Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn

26 Nov

Rating: 3 pitchers

The decision to review Flaming Amys was a fairly easy one; they have half price beer on Mondays. This means .75 individuals or $3.50 pitchers of ice cold draft PBR, and ensures that anything you eat will taste amazing if you wait long enough. Add that to a fairly central location and this place is already winning. The Burrito Barn is, indeed, in the shape of a barn with flames all along the outside wall. The inside is a rockabilly take on the standard “throw a ton of shit on the wall” theme. We’re talking Elvis, PBR, and those weirdly artsy Mexican skulls being pretty heavily represented.  And a line. The ever present line. I’ve heard tale of the line stretching out the door on a typical summer day so this “hot, fast, cheap, and easy” tag line they spit may not be incredibly accurate.  At least while waiting in line they have the menu on the wall and paper menus along the way. Which means you have every right to look as pissed off as possible when some blonde in front you you STILL cant decide if she wants a Tree Hugger or just some queso (bitches always want queso).

$3.50

When we walked in there was a fairly average-sized line for The Barn. No more than 10 people in front of us. Luckily there is this crazy belief that the waitresses at FA are man-eating dictators of their burrito fortress. I’ve never seen evidence of this, but it probably helps the lines move more quickly so I’m all for perpetuating this myth. Most of my friends play the same game waiting to order. It’s called “I’m not going to get regular order so hmmmm.. oh god I’m next I’ll take a regular order” For the purposes of science/blogging I actually did change my order. Instead of ordering the Nachos Carnivore (maximum salsa intake) or Buffalo Teriyaki Shrimp (comes with Srirachaslaw) I ordered Nachos Carnivore sub Buffalo Teriyaki Shrimp for beef. Because fuck a menu. And of course a pitcher of PBR. They hand us a number, give us our beer, and we skip away to the land of the patio.

The first issue I will take with FA is the cheap pitchers. There is no reason to ever order an individual beer when pitchers of draft PBR are so cheap. This may not seem like a problem, but when you’re 2-3 beers deep by the time the food arrives, you don’t care so much about it as when you ordered. Only about who can be anointed beer-bitch to get the next pitcher. This is no comment on how slow the food is, only on how fast a drinker I am. The beer is delicious, and after a very minimal wait the food arrives.

These are what I call nachos! I feel the picture doesn’t quite do this pile of cheese and chips justice. There is no way I will even make it through a third of this platter. Also surprising are the fair amount of shrimp on the plate. Points off for forgetting my sour cream, but points don’t matter in this review, and the waitress quickly remedied her oversight. The chips are obviously freshly made and that makes a huge difference in the texture and taste. The salsa (I chose the standard tomato salsa) is probably my favorite I’ve ever had. Yes, it’s cool to have your favorite be the Ginger Peach or Pineapple Jalapeno but I like the original so suck it. Its fresh, cilantro-y, and has just the right amount of heat. By the way, cilantro is the most underrated herb ever. It’s like garlic in that I’m not sure if there can ever be enough of it. The nachos are piled with cheese, red onion, tomato, and shrimp. Some huge points for actual melted cheese and not that weird pump crap that a lot of places pass as cheese, even though some of the cheese was not as melted as it could have been. And for the toppings (minus the shrimp)  being diced up instead of huge chunks. Yeah these are personal preferences, but this is my personal review. I was slightly disappointed by the shrimp. They were sweeter and less spicy than previous times I’ve had them. I’ll hope this was due to a sauce mixing mix-up and not a recipe change. Overall it was delicious and every complaint was a pretty minor one. After I had satisfied my initial craving I turned to my roommates dish with a “it’s for the blog” plea to scrom off his plate.

He ordered some weird Churkeychanga specialty burrito that is apparently a Thanksgiving-only deal. It sounded pretty interesting, and I was glad he ordered it so I wouldn’t have to sacrifice my precious nachos. Its a deep fried burrito stuffed with turkey, jalapeno cornbread stuffing, and chili garlic potatoes, then doused in jalapeno cream gravy and paired with a cranberry salsa. It was a huge letdown. The ingredients weren’t well balanced, the potatoes tasted very little of chili or garlic, but the cornbread stuffing on its own was quite tasty. One of the biggest problems was that all those ingredients are moisture suckers and the amount of gravy (which was really yummy) wasn’t nearly enough to offset it. The cranberry salsa would’ve been perfect with your average turkey feast so no complaint there. Overall this burrito was a great idea, but probably needs a little tinkering. Also, thanks to my roommate for taking one for the team and allowing me to resume my nacho killing spree after two bites of his burrito.

