Thursday, September 29, 2011

No Soup For You!

Still no kitchen. It's been a year of building one from scratch. And it's going to kick ass when it's finally done. It will be the greenest, leanest, cleanest kitchen in town. New concrete floor with radiant heat, state-of-the-art boiler and tankless, on-demand hot water heater, the latest advancement of spray foam insulation. And finally the drywall is going up. We're doing it ourselves, so it may take a while.
In the meantime, though, we still have to dine out. And it is getting so very old. I proposed living off of cereal, but Danelle put the kibash on that.
We've eaten at some really great places, but also at a lot of duds. Which got me thinking: what makes a restaurant a dud? Aside from bad food or service, we've compiled a list of annoying, stupid, or vile things that these establishments are guilty of.

1.   Sub-zero temperatures. Why do they do this? Have you ever walked into a restaurant in the middle of summer in your shorts only to find that the place is so cold you can hang meat in there? (Not that there's any hanging meat when we're around. I'm not gonna lie, we're pretty hot. Except when we're cold).

2.   The table has been wiped with a rag that smells like ass. No explanation needed here.

3.   Wobbly tables. Is it really going to break the bank to buy a few !^%#@& wedges?

4.   Crappy off brand coffee and tea. This can really ruin breakfast. Danelle is a coffee drinker and I drink tea.  Speaking of tea, how about water that has actually been boiled so that the tea can steep properly? Can't tell you how many places put the water through the coffeemaker then put it on the warmer plate. Fail.

5.   Crappy soda. Of course I'm talking about RC and Diet Rite. Or places that mix and match the tap lines (and don't clean them) so that root beer tastes like Sprite or vice versa.

6.  Seating you in the screaming baby section. And if you think that asking to be seated in the bar will put you away from the screaming babies, you are wrong. Babies in our area love the bar. This is where they get their training. We also love being seated next to the trashcan or right on top of other diners, even when there are tons of other available seats in the restaurant.

7.   Ambiance: No music or country music. I don't know which is worse. Ok, country music is worse than no music. But no music makes the experience just plain creepy.

8.   No soap in the bathroom. Really? But...employees must wash hands before leaving restroom. No soap.....really??? Eeeew.

9.   A teeny, tiny, miniscule dab of butter between two huge pieces of dry toast. Why bother? Nobody's going to eat dry, boring toast. You wouldn't eat your toast like this at home, Mr. Cook, so why do you think we enjoy this?

10.  The Bum's Rush. The food arrives and then 10 seconds later, the check.

There you have it; a year's worth of frustration. But I'd like to end on a positive note.

Last night we ate ate La Tonalteca in Dickson City, in front of the Viewmont Mall. We love it there! And Wednesday night is $2.99 Margarita night. We thought that since they were so cheap that they wouldn't be strong, but were we ever mistaken. I couldn't even write the review when we got home, because it ended up sounding like incoherent rambling. Or like something Michelle Bachmann would say. Anyway, after one drink my toes were warm. And the food is pretty darn good too.

We've actually been to many other good places that need to be reviewed, but I don't get a chance to blog often anymore, because we are busy with the drywall, spackle and studs. Oh the life of two girls with no kitchen.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Banshee

So we both work from home now, and are absolutely heady with freedom. Which led us to have a late lunch at The Banshee. Nothing is more irreverant than having a beer at lunch, and having to answer to no one. Yeah, that's right, I had a beer at lunch. And now I'm going back to work. And if you don't like it, screw you. (Ok, I confess that I haven't done anything like this since the 80's).
The Banshee is one of my favorite places in Scranton. It's on Penn Ave, on the same block as B. Levy Shoes. Does anyone remember that place? Now it's a Redwing store or something like that. Anyway, back to The Banshee. They have it all: a great variety of beers, wonderful food, and a really cool ambiance. I heard this place used to be some kind of pants wholesaler back in the day. Not sure if that's accurate, but it's a delightful building, which they lovingly restored. Hammered tin ceilings, beautiful staircase, and amazing built in bookshelves (stocked with books!).

