You are driving down the highway, hungry, looking for a good place to eat. Do you stop at the first diner or restaurant you come to or do you continue down the highway looking for a familiar chain restaurant? Driving through small-town America, are you willing to stop at a restaurant you see off the main road?
It has been said there is not a Dive out there that I’m not willing to try and regret later. If trying different restaurants was a baseball game, I’m batting 400. How do you know if a restaurant is a hidden gem if you don’t stop and give it a try? Firehouse Grill is one such place. If I had not ventured in, I would never learned that it is a hidden gem.
It is my mission to share the hidden gems I have found and steer people away from the places I swear I will never go back to. The Road Warriors amongst us know of places that they are willing to take a drive to go back to. Whether you stumble on a good place to eat while traveling or go to a restaurant because of word of mouth, these are the places that need be shared. The adventure is rolling the dice and trying new places.
When my mind wanders at work, at times I will cruise the internet and see what catches my eye. There was an article on the Best Pizza Restaurant in each of the 50 States. According to the article, the best pizza in Pennsylvania was just 9 miles from me; Tommy’s Pizza in Gettysburg. So of course, I had to try it. When I visited Tommy’s it was hopping, talk about busy. You place your order at the counter when you walk in and then find a seat. One of the things I appreciated is their menu is fairly simple. A lot of places try to do too much, but not at Tommy’s. They serve Pizza, Subs, Gyro, Stromboli, Salads, Wings, and they have your usual side orders. When it comes to pizza, they serve one style, thin crust, with about 30 different topping options. If you don’t feel like creating your own, they do have their Specialty Pizza’s, which include, Veggie, White, Greek, Supreme, Meat Lovers, and Gluten Free. I’m certain they can satisfy most of the pizza lovers amongst us.
I decided to go with my standard order, Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pizza. This pizza was cooked exactly how I like my pizza cooked. The crust was slightly crunchy. The cheese along the edge was starting to caramelize. Just looking at the pizza you can see how generous they are with the toppings.
The first bite of Tommy’s Pizza did not disappoint. There is a balance of cheese, sauce, and meat toppings. Some pizzas out there leave you wanting more of something, whether it be sauce, cheese, or meat. Not at Tommy’s.
I can see why this article listed Tommy’s Pizza as the best pizza in Pennsylvania. But, I would like to know what their criteria for making this selection was. There are so many good pizza restaurants in Pennsylvania. Not that there is anything wrong with Tommy’s pizza or the restaurant I don’t think they are the best; I have what I believe is the best pizza in the area a block from my house, which is La Bella Italia . Chiefly the difference is they have three different styles of pizza, my favorite being the Stuffed Pizza. My other reason is I like the sauce at La Bella Italia and Gallo Pizza and Italian Restaurant better.
Any time I can check to see what someone else calls the best, I will. If you are in Gettysburg and looking for pizza, check out Tommy’s. There is a reason they have been in business since 1973. Knowing how expensive it is to eat out, Tommy’s Pizza is a good place to take your family. Have you been to Tommy’s or have a favorite pizza restaurant you want to share, leave your comments below.
Martin Luther King Jr day gave me an opportunity to go to York PA for the first time. I purposely planned to go to York and find a place to eat lunch. The problem was I arrived downtown too early, most of the restaurant weren’t open yet. Walking down Market St, I came across Roost Uncommon Kitchen. At Roost it is all about brunch. They are open Wednesday through Monday from 8am to 2pm. How could I not try Roost with menu items such as, The Garbage Biscuit, The Flower Pot, and what I finally settled for, Dry Aged Brunch Burger. While I was waiting for my order, the one thing that was killing me, was the smell of food from the table next to me. Man, it smelt good! Scanning the restaurant I saw several dishes I would love to come back and try.
My first bite of the Dry Aged Brunch burger was over the top fantastic. It was like an explosion of flavor. I could taste every layer of the burger. The Dry Aged Brunch Burger starts with a 6oz Ribeye and Brisket Blend. Then the burger is topped with Cooper Cheese, House-Made Bacon Jam, a Fried Egg and a Hollandaise Drizzle on a Brioche bun. Every bite of this burger was as good as the first bite. I was hungry when I sat down, I definitely left full. What can be said about curly fries that hadn’t been said. I don’t know what I was thinking, I should have tried their hash browns. Especially since this is the first restaurant I have been to in PA that serves hash browns. To top off the meal, the coffee was really good. Roost on their website claims everything on the menu is made from scratch. After eating the Dry Aged Brunch Burger, I believe them.
I don’t think there is any question as to whether I recommend visiting the Roost Uncommon Kitchen. If you are in the York area and you are looking for brunch or better yet, good food, try Roost. Have you been to Roost? Leave your comments below.