After two more pitchers of PBR we decided to head home and start some real drinking. Flaming Amy’s has cheap beer, decent prices, amazing salsa, and some pretty interesting food combos. Maybe everything isn’t my favorite, but I would want to taste almost everything on the menu (if I wasn’t paying). I have to appreciate a place that steps out of the menu norms and tries new things with general success. Its worth a shot, especially when you’re in the mood to try something new without going too crazy. Over all I’m going to rate it 3 out of 3 pitchers…. because $3.50 pitchers overrule any food. Just be glad I didn’t take off for the lack of Sriracha bottles…. It’s on the menu I know you have it back there!

 

Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn on Urbanspoon

Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and Fireball Whiskey

16 Nov

The last time I went into the alphabet store, I noticed a new brand of Jack Daniels and instantly decided to purchase a couple samples. I am proud to present JD Tennessee Honey.

Airplane bottles are awesome for a couple reasons:

  • They are made into miniature versions of the original bottles so you feel like a giant chugging whole bottles of booze in single gulps
  • They are easily hid and smuggled into professional sports venues, places of employment, weddings, movie theaters, family gatherings, etc
  • They are a cheap way to try a new alcohol. I mean none is so awful that I wouldn’t finish a bottle, but I’d rather put more delicious crap down my gullet
  • You don’t have to decide between brands and flavors. You can catch them all!
  • They get you fucked up

So after making them take a little nap in the land of ice and truck meat (don’t ask) I poured them into shot glasses and away we went.

My first sniff did not bode well, but since it was my first whiskey shot of the day, I didn’t lose too much faith. Spoiler alert: it sucked. It tasted very similar to black label but gone horribly wrong. Ok, slight hyperbole but not far off. For the record, I’ve had multiple “honey” whiskeys, some better than others and this was by far my least favorite.  I don’t know if it needed less “Jack” flavor or more honey flavor, but it seemed like the two flavors were battling it out and they both lost. I, on the other hand, had a shot of 70 proof juice so I win as always. I may have to do a death match review of all the major honey whiskeys to determine which I would recommend, but until then I washed away the awful with an ice cold PBR and shot of Fireball whiskey. Huzzah for awesome!

Awesome nd awesomer

I’ll skip the PBR and go straight to the Fireball. A lot of friends have compared it to RedHots. Since RedHots suck and are garbagebeans, I will compare them to… hmmm, idk….. Fireballs?  There is an amazingly balanced cinnamon flavor that is only enhanced by the sweet sweet whiskey after burn. I can’t recommend this highly enough. It is my current favorite new liquor and have just resolved to get a full sized bottle ASAP.

Characters Quarters

13 Nov

Rating: 5 Fingers

Worth every myocardial infarction

I’ve been to this joint before. My first visit was a chance encounter; I was meeting a friend in Raleigh and this was a half way point. The thing that brought me back was a monstrosity called “The Characters Grilled Cheese Burger.” The main draw of this burger being, if you hadn’t already guessed, they exchange two grilled cheese sandwiches in place of the standard kaiser roll buns. It’s something I don’t treat myself to often, so when I do I get very excited about it. When my buddy decided to go to a hockey game my immediate reaction was to sing “Characters Quarters” over and over in my most childish voice. They have $6 pitchers of domestics on Sundays so my demands were met with minimal resistance. So over the river and through the woods, to the artery clogging restaurant we go…

One of the first things you generally notice are all the waitresses dressed up as characters, but since it was Sunday the uniform was football jerseys and booty shorts. The waitress came over and took our drink order, and I offered up our food orders as well. I ordered the Characters Grilled Cheese Burger while my friend got the Crispy Chicken Tenders. The waitress leaves, returns with beer, leaves, and after a reasonable amount of time returns with our food.

And this is is where the review will take a nosedive.

