"; } function beginReview($resturant,$location,$visit) { echo ""; echo $resturant; echo ""; echo " - "; echo $location; echo "
"; echo $visit; echo ""; } function theReview($review) { echo ""; echo $review; echo ""; echo " "; } ?> The Plebian Palate
The Plebian Palate¥
(Meals from the Darkside)

300 times in my life, but I haven't eaten there in probably close to 10 years. I think qualifies as having cleansed my palate. In all those times I have dined there, I always ordered the same meal, shrimp-fried rice. This history could be a good or bad thing overall, but my current review will have to stand up against fond former dining memories. First, the ambiance was just as I remembered it. Nothing had changed in over 15 years. The faces had changed, but not the facilities one whit. Well, as you might expect, I ordered the shrimp fried rice. It was exactly as I remembered it in every respect, the taste and volume. One thing that brought me back to this particular restaurant is the large amount of food that you get for your money. For most people, the meal typically yields ample leftovers and even those taste good for days. I, however, consumed the whole thing and walked out pleasantly stuffed. Its easy to recall why I ate there so frequently. Undoubtedly I will eat there many more times in the coming months, especially with my new travel schedule. "); beginReview("John Hardy's (North)","Rochester, MN","4/15/02"); theReview(" Nick and I went out to eat without Jennifer, as she needed some time at home alone after a hard day at work. To my total surprise Nick agreed to eat at John Hardy's, without a fight. to provide some context, he always wants to go to Burger King or McDonalds and any other place to eat is usually by parental executive perogative. Thus his giving in without a fight is a big deal. For those who have not been there, John Hardy's has a sort of a roadhouse motif, rather than a typical refined restaurant type layout. Having been to their south restaurant, I can say that the north one is quite a bit cleaner and less crowded. I guess that goes with the whole bar-b-que thing. Anyways, I had the shredded pork dinner and the jojo potatoes. The medium sauce was just about the right amount of but I should probably try the hot sauce to see if its any tastier. I am not one for spicy stuff, as my plebian palate pretty much dictates, but lately I have been looking for a little more of a challenge in the spice department. Both the meat and jojos were good, but I could probably use a bit more meat and a few less jojos. The side of corn was great, a little peppered to give it a good corn taste. More importantly, the Moutain Dew was very very good, much like it used to be. Fountain Mountain Dew seems to have a great variation in taste and this particular batch was wonderful, the way Dew used to be when I was a kid. Nick really liked his chicken nuggets and I didn't even have to pester him to eat too much. The service was great, with the waitress keeping our beverages topped off without being annoying. I definitely give it two thumbs up and I am sure that Nick does too. "); beginReview("Coffee Mill","Zumbrota, MN","4/13/02"); theReview(" On a whim, we decided to have lunch some place different and quickly decided to go out of town because we couldn't agree on a local place we couldn't remember any place in Pine Island, so we went further. In Zumbrota, we stumbled upon the Coffee Mill restaurant in the downtown area. You get the very local sense in that everybody says \"Hi\" to everyone else. It could very well be that during a more busy time that we could have been sitting in someones spot. It even has a coffee counter and allows smoking, something you don't see too much any more. It was you old time standard small town restaurant, which is to say quaint with the much feared \"diddly boos\" (ewww!). I had the beef sandwich with potatoes and gravy, which absolutely hit the spot. It was pretty standard and good and it didn't live very long. Dessert was banana cream pie and would be considered reasonably good, but was elevated to nearly great because I was so damned hungry. We also ordered some batter-fried cheese curds as appetizers. They were good, but likely out of a bag. They were too perfectly shaped and sized to be locally prepared. If I found myself in Zumbrota, I would definitely eat there again, but I likely wouldn't drive the 20 miles to go eat there, unless I craved the small town atmosphere. "); beginReview("Noodles","Rochester, MN","1/10/02"); theReview(" We were out running around looking for a place to eat and none of the usual suspects were really tripping our collective triggers, so we decided to try some place that we haven't tried before and it just so happened that a new obviously franchise restaurant named Noodles had opened up in the area that we happened to be running around in. We had seen the signs and we were, frankly, intrigued by a restaurant focused solely on noodles, something that we typically take for granted. First impressions are that it was a boisterous place, yet well organized and things flowed well. We were there when things were fairly busy, but not overly so, which leads to my biggest gripe about the place, namely the lack of elbow room. The tables were quite well packed in and you were brushing people when going to and from your table. Not a big deal for me, but probably more so for those who our butts brushed up against. It was kinda noisy, but not overly, given the number of people (including many children) in the place. To the food... I had the Chicken Noodle soup, inspite of a reasonable selection of other choices. One thing that surprised me is that you received standard saltines with the soup. You would think that they would have some sort of special crackers or maybe breadsticks for the soup, but no, just plain old saltines. Nick had the Macaroni and Cheese, which seemed awfully foreign to him, as all mac & cheese must look