Now that I no longer live in Virginia, I always make a point of heading back to the Corner Cafe, in Portsmouth Virginia for breakfast, whenever I’m in town. America needs more Cafe’s like the Corner Cafe. When I lived in Portsmouth, my Saturday morning routine consisted of walking to the Corner Cafe for breakfast and good conversation. There is more to the Corner Cafe than good breakfast. Their menu is full of comfort food classics. Not to mention their daily specials. When I say America needs more Cafe’s like the Corner Cafe, I base this on the sense of community built by enjoying comfort food with people from every walk of life.
What is so special about the Corner Cafe’s breakfast? Their three-egg omelette is a good example of why people return to the Corner Cafe. The eggs are light and fluffy. They don’t skimp on fillings such as cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, and meats such as country ham, bacon, or sausage. Nothing disappoints me more than when I don’t get a choice of cheese. This is never the case when it comes to the Corner Cafe. Another aspect of what makes the Corner Cafe worth a visit is they listen to how you want your meal prepared. I was not let down when I ordered crispy hash browns. The hash browns were served golden brown on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It may be a small thing; I also appreciate that I can order my English muffin grilled. The English muffin becomes saturated with butter, yum. If you haven’t tried an English muffin grilled you should.
Chain restaurants offer good breakfast choices. I’m not about to criticize a Denny’s or Perkins; but we need more community diners such as the Corner Cafe. Community diners are like family. A place you know you will get a good home cooked meal, served by people you consider your friends. Do you have a favorite community diner? Have you been to the Corner Cafe? Leave your comments below.
I’m very particular when it comes to Japanese food and tend to shy away from chain restaurants. For more than a year I have been driving past Aki Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi restaurant, saying to myself, you need to see if they are any good. My dilemma is that they are really good, but they are also a chain restaurant. Where I normally do not review chain restaurants, Aki is worth reviewing and better yet visiting.
Have you ever asked yourself what is the purpose of appetizers? They say that an appetizer is supposed to whet your appetite. Appetizers can also build anticipation of the pending meal. From the first bite of Aki’s Tempura Shrimp, Every bite had me anticipating my next bite, the Tempura Shrimp was really good. The tempura batter did not overpower the shrimp. You actually got shrimp with every bite. I would recommend sharing due to the pieces are large. Needless to say; I couldn’t wait for my meal.
To start with, there is a lot to be said about Aki’s presentation. I’m always impressed when a restaurant takes the extra steps to set their meals apart from their competition. I have reviewed Katsu Chicken in the past. One of the differences with Aki’s Katsu Chicken vise other places I have reviewed is the size of the portion. I was not expecting two large chicken breast patties. The patties generously covered with the panko breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden brown. I did find the patties a little dry and I felt with such large patties, they should have been a little more generous with the Katsu Sauce. They didn’t have any problems bringing me more sauce.
Overall this was a very good meal. If anything, I was disappointed in myself for not leaving room for dessert. I saw on their menu they serve deep fried ice cream. I will definitely come back so I can try their Teriyaki Steak. if you are looking for dinner and a show, they do offer Hibachi Dinners prepared in front of you and your guest.
If I had done a little research in advance, I would have known that Aki Steakhouse and Sushi restaurant is a chain, with roots back to Japan. I don’t usually research, it defeats the purpose of discovery. I recommend Aki if you are looking for a good Japanese restaurant. Have you been to Aki or do you have a favorite Japanese restaurant’ leave your comments below.
Friendly Farm Family Style Restaurant is a unique dining experience in Upperco MD. Why would people from out of state drive off the beaten path to Hereford in unincorporated Baltimore County, to dine at Friendly Farm? Is it the food or the dining experience. This is not your date night style of restaurant. This is a restaurant where you sit down with family and friends. The uniqueness begins when you first walk in, prior to seating, you order your main dish. Then you find a table. Given that the meal is served family style, the servers will bring out bowls of the appetizers. Take what you want and pass it around. When your main dish arrives, the servers will bring out bowls of the side dishes.
Don’t go to Friendly Farm expecting a huge menu. Their menu ranges from Fresh Fried Chicken to Steak, and Seafood specialties. I recommend reviewing their website prior to going. I chose their Roast Beef, the thought of tender beef smothered in brown gravy appealed to me. The Friendly Farm roast beef lived up to my expectations. The sides that came with the meal were good, but the one side they don’t serve is mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes smothered in their brown gravy would have been perfect. If you not of fan of canned green beans, I would recommend skipping them. I myself prefer fresh or frozen green beans. The meal is finished off with a serving of ice cream.
The appeal of Friendly Farm is that this is perfect if you want to sit down with your family and friends and don’t want the hassle of cooking or the cleanup after a real good meal. You pay one price for the meal with comes with limitless drinks, appetizers and sides. The one appetizer that stood out was the Sugar Biscuits, not recommended for diabetics, a sweet warm biscuit coated in sugar is something else.
I will definitely recommend Friendly Farm Family Style Restaurant. Quiet and intimate, no. Family restaurant, yes. When I speak about destination drives, this is definitely a destination drive. Have you been to Friendly Farm; leave a commit below.