I’m saying the waitress returned with our food, but what  I mean is she returned with some food. I took one glance at the burger and noticed it was without the grilled cheese buns. I pointed this out and the waitress whisked it away to presumably sort out the issue. When she returned she informed me that there are two “Characters Burgers” and she thought I wanted the other one. She also proceeded to explain that I need to specify when I’m ordering to avoid confusion. And then apologized for it being her fault. Which sent me into full on asshole mode. Before she lectured me on how to order, I was freaking out to my friend. I was wondering if I ordered wrong (I didn’t) and since I have worked in restaurants I know how awful bosses can be about mistakes so I genuinely felt for her. After the lecture, I was beyond pissed. She was right, there are indeed two different burgers; the “Character Burger” and the “Character Grilled Cheese Burger.” Notice the difference in length, and the fact that only one has the word cheese in it’s title. So either I

  • Mistakenly ordered the Characters Cheese Burger, in which case she should have checked that I meant one or the other since they are so close in name and would technically not be the menu name of either (my friend verified I ordered correctly so this isn’t the case)
  • Ordered correctly and the waitress thought/mis-wrote Characters Burger or didn’t know that they were separate menu items, in which case the mistake was hers and my ordering had nothing to do with why I didn’t get my correct burger
  • Ordered correctly and the waitress just wasn’t listening or was otherwise distracted
None of this would have been a problem if the waitress hadn’t spent 5 minutes laying blame at my feet followed by a cover-up “but it was my fault” at the end. I’m pissed but I munch on my friend’s chicken tenders while I’m waiting. They appear to be hand made and man are they tasty. I forgot to get a picture, but think Hardees Chicken Tenders, except not shitty. I get my food shortly after and damn does it look good.

The burger is every bit of awesome that it appears to be. The grilled cheese buns are cooked to buttery perfection, the beef is medium, the fries crispy, and the pickle…… pickley. I think the fries were frozen: I don’t care. I actually prefer mediocre frozen fries to mediocre fresh fries. Shows my superior taste level and refined palate. I decided I was in more of a ranch mood than ketchup for fry dipping purposes, so I wait for our waitress to come back over for the customary “How is everything?” check up. And wait. And wait. I sat and waited for at least 15 minutes before I was able to flag her down to request my ranch. What the fuck?! Am I being punished for her mess up of my order?! She had officially been upgraded to Dumb Bitch. Does she not realize that her tip is based on her customer service? Or is she willing to sacrifice her tip to defend her pride? Whatever the reason for my being grounded from service, I was over it. Once I got my ranch (and another pitcher of beer) I just wanted to chow down and leave. The ranch was amazing, identical to what I had previously at J. Michael’s.

We paid our tab; stupidly tipped the waitress 20% and left. I could lie and try to make a point by saying they’ve lost a customer for life and I’ll use this blog that no one reads as the ultimate vengeance, but it’s just not true. I’ve worked in food service to know everyone and every place have off nights. The food is really greasy and delicious, and I’ll blame this on bad luck. Please don’t make a fool of me for it CQ. I am forced to rate this place 5 fingers though, because that’s how many it would have taken to make a fist and punch that stupid waitress in the face.

Characters Quarters on Urbanspoon

J. Michael’s Philly Deli

11 Nov

Rating: 1 Ranch

This place has a been a staple birthday dinner of my youngest brother for as long as I can remember. Every year we trek out to Porters Neck because for some reason family tradition dictates we must go to the furthest one. Don’t ask me why; it’s free food and I’m down. This also makes reviewing this place by “food” standards as difficult as rating Spaghetti-os by pasta standards. If you’ve grown up eating it, it tastes as it should. You like it. Does that make it good? Probably not. But after much debate I decided to attempt a review.