like that made by Kraft, the way god intended mac & cheese to be. He ate it, but sort of reluctantly. I tasted it and it tasted good to me. I don't know how frequently we are going to eat at the restaurant, but it certainly wasn't bad and might serve nicely as a break from standard restaurants. "); beginReview("Bilotti's","Rochester, MN","3/23/02"); theReview(" We wanted Italian, something not too expensive, and some place different from where we usually go. A quick gander at the yellow pages and we were all set for Bilotti's, a long time Rochester Italian restaurant. One key factor is that it had an American segment of the menu to satisfy Nick's more domestic tastes. In my coupla decades of living in and around Rochester, I don't believe that I have ever been to Bilotti's, so this was going to satisfy a long held curiosity. The restaurant is very physically small and seemed to have every table full, but we got seated quickly. Actually seating was a bit of a pain, as the booth we were in was likely configured for children because I had a hard time getting into the booth and once there, my ample girth could be construed as \"wedged in there\". Think eating in an airplane, although the available width allowed more freedom of movement. I ordered Canadian bacon single serving pizza and Jennifer ordered the Lasagna, good representative plebian samples of Italian cuisine. One cannot fault them for small portions, as Jennifer could only eat about half her meal. While I typically like thick crusted pizza, mostly because the crust is chewy and not crunchy, the single serving pizza had a nice chewy crust. The toppings were well proportioned and tasty and overall the pizza had a less formulaic taste than most pizzas I have ordered, something more like you would expect from a family restaurant. Something that I have harped on in the past was noise in the restaurant, but Bilotti's was relatively quiet even though it was a small restaurant full of people. I appreciate being able to talk at a normal conversational level and actually be heard. Also, a nice part of the experience was our server Angie. She interacted with us very well and was just the right amount of attentive, not annoying us and not abandoning us. I will certainly go there again, but I will make sure to get a table and not a booth. As an aside, they seemed to have quite a delivery business going and in a Pizza Hut and Dominos world that says something pretty positive about their pizza. "); beginReview("New Chalet Resturant","Ottawa, IL","5/11/02"); theReview(" Through a driving rainstorm, we searched out and found the New Chalet Restaurant, having been promised that it was decent food. The restaurant itself was basically like a standard American restaurant, complete with lunch counter with stools. Thankfully, however, it didn't have the standard formica, feet-sticking-to-the-floor motif of many of its brethern. Our server was nice and helpful, as you would expect in middle America and menu contained standard American fare. This worried me because I figured that all the food would be totally formula and wheeled directly off the Sysco truck and served. Thankfully I was plesently surprised. I ordered the jumbo bacon cheeseburger, which should be reasonably safe to order at any restaurant. I was utterly amazed that the cheeseburger that I got irregular in shape, which seemed almost unnatural in this setting. Could it be that this burger had been actually pressed out and not extruded at high speed? I must say that it actually tasted very good, although it wasn't as jumbo as I expected it to be. The fries were the usual restaurant fare, but the whole meal was good and the setting quite reasonable. It drives me nuts to be in restaurants and not be able to talk with people mere feet away. Thankfully this restaurant was quiet while reasonably busy. "); beginReview("Country Kitchen","Ottawa, IL","5/12/02"); theReview(" For some reason at the time we were ready for dinner, almost every restaurant in Ottawa, IL was either closed, closing, or stacked up for quite a while to come, it being Mothers Day and all. Our search led us to Country Kitchen, definitely nowhere near our first choice, but not too bad in any case. We all decided to get the buffet, which was pretty anemic as salad bars go. What sold me is that it had ham, always a draw for us. All in all the buffet was basically equivalent to what you would find in a college food service, which is to say basically passible, but not something you would drive across town for. The primary draw, the ham, was a pseudo honey-baked, which is to say it was sorta sweet but not terribly so. Let it be known that I like ham of the salty variety and not sweet, so it didn't exactly trip my trigger. The meal was okay and its largest value was sheer volume of food and lack of other options. I am sure that we will be going there again, but not typically by choice. "); beginReview("Gorda Resturant","Gorda, CA","7/31/01"); theReview(" Okay, I have been sitting on this review for a while, but absolutely thought it should be done. How we happened upon this resturant is a story in itself. We had left San Francisco a little late for our drive, down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), to Cambria where we were going to be staying for much of our vacation. It was a 200ish mile drive, so it wasn't that bad. Anyways, we got going late and the PCH gets pretty gnarly after Monterrey, not to mention that it was a quite dark night. I have driven many times on the PCH, but not ever this far south. The places that I had driven had been curvy, but enjoyably so. The further south you get the more it turns into a mountain road from hell. A twisty narrow road with no inland shoulder, to speak of, and a sheer drop off to the pounding pacific surf on the other side. Darkness does not help the situation. As we were limited to very slow speeds, like 35 mph, a lot of the time, the drive dragged on