet?  Why not??!!  These are serious fun.  Find the one your grandma had, or buy one for a Kitchen Aid mixer, or if all else fails, use a sharp knife.  Personally, I'd avoid the Cuisinart for this.  Seriously, the motor will make the meat warm.  Start with cuts of whole meat- chuck roast, sort ribs, or whatever is on sale.  Keep things cold- put the grinder parts in the freezer.  Work fast.  You will be rewarded with ground beef that you won't think twice about cooking to medium rare and have opened the door to hours of cooking fun.
  • Thickness.  Self explanatory.  Thick, like half-pound plus patties, or thin ones of, say, a quarter pound or less that are patted very thin.  Obviously, the thick puppies are easier to cook to lower temps like medium rare, but the thinness have advantages, too.  Think multiple patties.
  • Additional stuff in the burger.  This can be a simple proposition that includes things like lots of dry seasonings and marinades, to more complicated ingredients like onions, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh herbs, to stuffing patties with cheese or other ingredients (the so-called Jucy Lucy).
  • Cooking method.  Open grill? Flames kissing the patty.  Griddle?  A flat hot surface that lends itself to a crispy crust.  Personally, I like hot flat cast iron for thinner patties and the open grill for thicker patties.
  • Cheese.  Why wouldn't you have cheese on a burger?  Seriously.
  • Toppings. Sometimes, it is hard to beat simple.  Ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onion.  But sometimes, it is hard to avoid a little more complicated, aka the Jimmy Buffet burger, which for me means all the previous toppings, plus lettuce and tomato, and Heinz 57 sauce.  (Try it! Make sure you also have a big Kosher pickle and a cold draft beer.)  And, of course, there are the uber complicated toppings.  Think sauteed greens in balsamic vinegar, grilled onions, sun dried tomatoes, wild mushrooms, runny eggs, aged cheeses, other meats, etc, etc.  Here are examples of what I mean along these lines.  Next time you are in Vegas, go there.
  • Buns.  Brioche, potato rolls, foccacia, whole grain, pita bread, ciabatta.  So many choices.  The bun can totally change the whole vibe of any burger.  But, no matter what, it must be toasted.
Sides?  That's a whole other post.  Hell, fries alone is almost a series of posts.  But, if you want a really good fry right now? Go to Jane's Little Coalinga.  

So many great burger options and we have lots of great places to try them here in Sioux Falls.  Get out and try them.  Let me know what you think.

Forking A!! I am like Nostradamus.

I was thinking about my recent Spezia post when it occurred to me that I had written this gem, a few years ago.  So, yeah, I am feeling a tad smug right now.

Let's see what you can do, Riccardo!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

WTF: Can I Get Some Help Here?

As mentioned previously, one thing that really bends my tines is when people add an apostrophe s ('s) to any restaurant name, regardless of whether that's the name of it or not.

Well, I just happened to visit Spezia for the first time in quite a while for dinner and noticed this gem hanging on the front door:

Note the spelling.  Granted, this particular poster is an advertisement for Angry Orchard cider and was most likely printed up by the distributor to promote the product.  But, REALLY!

In related news, dinner sucked.  With the exception of decently priced salads for lunch, these guys are sucking air.  I made the utter mistake of ordering pasta in a place that tries to feature Italian food.  The pasta was blah.  The arrabiata sauce was more than vaguely reminiscent of a too-sweet jarred pasta sauce.  I am not sure why I was asked how I wanted the steak on it cooked, because I got medium well and it was cold to boot.  Utter fail.

Interestingly enough, it appears Riccardo Tarabelsi is back as manager.  He was GM at Westward Ho Country Club.  Not sure what happened there, but I am hoping he can turn the place around and up a notch or two.  Rumor has it, he is revamping the wine list to feature, GASP, Italian wines.  There's a thought.  I hope to see some good things.  This town needs some decent Italian.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Deadly Sin of Gluttony

I stopped in at  local watering hole for a little libation.  I perused the menu and noticed this:

It's a challenge item, which I presume means the softball team cannot come in and order this concoction.  Instead, if one chooses to accept the mission, you order it and try to hork it down in 45 minutes.  That's a lot of food, all of which will add plenty plaque to the old arteries.  Eating all that, fast mind you, should also present a certain level of crisis to the old g.i. tract.