The menu is mostly apps, burgers, and subs, but the big thing are their phillys. Many a Wilmingtonian swears by them and hey, I’m not here to judge them. The natives, I mean. Of course these phillys will be judged. The ordering around the table is pretty much the same with different adds/subtracts on the phillys. The waitress takes our drink orders and since they have my favorite craft microbrew in bottle I get that (PBR).  I barely glanced at the menu since I’ve been ordering this shit fo years, son! (sorry that coffee martini is getting to me) I order the mozz sticks, a 2 piece chicken tender, and a philly hoagie with mayo. I notice while the food is being prepared that there’s some weird basket of pickle spears on the table.  Yes, for a second review, there are pickles. I like pickles, but they are just pickles so who cares? Im not even sure if they were ordered or brought out as some pre-app.

available for purchase at your local costco

Ok first up are the chicken tenders. They are almost certainly the frozen ones you’ve had in a million other bars/diners/cafes and taste like chicken and pepper. Not to worry, I ordered the Ranch as the dipping sauce. J. Michael’s has some of the best Ranch ever. In the history of this one post. Its slightly watery and possibly the home-made kind. Don’t care what magic creates it I just know I love it. The Ranch makes the tenders taste like Ranch so I approve. I was slightly worried when they brought the food out; my tenders had fries with them. Which is indicative of a kids meal, not a 2 piecer. The waitress informed me the cooks had messed up and the fires were no charge. Huzzah! Actually I didn’t really care for their fries but free food is good food as I just started saying so pretty cool of them. Fries were big wedges that were once again the average frozen variety.

Onto the mozz sticks which have been a favorite for years. The sticks are breaded with actual bread crumbs. I appreciate this. At least it wasn’t those weird floured farmrich walmart ones, so if they are frozen they’re the better kind. The marinara sauce has always been my favorite part of getting the sticks but this time it wasn’t as great. It seemed thicker and a little off tasting, it may have been the bottom of the bucket or the fact I was trying to review it. I’m going to say they make this in-house since I haven’t ever tasted another sauce that came close. It’s a bit more vinegary than your normal marinara and works well with the fried greasy sweetness of mozz sticks. I ended up dosing those in ranch after a few bites with the sauce though; man the Ranch makes everything awesome.

I ordered my philly hoagie style (lettuce and tomato) and yes I know that’s not traditional. Don’t care, that’s how I like it. My brother got the large while I got the small. After we had taken a few bites he grinned at me and stated “This isn’t a race. But if it was, I’d be winning.” Challenge accepted. Heated scromming occurred and I can’t say I tasted most of my philly. What I did taste was (also) frozen thin slices of steak with some tasteless cheese. It had soft bread and I have to say I’m a fan of a crustier bread with subs especially when it’s a hot messy one that needs something more substantial to hold it in. The point of this story is I won with a few of his bites to spare. Upon my glorious victory dance, my brother then asked me with an even larger grin “What’s wrong with you? I told you it wasn’t a race”

I come from a family of trolls.

This “deli” is a grilled/fried frozen food supplier. And I’m ok with that. It tastes exactly how I remember and its not claiming to be a 4 star affair. The phillys are pretty good if you’re judging from that stand point, and most drunks I know would claim the food delicious after a few beers. I think this place would go down easier if it was more of a bar with decent munchies than an actual restaurant, but either way I was satisfied. I am going to judge it based on how many of the Ranch you should order with each item. And 1 is not too shabby.

J Michael's Philly Deli on Urbanspoon

Mexican Coffee Martini

9 Nov

Just take Patron XO Cafe and pour it into a martini glass. This has a couple of benefits:

  • Dark enough to appear mixed (not straight booze)
  • Martini glass = classy
  • Most entry-to-mid-level alchies can drink this without wincing
  • It is straight booze
  • One of these on an empty stomach is sufficient to supply an ample buzz, or at least a tiny one and some hangover relief (depending upon last nights activities)

Origins: This came about when a roommate came home for lunch and tried to scrom the leftovers of my bottle. Nopenopenope! The genius I am I poured all of the remains into a martini glass and this sophisticated drink was born. I feel as if I should’ve had one of those super-long lady ciggs to smoke while drinking this. Not sure if this liquor actually has any caffeine (Google update: it doesnt) but if I wanted that I’d be drinking coffee so who gives a crap?

If you don’t have a martini glass, just make the hobo version:

  • Chug Patron XO Cafe from the bottle it is already in

Crow Hill

7 Nov

Rating: 6 Shrimp Tails

I’d been to Crow Hill twice before, and each time I’ve fallen a little further head over heels for the place. Going into this visit, I really wanted to attempt an unbiased take on everything.

That isn’t possible.