Danelle had her usual, the turkey melt (she says it's always a winner). I had the Whistling Pig. This is ham and cheese on a soft pretzel with a honey mustard sauce. I have to say, this might have been the best sandwich I've ever had. I can also vouch for the deliciousness of the fish and chips. My only critique would be that the portion is small (regarding the fish and chips only).
We also had Yuengling drafts (they have $2 drafts all day everyday). Ok, we had two. Each. And I am growing to love this local staple.
The Banshee rocks. Whether you go for lunch or to have a few drinks and watch some live entertainment, (it's especially charming when the Irish Balladeers are playing) it's the place to go!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guns Don't Kill People, Smokers Kill People. And Other Random Thoughts.

Disclaimer: This is gonna be a weird one. I'm tired.

Ah, Pennsyltucky. Home of archaic liquor laws (i.e., liquor will only be sold from 2:00 to 2:10 on Wednesday, at one of tens of  distributors in the state, and the buyer must be wearing a scarlet letter, and present proof of having been to church on Sunday) and that last bastion of civilization, smoking in restaurants and bars. If you are from here, this is the norm. If you've ever been anywhere else, you know this is totally fucked up. If you're coming to Scranton, don't forget to set your watch back 100 years.

Not all bars/restaurants are allowed to cater to smokers, there's some kind of weird rule regarding what percentage of food sales the establishment does. But it's more than enough to cramp our style. If we want to go out for a drink, we usually go to The Banshee, because so far, it's one of the few bars that doesn't allow smoking. And the food is pretty good.

We recently visited the Twelve Penny Saloon in Moosic:
It's a gay bar, and a cool place. Pool table, cute bartender, and friendly people. But we won't be back. Why? Because we've misplaced our government issued gas masks from our military days. We came out of there smelling like an ashtray and sounding like Bea Arthur. And we actually stripped before entering the house and left our clothes on the porch to air out. I'm not kidding! Luckily it was late and the neighbors were sleeping.We've toyed in the past with the idea of someday owning our own bar. It would be a lesbian bar, and we'd call it "The Wet Spot". Or maybe "The Watering Hole". But I digress.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to outlaw smoking altogether (though it would be nice). I could care less if you want to kill yourself. Just don't try to kill me. Lots of other states got it right. In California, you step outside to smoke. It's that simple. So c'mon, Pennsylvania, lets get with the 19th century.

I've been slacking with the blog lately. There are a ton of restaurants that we've been to that we haven't gotten around to reviewing. I'm thinking of condensing reviews; maybe just two columns even, like sucks and doesn't suck. I also welcome guest reviewers. And have been thinking of doing a "best of " list. Like the best soup in town, etc.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any suggestions for smoke-free bars, please comment!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Revisions and Rants

Is there anything more disgusting than a hair in your food? No. It's the pinnacle of revolting. And it happened. Again. Twice at the same restaurant. And that restaurant is...drum roll please....Dino and Francescos.
I'm thinking this guy is the cook there:
The first one was in a pizza we ordered to go. Danelle was so grossed out she stated that she'll never eat there again. I, however, chalked it up as a fluke, and on Saturday went there for lunch with my brother-in-law. He had a meatball sub. He took a bite and there was a hair sticking out of the meatball. God, I want to hurl just talking about it.

So we walk in, at lunchtime,  in the middle of a spirited conversation, and upon opening the door, still talking, find that every head turned to look at us. Why? Because it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. No music, eerily quiet. We definitely stood out. No one else in the whole restaurant was talking, because they didn't want everyone else to hear their conversations. So we stop talking and eat in silence. Nothing could be heard except the clanging of forks. I felt like I was in an episode of  "The Twilight Zone". Anyway, it's totally silent until I'm forced to whisper to Dave that there's a hair hanging out of his meatball.

But it's not just that. The waitstaff does have a bit of an attitude; not friendly at all. And, while it's not necessary (or desirable) to be phony, you don't have to project that you absolutely hate your job. I went to the restroom to wash my hands and one of the waitresses, who was doing some table wiping and bussing, almost collided with me. No apology or even acknowledgement. I guess I'm just some pesky asshole who came into her world to get in her way. Also, it was about 50 degrees in there. So, unfortunately, Dino and Francesco's slides from two snaps up in a circle to thumbs down. We will not be returning.