and on, but we really wanted to get it behind us. Just for fun, throw in having very little evidence of humankind nearly the entire way, not even small towns. It was getting to be nearly 10pm when we stumbled upon Gorda. Out of the darkness came blaring lights and signs of civilization. There were quite a number of cars and a sign that there was a resturant, which was fortunate because we were starving. We were already wierded out by its very existence, going in only amplified that feeling. It was like the set of a twilight zone episode. A nice ambiance, everyone seeming to take interest in your arrival, but just something strange. Off to the side was a guy sitting on a bar stool playing the guitar and singing, in a very coffee house sorta way. Looking back upon the experience, I figured it was probably one of two scenarios. My first idea was that this was a wayside stop run entirely by vampires, just awaiting fresh meat to come to their lair. Another possibility was that this place was made up entirely of ghosts and that we would drive through again in daylight and we would find no evidence that it existed, other than local stories of \"that unfortunate incident in the 30's that happened where Gorda used to be\". Having driven through Gorda in the daylight, I can dismiss the second scenario. The first remains open. Okay, on to the review. We were famished and looking for some nice food. Their menu was fairly yuppy in content, but had quite a number of things that were recognizable as food. I picked the chicken sandwich, as I didn't want to overload my system with grease on the windy roads. The sandwich tasted great and absolutely hit the spot! Nick and Jennifer also liked their meals as well. During our meal, we were treated to a young hispanic boy, whose birthday it was, getting up and singing. He sang several songs to the guitar accompaniment and did very well, especially in such an impromptu manner. My only gripe with our meal was that it was quite expensive for the portions and foodstuffs that we got. Our meal was roughly twice what we would pay at some place like a Bakers Square, but given its remoteness I can understand the pricing (read \"only place for miles\"). Anyways, I give it two thumbs up, except on price. "); beginReview("Dos Amigos","Rochester, MN","11/22/01"); theReview(" After running some errands, Nick and I negotiated going to some place that we had never gone to before, or hadn't been to in a long while. He chose Dos Amigos in a small residential strip mall in Northwest Rochester. We have driven past it about a million times before, but never stopped. Actually we had been to that resturant, but I think it was at the pizza place that it had been before it became a Mexican resturant. Well the layout and fixtures of the resturant haven't changed from its previous life. Is there some federal statute that Mexican resturants must be loud and the cacophany of all the other patrons conversations should be readily distinguishable at every other table? In terms of Mexican resturants, this one was slightly less loud, but a little too loud for a quiet meal with my son. Some how more packed traditional resturants (ie. Bakers Square or Perkins) seem to handle the noise problem just fine. The menu had a large list of different combinations of several different Mexican meal components (quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, etc). I think I picked the two enchiladas and a taco with the refried beans. The components weren't as truly distinct as they would have been at a better resturant, which somewhat explains my uncertainty. Another explanation is that much of it was utterly forgettable. Not bad, just not terribly memorable. The refried beans were a vaguely brownish-greyish slurry that had I not known that they were beans, that wouldn't have been my first guess. They tasted okay, but the appearance wasn't exactly enticing. All in all I would rate the meal as 'blah' in presentation and just a bit better in test. In truth, I would much rather go to Taco Johns or Taco Bell. The price wasn't too bad however. Not some place that I would take friends or out-of-towners, but I may try it again to see if I just hit a bad night or something. "); beginReview("Applebee's Apache Mall","Rochester, MN","11/11/01"); theReview(" While at the local mall (Apache Mall to be specific), we decided to drop by Applebee's. We haven't eaten there in probably quite a few months. We always seem to go there when my Mom is in town, but no other time. Anyways, it seemed like a good place to go, especially considering that the alternative was probably the food court, which Nick was lobbying for. For the first time in going to this particular Applebee's, we got right in, much to our utter shock. Normally we have to wait for 15-45 minutes for a table, which is probably why we pretty much avoid the resturant. That and the fact that its more of a bar with a restaurant, rather than the other way around, atleast judging by the ambient volume and ceiling mounted tv's. On the the meal... I ordered a special thing that they were running, the honey glazed chicken. I was up for something interesting and something that might even be construed as good for me. What really sealed the deal was the cheesy mash potatoes. It wasn't \"cheesy\" as in \"cheap\", as you might expect, but actually had cheese in them. At the time, in fact most of the time, I have a mash potato (or 'potatoe' for the republicans in the crowd) jones that needs to be quenched. Jennifer got the same thing, but the salmon rather than the chicken, and switch to the cheesy mashed potatoes instead of the rice pilaf. I tried a bite of her salmon, but it was a little too fishy for my tastes. The chicken was very good and about the right portions for a standard meal. The dipping sauce with a little too much something-er-rather and I only used it once. The honey glaze stuff was enough fiddling with the chicken for my