From the second I see the door I already feel the fatlove for this food burning in my stomach/heart. It might also be the warm, cozy atmosphere inside the restaurant. The  whole dining area is lit by a few low lights and the candles burning at each table. The place manages a rustic earthy charm without being condescending or hokey. It’s just nice  enough to make you feel as if you’re someplace special, but equally simple enough to feel homey. Also it’s hard to tell just how buzzed you are until you leave.

Described the place? Check. Now for the food:

The first thing I did once we were seated was attempt a ninja grab of the drinks menu. Unfortunately for me my fellow diner a)knows me too well b)is a fellow lush c)likes  thwarting anything I do…. just for the lulz. Doesnt really matter, I know the exact drink I want and only wanted to check if it was still on the menu. Weirdly enough it is, but under a different name. This drink has changed names 3 times (River Walk, Speculara, Equinox) which I find odd but as long as its there who am I to complain? Satisfied that my booze selection was still available, I order when the waitress shows up with water and marinated pickles in hand.

I will say, the first couple of times I was here they brought over the same marinated pickles but with absolutely NO explanation. Just set down a cute farmsy type jar of some weird pickle concoction. It’s a nice idea; it’s a little munch before the appetizer that takes up no stomach space and is quite tasty. I do very much appreciate that they actually explained the dish this time so it wasnt a guessing game of “its good but what the fuck is this?” The pickles managed to distract me for a minute before I began an anxious “where’s my drink” chant in my head and eagerly scanned the bar area constantly looking for our server with a tray of drinks in hand. I feel like this took more time than it could have, but the lack of alcohol may have affected my sense of time. After 5 hours (5 minutes) my drink finally arrives and upon first glance is everything I remembered and loved.

pictured: booze

Then I sipped it. The drink is a mixture of muddled cucumber, grapefruit bitters, gin (which i generally despise), and some other various ingredients. Normally it tastes slightly of each of these, creating a “summer in your mouth” crisp fresh flavor. This time around the grapefruit overpowered the other flavors. I am luckily a huge fan of grapefruit so I still enjoyed the cocktail, but I was very disappointed that at $9 a pop (in a martini glass) they couldn’t maintain consistency in their drinks. Oh well, good news was the alcohol was there and now I could focus on the eats. After a bit of discussion with my friend, we decided to go with the Crow Hill Deviled Eggs. Lump crabmeat, red onion, celery, and whole grain mustard vinaigrette (which i had on the smoked trout salad during a previous visit and loved) were enough to get me interested and when my companion, who hates hard-boiled eggs, was on board as well it was a done deal. For the main course I went with shrimp and grits; my buddy went with the burger cooked medium rare with cheddar and a fried egg added. After a very short wait, the eggs were brought out.

I am a HUGE fan of deviled eggs pretty much any way you prepare them, so I was on course to love this dish. The real test was my friend. After just one bite his eyes got big and he became a fan of deviled eggs. The crab was indeed lump and used generously. The yolk mixture was creamy and sweet which was perfect with the mustard vinaigrette. since I DID have a review to type, I bogarted three of the eggs leaving him with just that one taste of glory. To be fair, I did promise next time we came we’d order the same appetizer. We both picked at the field greens in the middle; rubbing them in the mustard and munching like rabbits waiting for our main courses.

Little back story on shrimp and grits: I have only had them once before at Elijah’s, and they were awful. So bad i barely touched them. The sauce was oily and bland, it seemed to just make everything a brown soggy mess. I like grits; I love shrimp, but after that first try I wasnt sure if this dish was for me. I was worried about regretting our decision when this was brought before me. It looked delicious. And it smelled even better. The last vestiges of doubt I had evaporated the second i put a bite in my mouth. It was perfectly seasoned, just spiced enough for a little kick of flavor without being overwhelming. I was in heaven. I loved the little cubes of fresh tomato, and looking at the picture now I remember there were mushrooms. I normally hate the texture of cooked mushrooms so me forgetting that says a lot. I immediately flagged down the next waitress that passed and asked for a spoon; a fork was not going to shovel this in fast enough. It came with a side of some butter sauce that I later found out to be Poblano Beurre Blanc. It was a nice touch but the grits being so good made it almost unnecessary. The dish was spot on and was more than I even hoped shrimp and grits could be. I have since been informed there are a few different types of shrimp and grits. I don’t care. In my mind there are two: Crow Hill, and everything else. The only complaint I have is in Gail Simmons fashion, that being the shrimp had tails on them. Yes it improves the presentation, but in a classy joint I’m not a fan of pulling the tails off a sauce covered prawn. And I’m damned sure not going to let that extra bite of shrimp get away. Yes, that’s the only complaint I could muster. It took quite a few bites before I could care what was on the other side of the table but eventually my nose wandered. The smell of a well cooked burger will only be held off for so long…