I understand there are other challenges in town.  Like this.  (Thanks Cory!  BTW: Check out Food Falls!) Eat a bunch of stuff fast and immortalize yourself on the old Wall O Fame.

This trend, if it is one, is the natural consequence of television shows like Man v. Food with Adam Richman.  Or, the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest featuring the likes of Joey Chestnut and that guy from Japan who battle to see how many hot dogs can be downed in a certain amount of time.

Whatever this trend is, it's stupid.  And, if I may say so, a little shameful.  It's just gluttony.  Here in the United States, we are absolutely blessed with an over abundance of food.  Good, wholesome, pride of producer grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood, and animals-- and not just the overly processed crap that we turn all of it into.  We have it much better than the rest of the world.  The fact we are too arrogant or stupid to realize and respect that is a whole different topic.  I digress.

To me, gluttony implies a notion that one can obtain so much that one can be as wasteful as one wants, to the point where one really doesn't care about the fact others go without.  That's a sin.  It should be.  Really, watching an eating contest on television where competitors see how many hot dogs they can down in 5 or 10 minutes and beaming it around the world somehow instills patriotic pride?

This kind of thing is just stupid.  Sincerely.  Eat three pounds of chips and waffle fries?  Complete with yellow cheese goo?  That's a challenge?  I decline.

Monday, August 6, 2012

WTF: Sushi Gone Wild

In case you haven't noticed, Sioux Falls has apparently gone absolutely ape over raw fish.  There was a time when you could only get it at Sushi Masa.  Now you can get it at the Empire Mall.  A breakfast/lunch joint (Whisk & Chop) closes and a sushi joint opens in its place.  I was driving down a stretch of W. 41st Street yesterday and noticed yet another sushi and hibachi joint opening in a strip mall.  Seriously, what the hell is going on and how much of this can this town support?

I was wondering exactly that when I went to lunch today.  Yes, a Monday.  As much as I don't believe in ever eating sushi on a Monday, the Secret Soup Spoon had a real sushi jones going.  So, we hit the 57th and Louise branch of Tokyo right at noon.  Normally there is a sign on one of the two doors at most Tokyo restaurants advising diners to "Use Another Door."  No sign today and you couldn't use any door.  Hmmmmm.

Like I said the SSS was craving sushi, so off to Fuji at 41st and Kiwanis.  Noon.  Hardly anyone in the place.  Either the SSS and I are among the half dozen idiots, or so, who eat sushi on a Monday or this town has hit the saturation point.

Any info?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dog Days of Summer at the Farmer's Market

Summer. Among other things that means Farmer's Market here in River City.  The Farmer's Market has really caught on here.  Which is good.  Really.  Supporting local producers of great product is critical to the viability of the local agricultural community.  Take care of these people and you will always have a good source of good potatoes, beets, flowers, etc.   And the community has done a great job of making sure there is a great location for the producers to come sell the bounty of their harvests.  The facility is beautiful and fairly functional.  Mostly.

Unfortunately, getting decent produce is now somewhat of a competitive sport.  Here are a few tips and bitches about the whole situation. Okay.  One tip.  Three bitches.

First.  Timing.  If you want the good stuff, you better get yourself down there early.  Now that the whole world knows what heirloom tomatoes are, if you want some, you better have a few in your bag before 8 AM or you are gonna be looking at some slim pickings.

Second.  Bikes.  Yes, it is a good idea to ride one's bike with a basket full of re-usable grocery sacks down to the Market to purchase organic, locally-grown produce.  Here's a tip, though, lock your damned bike up somewhere.  Is it really necessary to push your bike through the Market, which is notoriously packed with lookie-loos and the chronically indecisive?  You are blocking traffic and really bending my tines.

Third.  People with dogs.  Look, I love dogs.  I own a dog.  I do NOT bring my lovable, friendly, well-behaved dog to the Farmer's Market.  Is it really necessary that you bring yours?  I really don't want the guilt of stepping on your tea cup Yorkie while trying to get to the decent cucumbers.  Leave the damned dog at home.