The second revision is for Alfredo's in South Side. We previously liked it here, but after eating there four additional times, have to give it a thumbs down also. Why? The service. It's slow or simply non-existant. And it doesn't matter if it's crowded or not. You get exacly the same degree of service. There are dozens of Italian/pizza restaurants in this city with fantastic food and service, so we have decided we won't put up with the "pizza nazi" routine. Is it some kind of weird marketing practice that I'm unaware of to be rude or inattentive to your customers? I don't do it in my business because I want them to come back and refer me to others. Seems like common sense, but I guess not.

We hate to end on a negative note, so we will say that we've eaten at a few places recently that were exceptional. Reviews coming soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Marsico's Pizza and Restaurant

It's finally happened. We've found the best pizza on the planet earth. I know, it seems like we're always saying this, but this time it's true. To be fair, we only tried one variety of pizza here, but we're sticking to it. It's the fresh spinach and garlic pizza. This is a square pizza with no red sauce. Just tons of garlic, olive oil, the freshest spinach ever, and delicious cheese.

Marsico's is on 259 N Main St in Taylor. It's in a cute house, with lights on the trees out front. Inside it's quite charming, and even a little fancy - cloth napkins and tablecloths, and a nice decor. They don't serve alcohol, but you can bring your own bottle, and everyone else did the night we went. We opted for the NEPA staple, RC cola. Shoulda brought a bottle.

It's a tiny place; only 8 tables in the room we were seated in. There may be another room, though, we're not sure.
So, here's the deal: If you go here, bring a bottle, because you will wait a long time for dinner. How long? We grew beards in there. Long ones. Danelle crocheted an afghan. I made a quilt! Ok, maybe I exaggerate a little, but we were there for an hour and a half (total), and there were only 5 other tables occupied. Normally we'd be upset about waiting so long, especially on a work night, but once we tasted the pizza we forgot all about it. It was totally worth the wait. This pizza is amazing, especially if you are of the mindset that there is no such thing as too much garlic. There is enough garlic on this pizza to kill Bela Lugosi, or maybe two teenage vampires from the twilight series. This pizza was so good that we could only wait three days before we had to have it again (we ordered it for takeout this time). It's like crack, only legal.

I would've taken a photo, but my cell phone fell in the toilet (at home). But that's a story for another blog.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Johnny Rockets

How do you eff up a grilled cheese sandwich? Ask Johnny Rockets in Moosic. Come on, it's not Johnny Rocket science; you butter some bread, put cheese between the bread, and grill it. I ordered a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. What I got was toast with some kind of flavorless cheese product, which was not melted, a cold slice of tomato and no sign of any kind of butter.
Danelle ordered a burger (which she liked) and fries. The fries were undercooked and therefore limp and greasy. But here's the thing - we were the only people in the place! Why were they in such a hurry to get stuff out to us, to the point where everything was undercooked?
Once again, we actually choose to go to a place that was empty at 5:30 on a Friday night. Why can't we learn from our mistakes?? Honestly, I wasn't happy the last time we went either. I had an egg salad sandwich, which had a vinegar-y taste. Like it wasn't fresh, so they put vinegar in it to make it last longer. Gross. And it's like 6 or 7 bucks!
Side note: Stanges Quick Serve on Birney Ave. has the best egg salad in town. They make it right in front of you!

Back to Johnny Rockets. We like the classic 50's diner vibe; the jukeboxes on the table, the retro booths, etc. We were expecting Potsie and Ralph Malph to walk in at any moment.
Another thing we couldn't help but notice: It's like Lord of the Flies in there. No one who works there is over 18. Our waitress was a little too attentive...a sweet kid, but she came over about 5 times during the meal to ask us if everything was ok. I was polite, because as you know, it never pays to send stuff back to the kitchen.

The potential for success is there. Johnny Rockets has all the elements. They are in a sweet, high traffic location, right next to the biggest movie theater complex in the area. But when people aren't coming to your restaurant, it's because the food isn't good. It's that simple.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alfredo's Pizza Cafe

1040 S Washington Ave.
We like it here. It's usually crowded, and for a good reason. The food is good. The pizza's good. It has a charming ambiance. And it's not too expensive.
So tonight, (Valentine's Day) was no exception; it was packed.