Cheddar and fried egg are what I always add, so I have had this same burger before. It is scrumptious and worth every penny. What I failed to remember was that he ordered it medium rare. This is what crow hill considers medium rare:

Wow. I was in glorious shock and disbelief. Just for the record: if you think beef shouldnt be pink when you eat it, go to McDonald’s. Or better yet, just don’t order beef because you don’t deserve it. The rarer the beef is, the happier I am. And I find it absolutely commendable that the cook staff actually cooked it to his request. I took a few bites to confirm what I already knew. This thing was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. They use Painted Hills beef, which is an all natural beef. Fun fact: They are apparently one of only three places on the East Coast to sell it. I’m no expert, and have no idea if this is part of the reason the beef is so tasty, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt. As far as we could tell the minimal salt and pepper was the only seasoning. For $10 ($13 for the burger as ordered), this may be the best burger in town. I thought the fries were just ok; my friend loved them. I’ve eaten more fresh fried french fries than I care to remember, so it’s always just meh for me. He liked the fact that most had a fair amount of skin on them. We contributed this to one of three things: either their potatoes are exceptionally small, these fries were from the bottom of the bucket, or they use the bigger (and mostly skin less) middle cut fries for their mashed potatoes. Either way, kudos on the good fries.

pictured: more booze

Somewhere in the middle of all this the waitress came over and asked if I’d like another drink. A fair question, given how uncharacteristically slow I had drunk my previous drink (it lasted longer than 5 minutes). I decided to try a pumpkin cocktail that was featured on the drink menu. I am a fan of spiced pumpkin flavors; given the chance I’ll always try anything pumpkin on a menu. The outside rim was cinnamon sugar, and from there on I couldn’t really describe the flavors. It was drinkable and good, but wasnt the pumpkin punch I was looking for. This is something I’ve had happen at other eateries, maybe its a new culinary trend? If so, foodies are idiots. Give me the sugary spicy fake pumpkin flavor any day. Have you ever HAD fresh pumpkin? Tastes like squash. AKA nothing. In light of this thought, maybe it was spot on. Anywho, the drink had booze in it, so I was happy.

In the name of the review I decided we should have a dessert, so as to present a full meal. And since I talked my non-egg loving friend into the deviled eggs, I conceded the apple cobbler though I hate cooked apples. When it arrived I must admit, pretty cute presentation.

I wasn’t a fan, but in all fairness I didn’t expect to be. I’m not a lover of the texture of cooked apple. I’m not the type of person to rip something just because I don’t like it (not when its Crow Hill anyways) so I’ll rely on my friend to give an unbiased assessment of the quality of apple cobbler. His response: “excellent, and the ice cream was very good, too.” Though he did follow that up with, “wait who is writing this fucking review BITCH!!!! YOU BIIIITCH!” so take it as you will. The ice cream. Oh the ice cream. I’m surprised he got even a bite. I didn’t like the cobbler, so I scrommed the hell out of the frozen dairy ball. It was Kilwins vanilla if im not mistaken, and I loved it. I did also enjoy getting little splashes of the cobbler “juice” on it. I probably would’ve enjoyed another dessert more, but in all actuality I was so full from the grits and eggs that I’m glad I didn’t eat much.

As far as rating Crow Hill, that’s easy. When I saw shrimp and grits on the menu at Crow Hill, I took a chance. I hate cooked apples yet I ordered the apple cobbler. And that’s exactly what a great restaurant should be: a place that gives you enough trust in it to branch out and try something new. Or retry something you had previously hated. After a few meals at Crow Hill, they have earned that trust and I would never hesitate to order anything off their menu. That’s something to respect in a place and for that reason I’m forced to judge them by how many shrimp tails were left on my plate that I wanted to suck clean.

(all of them)

Crow Hill on Urbanspoon

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