Fourth.  Non-food items.  Look, I want some decent golden beets and maybe a loaf of something from the German guy.  If I wanted a hand-made bracelet, I'd probably think Sidewalk Arts or swap meet.  Get to gardening or go home.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bahn Mi Me, Please

I owe my recent infatuation with Vietnamese food to my good friend, the Secret Soup Spoon.  The SSS introduced me to Saigon Panda years ago for noodles.  I love a good bowl of pho or noodles or fresh spring rolls.  And, we are fortunate to have a pretty decent selection of Vietnamese eateries here in Sioux Falls.  (Although, I must tell you, if you want the really good stuff, you need to wrangle an invitation to an Asian friend's house for dinner when the friend's mother is willing to whip up a batch of the Real McCoy.)

What we do not seem to have, however, is a place that will crank out a Bahn Mi sandwich.  I have seen recipes for these things over the years, but never tried one from a bona fide Vietnamese place. 

So, what is this sandwich?  From what my research reveals, it starts with a crusty French roll onto which sliced pork or maybe grilled chicken is piled.  I've seen recipes that also call for some liver pate.  It is garnished with pickled vegetables- onions, carrots- and also maybe some cucumbers and cilantro for sure.  It is also going to need some of that good sweet-sour-salty-spicy sauce concocted with fish sauce, and other such ingredients.  This whole thing sounds tasty beyond belief.

I found a close approximation the other day on the seasonal menu at Grille 26.  There is is called a Thai pork sandwich with slaw.  It's on ciabbata bread, no pate, no cilantro, but damn, that is one tasty sandwich, Vincent!  In fact, this is how good it was . . . Even the SSS, who is ordinarily not really excited about Grille 26, ordered the sandwich and RAVED about it.  High praise indeed.

So, get to Grille 26 and get that sandwich.  And, if anyone knows where to find a more authentic Bahn Mi here in Sioux Falls, speak up.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Egg (Burger) and I

I recall an episode of one of Tony Bourdain's television shows where he was eating some sort of sandwich and commented to his companion that there is probably no food item that cannot be improved by the addition of a runny egg.  So true.

Case in point: The Croque Madame.  What is it?  A ham and cheese sandwich, of course.  Well, actually, the Croque Monsieur is the ham and cheese sandwich.  Good bread,  (brioche, if possible) good swiss cheese, good ham, and mornay sauce toasted in clarified butter.  But if that doesn't tighten up your chest, serve it open faced and add a couple of eggs over the top.  Voila! Croque Madame.  I am telling you, there is just something about letting that golden yellow egg yolk ooze all over the cheese and ham and soak into the bread.  Phenomenal.

As it turns out, that oozy, gooey yolk can also work wonders on the most American of sandwiches, the burger.

I recall way back when the Hamburger Inn was a little joint that served small burgers or dogs at the counter on waxed paper.  There were several Fenn's ice cream signs on the wall.  That place was the best.  It was one of those places you were kind of scared to eat at until you tried it.  I miss that place so much.  I vaguely recall the option to have a fried egg on a burger and I recall thinking, "who the hell would do something like that?  Yuck!"  Oh, how foolish.

In more recent history, the definitive place to get an egg burger has been the Little Coalinga on 8th and Indiana.  If you haven't been there, drop everything and go.  Now.  The Colinga is THE definitive dive bar in Sioux Falls.  (Sorry, Crow Bar.  If you were still at 22nd or Minnesota, you'd have a shot.)  The Coalinga is divine.  Cold beer.  Strong drinks.  Great food- especially burgers, a great juke box, and great people hanging around.  The owner, Jane, is the best.  Get to know her.  But anyway, yes, egg burger.