This time we tried something different - the Pizza Alfredo Plus. This is a thin crust pizza with Alfredo sauce, approximately 20 lbs of artery-clogging mozzarella, and fresh spinach. It's good. And filling. After one piece, we were done. But not really, because we got the cannoli to take home for desert. I just finished it. Delicioso! I once got a cannoli from a bakery in Visalia, California, and it was like a deep fried tortilla filled with frosting. Yeah, that's right, frosting. But I digress.

Because there is no such thing as an uneventful night out for us, let me tell you what happened. Shortly after we were seated, another older couple were seated behind us. That's when we smelled it. I smelled it first.
"Oh dear God, do you smell that?"
"No, what?"
"It smells like somebody emptied the ashtray of a car that's been sitting since the 70's under our table."
"Whoa...yeah, I just caught a whiff! It's the guy behind you."
Now, I get it when somebody's just had a cigarette and the smell is still on their clothing. It's both a familiar and annoying smell. But I swear this guy really did empty the ashtrays from several 1970's cars and then rolled around in it like it was catnip. You would not believe this stench. But here's the kicker...he was wearing an oxygen hose under his nose. And hobbled out halfway through the meal to have a smoke. 

Don't let this story prevent you from going here. You will probably have better luck than we did; everybody does. That's just our thing. It's how we roll. We love Alfredo's and will go here again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Coney Island of Scranton

This is the one on Cedar Ave.and Lackawanna, not to be confused with Coney Island Lunch, down the street on Lackawanna Ave. The building says "Coney Island Texas Lunch" but the business name is actually "Coney Island of Scranton". Confusing. There is some sort of feud going on between the two businesses about which is the original, but I say, who cares? This shit will kill you if you eat it more than once a year, anyway.

I was feeling nostalgic for Texas Weiners, as it had been maybe 25 years or so since I had one. So I propose the idea to Danelle, who is from California. "Let's go get some Texas Weiners", I said.
"What are Texas Weiners, and why are they famous in Pennsylvania?", she asked. Hmm. Excellent question. I don't know why they are famous here, but did my best to describe one for her. "It's a small hot dog sliced down the middle and splayed on a grill, then you put it on a bun and put chili sauce on it."
"Oh, so it's a chili dog", she said.
"Noo, it's a Texas Weiner. Shut up."

She doesn't want to go. It doesn't sound that good to her, so I have to talk her into it. It didn't help that my brothers happened to be around to chime in, "You gotta go. The guy lines the buns up on his hairy forearms while he makes 'em". Now we've triggered her gag reflex. I figure there's no way I'm going to talk my obsessive-compulsive germophobe girlfriend into going now. So I convice her that modern day health codes don't allow this practice anymore, and if we see that going on, we'll leave.
So off we go, to get Texas Weiners!!

We get there, and it's different than I remembered. This is because the place was set ablaze in 2008, and they had very recently rebuilt it. And it's cute. It's old fashioned; black and white floor tile, nice and clean. So we order our weiners with fries. One bite, and I gotta say, profound disappointment. Not a lot of flavor. It's not at all how I remembered it. The dogs are flavorless, and the chili sauce is flavorless. It's like eating texture.

The fries probably would've been ok, except that Danelle luckily spotted the hair before we could eat one. Can you see it, glistening in the oil?? It's laying across that bump thing.

We actually ran into two of my brothers-in-law, who were in town for a mini family reunion, and who also had a nostalgic craving for Texas Weiners. "Yep, looks like an arm hair to me", said my brother-in-law Chuck. I don't know if you can appreciate how hard it is to photograph a single short hair, but there we were, all four of us, laughing hysterically, with the exception of Danelle, who is in panic mode, with our cell phone cameras, trying to get an acceptable photo of the hair. Oh what a scene we created! Oh, and by the way, the sight of the hair on the fries in no way curtailed the appetite of Chuck or Ed. Those men ate like contenders at a hot dog eating contest.

But even Chuck, who has very fond memories of this place, admitted that the food just wasn't the same as it used to be.  I've since been told that we went to the wrong place. The "original" recipe is down the street on Lackawanna Ave. But it doesn't matter. Danelle has post traumatic stress syndrome now and will forever associate it with Texas Weiners. I will have to go here alone someday and post a review.