taste. Rounding out the meal was mixed vegetables, which apart from the carrots were pretty much superflous because I don't eat those nasty vegetables. I consider it an integrated garnish. So I give the meal as a whole two thumbs up. The envions are a little raucous for a quiet family dinner and would be much better for a bunch of friends going out. Anyways, this meal was definitely one of the best of our trips to this particular Applebee's. "); beginReview("Quiznos","Rochester, MN","11/10/01"); theReview(" Nick had the day off of school and we were running around doing errands and working on your christmas lists. While we were out, we stopped at a nearby Quizno's sub shop. We didn't stop at the one we usually goto, but instead went to the one that was much closer to where we were shopping. Nick wasn't very hungry, as he had just eaten over at the neighbors a couple of hours earlier, but he was up for a bag of chips and I need to get some food in my system, as I had been snacking most of the day thus far. I have eaten Quizno's sandwiches many many times in the past, but rarely do we ever actually eat in the restaurant. I ordered the same thing that I always do, the Black Angus sandwich. I just love it and haven't really seen a need to change my order. The regular sandwich is just the right size for a hearty appetite and the spicing is at just the right level for my adventuresome yet scandanavian palate. When we stopped at the restaurant, it was kinda quiet and we really didn't have to listen to the cacophany of customers that likely inhabit the space during more populated times. Nick had fun playing 'suicide' with the pop machine. It is only for the gods to know why a 7 year old would consider that things like hawaiian punch, diet coke, and mr pibb together might taste good. I remember doing it as a kid and I am happy to indulge this one right of passage into bigger-kiddom. The ambiance of a standard Quizno's, including this one, is quite a bit better than your standard fast food resturant, but that isn't saying much. They seem to have a variety of seating arrangements, low tables, high tables, etc, for some reason or another. We picked a high table with stools and I think that Nick was amused simply by the novelty of sitting that high at a table in a restaurant. As far as a rating, I think my frequency in going to Quiznos says it all. It's definitely a good break from standard fast food. "); beginReview("Eagles Nest","Red Wing, MN","11/3/01"); theReview(" Checking out the local craft show, we found ourselves with a fierce need for some refreshments and Nick and I needed some food. At the end of the building, across from the St. James hotel, that we were in is the Eagles Nest, a coffee place that also has deli food and treats like cookies and ice cream. We later found out that its the same people that have the Eagles Nest in Wabasha, some 30 miles down the road, which is where we often go to eat while in that fine town. Nick and I both had ham & cheese bagels, which is what we usually have at the other resturant. The thing that fundamentally distinguishes the Eagles Nest from other places with deli is that they bake their own breads and you can certainly tell. There are not many places locally that really compare. Something to know, however, is that the bagels are soft and not the more traditional crusty bagels that bagel mavens adore. We eat at Brueggers enough to be able to differentiate between the types and I like the change of pace that the soft bagel provides. One doesn't have to test the integrity of their dental work to enjoy a simple bagel. The environment in the resturant was nice, but nothing to write home about. However, the chairs cushions were broken down in a disconcerting way that gave you the impression that you were sitting on one of those donut things that they make you sit on when you have hemorrhoid surgery, not that I have had any surgery like that, mind you. To summarize, its a nice place to sit and have a bite to eat and a nice fine coffee or, in my case, iced tea."); beginReview("Godfathers Pizza","Rochester, MN","11/2/02"); theReview(" I haven't eaten at a Godfathers Pizza in a very long time and never, as I recall, at this particular resturant. Its just sorta been off the beaten track and not in the usual places we worry about for pizza. I decided it was time for Nick and I to go eat some place that we haven't gone before, as we have been hitting the same places over and over again, largely due to Nick's affinity for fastfood toys and particular foods. In many ways he is like me, he likes what he likes and doesn't want to vary too much from that. He has not yet gained boredom as a factor that creeps into a repetitive diet. Anyways, after a trip to Best Buy, we stopped at the local Godfathers Pizza. Its not in the best location, but we see it frequently when we whiz by it on the highway. We got there a while after the supper rush, so the place wasn't very busy at all. Based purely on the ambience, it was a resturant that has seen its better days. Had this not been a national and competitive chain, I would have just surmised that the owners aren't terribly into keeping the resturant look up to date, but this IS a national chain and I am surprised that the national franchise folks don't expect more character in their resturants. Anyways, it was just sorta blah, in a laundrymat sorta way, probably not updated in the 90's or even much of the 80's. We decided on the meat lovers pizza, as Nick loves to pick the meat off the pizza and I certainly like a good bit of meat on the pizza. The folks behind the counter were your standard unaffected teens that inhabit most chain pizza resturants, but these were a little more clueful than the standard. Not a great deal more, just a little bit more. The pizza came in the normal amount of time one would expect for a non-cardboard pizza (are you listening Dominos?). It looked really good and smelled even better. It