The most recent egg burger addition to Sioux Falls?  JL Beers on Phillips Avenue.  JL Beers is tiny- 47 seats.  Many beers on tap and more in bottles.  Great burger.  These aren't whopping half pounders, but smallish all beef patties cooked on a flat top grill.  And they are cooked lightening fast.  You probably can't finish a pint of beer before your burger is delivered.  Hot, juicy beef on a bun that feels like a feather pillow.  And, yes, the option to get a Humpty Dumpty- a cheese burger with egg.  I added grilled onions to mine for like another 75 cents.  One interesting commentary on the JL menu.  Burgers are cheap- about four bucks.  But there's a catch.  If you want some fries, they are separately ordered.  Actually, the friendly server will probably recommend you try the chips- a potato that has been spiral cut and fried up.  They are seasoned with jalapeno cheese seasoning or seal salt.  Those are $2.39.  And you ain't done yet- one more potential up charge coming- dip.  For another buck sixty nine you can get ranch, cajun, etc and for a buck ninety nine you can get cheese sauce.  So, that cheap burger just rang up to over seven dollars with the fries.  Anyway, it's good.  Try one.  Get there early and sit at the bar.  Oh, and drink beer, because you are going to pay $1.50 for a bottle of water.  Damned good burger.

The Attic has a couple of eggy additions to their menu.  There is a burger known as the Artery Clogger that features an egg and peanut butter.  Not bad, but the peanut butter is an odd contrast to the egg.  Attic has great burgers- nice and thick and lots of fresh toppings.  I think there is also an egg on the Triple Bypass- a burger sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches.  That's just stupid.

But, although the egg burger is great, I must confess I generally have one problem with the way they are prepared around these parts.  They are cooked hard.  Basic fried egg. Yolk set and hard.  Delicious and packed with protein, but man, oh, man, how much better it would be if that yolk would only ooze all over a juicy pink in the middle hot burger.

Monday, March 19, 2012

WTF: Hy Vee at 26th and Sycamore

Okay, okay, yes, it has been a while again. Life interferes with my leisure waaaaay too much. And, yes, this post is about Hy Vee, which has become the red-headed step-child of the Fork since the Argus pulled its head out of the paper box and stopped writing really stupid food columns. Wow! I miss those days! At any rate, here is the latest on my least favorite grocer redux.

From what I can tell, the remodel may be done. Maybe. I don't see any construction guys around, but I think someone is still moving grocery items just to screw with people.

So, as you can tell by the title of this post, the point is what is bad about the 26th and Sycamore remodel. But, before I start hacking away, I like to try to give credit where credit is due.

So, what is good about the place?
  • The Pharmacy area is pretty nice.
  • The organic/natural food area is well organized.
  • I like smelling the bath salts near the registers. Maybe I will by some and soak my tines soon.
  • The cheese counter is nice. Won't find that at the Taj Mahal of Hy Vees at 37th and Minnesota. That's nice. Of course, the cheese is pretty pedestrian. The day I buy Epoisses there, I will recant this.
  • Much nicer deli and eat-in food area, if you feel inclined to eat at Hy Vee. Okay, admittedly a good option when you need to feed three kids who don't eat vegetables, or, ironically, if you want a decent salad super cheap.
What's wacky?
  • Meat pricing, Honest to God, Hy Vee's meat pricing drives me bananas. It's like a forking integral calculus problem. Ironically same thing goes for pricing blocks of that regular old Hy Vee chunk cheese. Seriously, check it out next time.
  • Bakery. Okay, so now we got "Baking Stone," but please learn how to make a credible loaf of French bread. You haven't yet.
  • Sushi. Right, you read it, sushi. Hy Vee has a sushi counter, complete with a very white middle aged guy wearing a kimono. You have got to be forking a kidding me! I appreciate the cheap sake right there, but its not enough to get me to eat that stuff. If you think Hy Vee sushi is legit, eat up, buttercup.
  • Mixed up aisles. Nothing is anywhere close to where it used to be. Plan ahead, get a map. which are available at the check outs, so you can figure out where the stuff you wanted but couldn't find might have been. If Hy Vee adopts the Wal-Mart plan of moving the merch around every few years just to make you walk around and buy more crap, avoid the sniper on the roof.
Last point and it is some good, some bad.
  • Total full service, tricked out liquor area. Yes, it is nice. Tons of beer. Decent enough wine selection. Liquors. As expected, it is very handy. Where else can you pick up your blood pressure meeds, steaks you paid God knows how much for, rosemary bath salts, the Sunday Argus, a sixes of mixed micro brews, and a bottle of tequila? Exactly. The bad? Gregor's East Side Liquors across the street is going out of business. Told ya.