Maybe I'm remebering these as better than they actually were, or maybe my tastes have matured. Or maybe they really aren't the same as they used to be. Go decide for yourself. But try to be objective instead of fiercely loyal. Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Amber Indian Restaurant

This is one of our favorite restaurants. We've never been disappointed here. It has all the elements of a good restaurant: fantastic food, good price, exceptional service, and a decent wine list. And it doesn't hurt that we only live a few blocks away.

They have a lunch buffet for $9.99. Our favorite items are the Navrattan Korma, which is nine vegetables in an unbelievably tasty sauce, and the Chicken Makhni, which is pieces of chicken in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce. God, it's good. About 1/2 of the items in the buffet are vegetarian, so it feels healthy. If you have a cold, this food will clear your sinuses. It's awesome. They have some kind of soupy rice pudding for dessert (not sure what it's called) which is also delicious.

We give Amber Indian Restaurant two enthusiastic thumbs up, and strongly recommend it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Royal Buffet, Dickson City

Sigh. I really don't want to write this. This is one of those places that everyone raves about, but we're not feeling it. Maybe it's us. Maybe we're too picky. Or maybe uncooked chicken and gristly meat are all the rage around here. Or maybe we're just jaded from eating out all the time. But wouldn't you agree that if you have to spit a mouthful of food out into your napkin, you're probably not going to go back to that establishment?

Ok, let me tell you about the place. It's across the street from Home Depot. We loved the decor. The floor has lights in it! The staff is very attentive and very nice. And that's why it pains me that we just weren't impressed with the food. We were impressed, however, with the sheer variety of food availabe. There is a complete salad bar. They have tons of seafood. There's a sushi bar. There is a hibachi bar, where you pick out your meat and fixins and the guy cooks it for you before your eyes. There's an unbelievable dessert bar. There's an American food section, complete with pigs in the blanket and mac n' cheese. Name it, and they have it.

But I think that therein lies the problem. If you have hundreds of items on your menu, then it's safe to say that it's impossible to have prepared even half of them fresh daily. Then again, it is cheap ($7), proving the old axiom "you get what you pay for".

I had a salad, chicken w/broccoli, rice, steamed dumplings, and sampled various desserts. The chicken and broccoli was a stir fried dish, and the chicken was sliced paper thin. However, it was raw. I mean slimy raw. And I didn't realize this until it was already in my mouth. Gross. I'm praying I don't get sick today. Danelle bit into what the sign said was a cream cheese wonton. She realized after she took a bite that it had seafood (which she hates) in it. She not-so-demurely spit it out into her napkin. Because she's a classy lady.
Then I bit into my steamed dumpling, which had pork in it. It was tasty, but had a huge hard gristle piece in it. So I spit it out into my napkin. Because I'm a classy lady.

Now that we've no doubt whetted your appetite, here's the deal: if you're really hungry, or just like to eat and you're not picky, this is the place for you. If you do go, and have to spit something out into your napkin, please tell us about it. And stay classy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Uno Chicago Grill

Today we had lunch at Uno Chicago Grill in Dickson City. Why did we eat pizza at a chain restaurant when we live in NEPA? Because we've lost our minds! But only temporarily, as it will never happen again.
Really, it wasn't my idea. Anyway, here's the rundown:
We got there early - 11:10 am. (We'd been up since 4:30 am). We were the very first customers. The waitress seated us, and took our drink order. Right after we get our drinks, another party of five comes in. A family. With kids. Now, the whole restaurant is empty except for us, and it's a pretty big place. So naturally, they seat the family with rambunctious child RIGHT NEXT TO US! Literally no more than eight inches away from us! We could hear them chewing their food (and vice versa), for pete's sake. So right off the bat, we're pissed. One can only conclude that they obviously don't want repeat customers, because, come on, that is such a douchy thing to do to a customer. They could very well have afforded us a little privacy but didn't.
And why? Because the lazy server doesn't want to walk three extra steps?

We ordered a deep dish pizza, chunky tomato and cheese. It's just not good. Honestly, I can't even believe I'm wasting my energy writing this, because normal local people probably wouldn't go here anyway.
So here's my take on the pizza. Tastes like Prego sauce from a jar. The cheese is ok, the crust is way too filling, and not particularly flavorful. Danelle like it, though. But then again, her idea of haute cuisine is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Unless you like being intimate with strangers and eating sub par pizza, skip this one and go anywhere else in town if you're craving pizza. I mean anywhere.