was a bit greasy, but I owe that to the fact that it was piled with meats that inevitably spew grease as a matter of course. It tasted as good as it looked. In terms of where it sits on the pizza spectrum, it was very much like what I remember Waldo's pizza to be. A unique, old school-ish taste that tended more towards consumer grade pizza, rather than idiosyncratic mom-and-pop \"came over on a boat, straight from Italy\" resturant pizza. I liked it about the same as I like the Pizza Hut pan pizza's (which is my benchmark for pizzas), but it did have a different taste. A word about my choice of Pizza Hut as benchmark for pizza. I didn't choose that because its the gold standard for pizza, its just the standard pizza. It truly middle of the road, pizzas worse than it are bad, pizzas better than it are good. Just total middle of the road. Anyways, back to the Godfathers Pizza. Nick seemed to like it and had no problems devouring his share. The true test of a pizza is how does it taste the next day, which this pizza did quite well at. All in all, I liked the pizza, but its location makes it less than convenient and we are kinda stuck on carryout pizza anyways."); beginReview("Hunan Garden","Rochester, MN","10/30/01"); theReview(" I am breaking from my tradition of only reviewing resturants that I ate in the resturant, but I have eaten in the Hunan Garden enough to blanketly say that its a nice place to eat and has really good waitstaff as well. However, this time, as we often do, we got carry out. The reason I post this review is because I decided to try something different. Typically I order my benchmark meal, shrimp fried rice, but I was interested in something a little more spicy due to being bored with my typically bland diet. I'm not a big spicy food fanatic, but every once in a while I like something with a little more kick to it. Certainly there are people that like food that doubles at the universal solvent, but I am not one of those people. I am also not one who subscribes to the notion that all food must be white and bland, hereafter known as \"The Swede Diet\". My choice of weapons this night was the Kung Pao Beef. I have had this particular dish elsewhere, but not at Hunan Garden. I must say that I was not disappointed, as it was delicious and just the right amount of spice. Sure, I would periodically bite into something that clear my sinus' and make me tear up, but I learned what those things were and avoided them. My face would sweat a bit, but that was all part of the richer experience. So, to summarize, I heartily endorse the Hunan Garden kung pao beef with two scandanavian thumbs up."); beginReview("Tremplealeau Hotel Resturant","Trempealeau, WI","10/21/01"); theReview(" We were out driving around on a fine sunday afternoon, trying to find some of the remaining colorful fall foliage, when we stumbled upon the town of Trempealeau, WI. Given that it was late in the afternoon, we were going down the east bank of the Mississippi river where the sun actually may have been shining. Anyway, we decided that this was about as good a place as any to each dinner, we stopped at the Trempealeau Hotel, which happens to have a resturant that appeared to be open. It had a nice porch looking out at the river, with only a street and railroad tracks between them. A nice setting to be sure. You walk through the bar to get to the resturant, which is kinda strange, but not a problem. I wasn't sure what to expect from the resturant, as hotel resturants are highly variable as to whether they rely on proximity to attract customers, or actually depend on good food. The staff seemed very very nice and helpful. The selection was reasonable and tended towards the yuppie end of the scale, but not too much. I'm not talking the uberyuppie fare that is about as inedible as it is unpronounceable. Many of the things had sprouts and an abundance of vegetarian dishes were designated appropriately on the menu. Thankfully they also had more standard food like burgers for the less refined palate, such as mine. I picked the grilled cheese sandwich, which oddly came with tomatoes, obviously a tip 'o the hat to the yuppie crowd. It tasted good, but could have somehow been a little more \"substantial\". I didn't walk away hungry exactly, but it could have been more. Another odd thing was that rather than fries or chips, they had tortilla chips as a side to the sandwich. I suspect that has something to do with the big 'fried vs baked' debate crap. Nick had the chicken strips, his 'usual' for just about any resturant, and the surprised us with strips that were actually made of non-extruded chicken and they weren't batter-fried. Definitely not the standard chicken strips. In the areas of food, ambiance, and service, I give the resturant two thumbs "); beginReview("Wind River Saloon Resturant","Humboldt, IA","10/5/01"); theReview(" In the town of Humboldt, IA, you don't have many interesting dining choices. Its a very rural area with simple values and simple tastes. In terms of ethnic food, its pizza and oriental and rather bland versions of those. It does, however, have some darn good resturants that cater to those tastes. The best that we have found seems to be Wind River, located a short distance out of town and located at a ski hill which may or may not be active any longer. Anyways, the ambiance is of the standard homey Iowa variety and the staff is very nice. Go there more than a couple of times and you will probably be considered family. Its the kinda place where they know your name [cue \"Cheers\" music]. We have gone there on quite a few family occasions and its always been a great place to eat. Their salad bar isn't the greatest of all time, but the staples are there. My usual choice there, including this trip are the pork chops. On the ocean, you order seafood, in the middle of hog country, you order pork. This logic comes through tried and true in this case. Their pork chops are delicious and while they give you a good helpings, namely 2 large chops, it always seems that I could use a couple more, they are that good. The real treat is the deep-fried corn nuggets. I can't recall what they are called, but I absolutely love them. I am well know for my abilities to consume sweetcorn-based products and these delights really get me going. Basically they could best be described as batter-fried scalloped corn (the kind without onions and such) and it is wonderful. Its nice and sweet and fits anywhere in the meal. I could, and some would suggest that I have, made it the main part of the meal. I eat probably two skiffs per sitting and could probably eat more if I didn't clutter up my stomach with the rest of the meal. Each time we have them, I invariably have the thought that these corn nuggets would definitely sell well at the MN State Fair. But, alas, my mind boggles at the logistics of making that happen and the feeling goes away. I definitely need to get the recipe (or supplier) for the corn nuggets. Anyways, I give the Wind River Saloon Resturant two enthusiastic thumbs up for quaint Iowa resturants. "); beginReview("Carl's Jr.","San Luis Obispo, CA","8/2/01"); theReview(" Perhaps the most surprising of the recent restaurants was Carl's Jr. We had missed a coupla opportunities to eat during the day, so we were pretty ravenous when we started looking for restaurants. We decided to head south to San Luis Obispo in search of more normal type (and cheaper) food. We had a little too much seafood and other more expensive fare, so we decided to move our sights down a bit. My key criteria for the choice was that they didn't serve fried calamari. We basically drove around until we found something that fit the bill. I honestly believe that I had been to a Carl's Jr. before, but this one wasn't anything like I remembered. Don't be under any illusions, it is still just a fast food joint, but I seemed to recall that it was more Wendy's like. As it turns out, they have quite a variety of things to eat, including an all-you-can-eat salad bar, which was kinda surprising. The salad bar was decent enough that it attracted Jennifer's attention. I, on the other hand, got the big ass burger that they have been advertising heavily. I must say that it was pretty darn tasty and the fries were pretty standard Burger King-esque fare. We were pretty famished and the food didn't last long. "); beginReview("Flying Dutchman Resturant","Morro Bay, CA","8/1/01"); theReview(" It was the end of a long day and we were looking for a restaurant that sold shark, so Nick could finally fulfill a trip goal of his and eat shark. We found one place that had it, but it was way too expensive on the dinner menu, but much cheaper on the early bird special menu, so we decided to wait on such a speculative feast (ie. he may not like it). Instead we turned our attentions to a close restaurant which happened to be the Flying Dutchman. It appeared clean and reasonable and got the nod. Its menu was a little limited, but not too bad. I typically consider a menu limited when I, with my plebian palate, look long and hard for what I \"should\" eat, rather than what I \"want\" to eat. I have been to resturants in the past, typically hoighty-toighty artsy resturants, where I search in vain for anything that I can \"possibly\" eat. At one particular restaurant, I had to engage my limited knowledge of french to map words in the descriptions to particular food stuffs that I recognized. As I didn't recognize a SINGLE dish on the menu, it might as well have been written in Arabic. But that is another story. Anyways, while the Flying Dutchman was quite reasonable, you quickly got the sense of a restaurant that would happen if Denny's started a seafood chain, right down to the red plastic baskets that the food came in. We had the standard fried calamari which, while good, gave you the sense of having been extruded. We have had fried calamari several times in the last few days and this was the first time that they have seemed to be pre-breaded and ready to be thrown in the deep fat fryer. Looking around, you quickly noticed that most of the clientele are similar to those that would frequent a Denny's, not that that is a bad thing, just not something I would have expected. Anyways, I ordered the combo platter with chips and it had a less extruded quality than the calamari, but it didn't have the totally fresh taste or preparation that I have seen before. The fries/chips were the standard restaurant fries available in most any restaurant in the country. I guess I expected a little more \"special\" in the way of fries, especially at the premium price that we were paying for them. The service was decent and responsive. As is our custom, our review of the bathrooms is that they are reasonably nice but it appears that the clientele isn't accustom to indoor plumbing and can't seem to hit the trashcans with their used paper towels. So the restaurant is decent but probably not worth another visit, especially with a large variety of probably good restaurants near by. "); beginReview("Benvenuti's Pizza","Fishermans Wharf - San Francisco, CA","7/29/01"); theReview(" After a long day of driving and hiking around north of San Fran, we stopped in at Benvenuti's. The primary criteria for selecting that particular restaurant, out of the literally thousands we have seen, was that it was open (at 10:30pm) and it was very nearby our hotel. We really really didn't want to drive any more, as we had just spent 2 hours on very very windy roads coming back from the Point Reyes lighthouse. Pizza sounded good after such a long day of eating mostly crap. The ambience was basically that of a standard pizza place in most any large metropolitan area. We ordered our usual pizza, the deep dish canadian bacon and pineapple. Their ice tea was quite good after the long day. I am quite sure that the pizza that arrived could not be officially called deep dish, as it was about as thick as a standard Domino's cardboard pizza. In any case, the pizza was really good and the crust was spiced perfectly. Typically crusts are either inperceivably spiced or spiced with a heavy hand, usually to overcome shortcomings in the taste of the rest of the pie. Apart from the lameness in the thickness of the pie, it was a wonderful pizza. Our waitress was a nice young lady from Limerick, Ireland who was working in San Fran for the summer and would be returning to school in the fall. The price was about what you would expect to pay for a decent sized pie anywhere else, a nice touch after spending lots of money eating elsewhere. I give the food a good two thumbs up. "); beginReview("Dante's","Fishermans Wharf - San Francisco, CA","7/28/01"); theReview(" One of the predetermined eating experiences for this trip was a visit to Dante's on the Wharf. Jennifer had eaten there in the past and really really wanted to get back to it while we were in town. We were hoping to get Nick some shark, as he has had a certain fascination with sharks since a heavily edited viewing of the movie \"Deep Blue Sea\". Unfortunately we got shut out on that count. Nick wanted his standard chicken fingers, but we vetoed that choice and made him choose some sort of seafood. We started with an excellent platter of oysters, scallops, calimari, crab cakes, and shrimp. I liked all the stuff, except the oysters which weren't as tasty as I thought that they would be deep fried. Kind of a funny texture too. I should, however, preface that I pretty much like oysters on the half-shell, but the cooked version just didn't trip my trigger. Jennifer and Nick on the other hand liked them. "); beginReview("Sven & Oles Pizza","Grand Marais, MN","12/20/00"); theReview(" For those that have been anywhere near the north shore of Lake Superior, they will immediately recognize the marketing juggernaut that is Sven & Oles. For a one-off local pizza joint, they seem to have quite a clever marketing campaign that extends well beyond the north short area. Anyways, we decided that since we were in Grand Marais again, it was time get a pizza from Sven & Oles and take it home with us. We had eaten there this summer and found the pizza to be tasty. This time was no different. We ordered a large thick \"Vild Vun\", which is wild rice, canadian bacon, mushrooms, green peppers, and olives. When you see such hype, it is usually some bit of overcompensation for a mediocre product, but this was different. Having eaten, and largely happy with, about a million Pizza Hut pizzas, the Sven & Oles pizza was quite different. The crust was sweet, a sign of weakness to some pizza afficionados, but I really liked it. Perhaps there could have been more ingredients, but what was there was just fine. I can't vouch for the ambiance of the place or anything because my experience was basically standing waiting for carryout. To summarize, I highly recommend it. "); beginReview("Blue Water Cafe","Grand Marais, MN","12/20/00
"); theReview(" We really needed lunch and happened to be in downtown Grand Marais, so we picked the nearest decent looking restaurant, which happened to be the Blue Water Cafe. In terms of ambiance, its your basic small town cafe that seems like people would have their own personal tables. In such places, non-locals sometimes upset delicate ecosystem of the restaurant by sitting at \"Bobs table\". Thankfully this wasn't one of those places, but it did seem to have its fair share of locals could immediately surmise that we were from around here. I had the open face sliced turkey breast sandwich with mashed potatoes. Nothing fancy, just good food in about the right amounts. I was pretty hungry at the time, requiring that I also order a garden salad and a plate of fries. I was quite satiated by the time I left, but not to the point of being sick, as I sometimes overcompensate for being hungry. The service was excellent and things came just at the right time. Standard good small town fare. "); beginReview("Subway","Grand Marais, MN","12/19/00"); theReview(" After trying several different restaurants around Grand Marais at about 9:30pm, we were left with Subway. We had wanted to have something a little more of a local flavor, but it seems as if it was a slow night (not surprising for a winter tuesday night) led to having all the other restaurants closed inspite of closing times at 10pm. Anyways, we like Subway, so it wasn't a problem. It turns out that the local Subway has a local flavor all its own. Of course it has the standard Subway building that looked like it had been dropped in by helicopter, as it was with any other Subway anywhere else on earth. Anyways, the local flavor turned out the be the older lady that was the sole worker at the time. She was a transplant from Arkansas and was a college graduate in journalism and was trying to get started as a photographer, as her time off from Subway dictated. The Grand Marais area is certainly a good place for photography opportunities and a nice artsy-fartsy sorta area that gave her a peer group, which no doubt drew her to Grand Marais in the first place. We had a nice discussion about photography and related topics, and she really had a different attitude and I still cannot figure her out. Oh well, she fixed a good sandwich and it tasted exactly like the past 10,000 Subway sandwiches that I have eaten in my lifetime. Certainly a good backup plan. One nice thing, however, was that when Jennifer asked for extra tomatoes, the lady gave her like three times as many as you would usually get. "); beginReview("Wyndtree Restaurant","Moose Lake, MN","12/19/00"); theReview(" On our way up north, we decided to stop and eat once we got on the other side of the Twin Cities. Sorta at random, we picked the Wyndtree Restaurant because of its adjacency to the Amoco station, which is typically an overrated criteria. It turned out to be a nice local restaurant with typical fare for such establishments, and a gift store to boot, usually something that I shy away from. I wasn't sure that I wanted a burger or something like that, so I decided to have the taco salad, something pretty hard to mess up. It was nicely portioned and very tasty, atleast to my palate. The service was good, inspite of the fact that the woman was both waitressing and running the till until whoever got back. I did have a little guilty pleasure while I was there. Right about the time we were finishing up, a large table full of old ladies was seated on the way to the front door. Walking by them, atleast a couple of the LOL's (Little Old Ladies) were visually upset about something about my appearance, probably my long hair. It was the \"my gawd, they will let anybody into this place\" look on their face that did it for me. After paying, I quickly decided that it was time to go to the bathroom, necessitating another two trips by the LOL's. On my way past them for the final time, the response was the same, or worse, and I walked out with a big smile on my face knowing that I provided some bit of upset for some old ladies with their heads up their collective butts, a duty I relish. "); beginReview("Bob Evans","East Peoria,IL","11/25/00"); theReview(" To be perfectly honest, I didn't expect much from Bob Evans and I wasn't disappointed. It was explained to me has basically a Cracker Barrel without the gift shop. Oh boy. This particular one had a typical home-cooking type ambience, as I would have expected. One thing that we realized right away is that it was suffering from a training deficit. At one point, our server picked up a placemat that had fallen on the floor and put it back on a table (not ours thankfully). The paper placemats on our table seemed to be used or perhaps it was just that they had been stored in a very humid area. The service of the place sucked pretty hard. It wasn't THAT busy and our server seemed at wits end. We ordered garden salads with our meal and after waiting 20 minutes for our food, he still hadn't given us our salad. We had to catch him as he ran by and even then he delivered only one of our salads. We both had low blood sugar and were about ready to kill him. It took quite a while longer to get the rest of our food. The food was on average quality and presentation, about what we would expect from this type of resturant. It was a little cheaper than I would have expected, but the service sucked so bad, it coulda been free and still came out in the thumbs down category. The bathrooms were on the low end of okay, certainly much better than many resturants that we have been to. "); beginReview("Jumers Lodge Resturant","Peoria,IL","11/23/00"); theReview(" Okay, its Thanksgiving and we are in Peoria and we decided to go to the best resturant that we knew of in town. We had been to the Jumers resturant before and it was a very pleasurable experience, so we decided to hit it again, especially since we were staying in the Jumers Lodge hotel. We had high hopes, which were quickly dashed by the immediate disorganization when we entered the resturant. To give you a little idea of what Jumers is, let me say that it is a quite nice German style hotel with all kinds of antiques and tons of ambiance. The resturant is no different. I can best describe the place as packing two or three bavarian hotels into a single hotel. Its kinda over done, but in a nice way. The resturant is the same way, but not nearly as dark and packed with culture. Okay, back to entering the resturant. We seemed to have hit them just as they were converting from a buffet style to using the limited menu. We were told that there would be a wait, but then remembering to ask, they sat us right away because were wanted to order off the menu. The ambiance was nice as usual but the staff seemed a little spazzed. Our server quickly gave way to another server because the first one was quite new and she thankfully handed us over to someone more experienced. It quickly became obvious that the place had been filled with second-stringers and we would soon find out exactly what that meant. There wasn't THAT many customers, but the staff was whipping around as if the place was packed. We ordered and the server said she would be right back with some of their wonderful bread (based on previous experience). We waited, and waited, and finally flagged someone down. They said the bread would be forthcoming. We waited, and waited. We flag down a second person, who repeated that it would be out shortly. We waited, and waited and finally the bread came out. It was very good as usual and we were very hungry at this point. Shortly after we arrived, the table next to us was seated and they had a small son, probably around three. Thus, they were waiting and waiting like we were. The kid got kinda owly because he was hungry. Being the \"Minnesota Nice\" (tm) type of people we are, we shared our bread with the table next to us. It turns out that that was a fine idea, as they shortly got the news that the resturant had run outta bread. Not a good thing. Our food came it is was very delicious, allowing us to have both ham and turkey for thanksgiving. The portions were very large and I was stuffed after having finished it. It was kinda expensive, but we expected that. The ambiance was nice and the food was great. However, the service left a lot to be desired. Perhaps they should consider adequately staffing the such an important holiday. "); ?>

¥You might ask yourself "Why does this matter?". Well, it doesn't. It's just that I have seen lots of food reviewers and critics that have a very refined sense of style, to which they believe all sentient humans should aspire. I, on the otherhand, like what I like and will give you my opinion on it. To give you some idea of how I differ from other reviewers, I would rather have a cheeseburger than escargot, and don't really like many wines all that much.