As a true Road Warrior, I find planning meals essential. Being hungry on the road leads to bad choices. I knew on the return trip from Hagerstown MD, I would want to stop and eat dinner. On the way to Hagerstown a few places caught my eye, one in particular was the Ott House Pub, in Emmitsburg MD. So, on my way back through Emmitsburg, I stopped for dinner at the Ott House Pub. At first glance, everything seemed promising. Luckily I found a place to sit at the only remaining table. The waitress was quick to serve me a drink and bring me a menu. I was caught a little by surprise; the entree’s are primarily seafood. They do have a singular steak. Beside the steak and seafood, they also serve Pizza and Burgers.
I was looking for a meal and since I had seafood the day before, I chose their Delmonico Steak. Unfortunately, the best part of my meal was the baked potato. I prefer my baked potatoes plain with just butter. In researching what a Delmonico Steak should be, the only thing that is in agreement on the web is that a Delmonico Steak should be a thick-cut, high quality steak. What I was served was neither thick-cut or high quality. Of the 12oz’s, a good portion was fat or just tough. The steak wasn’t all bad. It was cooked to a medium rare. The seasoning was spot on, so it didn’t taste bad, just not something to write home about.
When traveling, there are times when time is not an issue, and you want to kick back for a meal. The Ott House Pub let me down. Looking at the reviews on Trip Advisor, I would have thought the people that left the reviews were eating at a different place. My recommendation is changing the name of the steak on the menu. Calling it a grilled steak lowers expectations. I still would not have been happy, but I would not have been searching the web to find out what a Delmonico steak should be.
Don’t let my review be the last word on the Ott House Pub. They have received 32 reviews on Trip Advisor that were mostly positive. Scattered in the positive reviews were reviews left by people like myself that did not enjoy their meal. Have you been to the Ott House Pub. Leave a comment and let me know how you feel.
Portsmouth Virginia is home to one of the finest restaurants on the East Coast, Cafe Europa. Dining at Cafe Europa you get the feeling that you are dining at a French restaurant, but the truth is Chef Michael serves up French and Italian dishes, with a Mediterranean influence. Cafe Europa is a Bistro in the truest sense of the word. They are a small unpretentious restaurant that serves an international cuisine. To give you an impression of how good Cafe Europa is, people boating up and down the coast of Virginia, will turn up the Elizabeth River and dock in Portsmouth, just to have a meal there. This is saying something when they could just as easy dock on the other side of the river and eat at one of the many fine restaurants in Norfolk.
On this particular evening we were served up two outstanding appetizers Polenta Gorgonzola and Mussels Marinieres. My personal favorite is Cafe Europa’s Polenta Gorgonzola. The polenta is grilled and then rested on a rich and decadent Gorgonzola cheese sauce. This is a little slice of heaven and my favorite way to eat polenta.
The Mussels Marinieres is served in a white wine and butter herb sauce. The sauce is exquisite. Make sure you ask for extra bread to soak up the sauce. The Mussels Marinieres is not on the menu, it is usually offered as an appetizer special. On the menu they do offer a Mussels Provencal, the difference is it is served with a Pernod, tomato based sauce. Either appetizer will be a special treat.
Have you ever had veal that melts in your mouth? Whether you have or haven’t, Cafe Europa’s Hungarian Veal with Potato Noki was the star of the evening. The tomato-based sauce with it’s hint of paprika is Chef Michael’s way of paying homage to flavors of the Mediterranean. The sauce is a perfect accompaniment to the veal. I had to ask for another couple pieces of bread to lap up the sauce. The veal is so tender, it just melts in your mouth. I seriously considered asking for another order to go. This has to be the best veal I have ever had.
All of Cafe Europa’s desserts are made in house. As with the appetizers, every night the dessert menu changes. Talk about a challenge for the waitress, imagine having to memorize 16 or so desserts every night. You would be hard pressed not to find something you desire. Dessert this evening consisted of a slice of Apple Galette, pictured, and slice of Conversation Tart. The Conversation Tart is a puff pastry filled with an almond filling. I have tried my fair share of their desserts; I have never been disappointed.
Looking for an intimate evening out, or dining at a restaurant that leaves you feeling as if you just had a meal with old friends, Cafe Europa is definitely worth checking out. If you are in the Portsmouth or Norfolk Virginia area, call and reserve a table at Cafe Europa Bistro and Wine Bar. Have you been to Cafe Europa or have a favorite Bistro, share your comments below.
I have to admit Jack’s was not on my radar when I went to California a couple of weeks ago. Even though I have been there countless times, I had other restaurants in mind prior to my arrival. What a pleasant surprised when the hotel I checked into was less than a block from Jack’s in Pleasant Hill. I tend to not promote a chain restaurant, in the case of Jack’s I’m not certain if you can call them a chain restaurant. Jack’s is family owned. When I was eating there on a regular basis, they had two restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, now they have four. Their web-site touts their dinner menu as Greek-American inspired. You will find everything from burgers to salmon on the menu.
Zucchini Cakes have to be one of my favorite appetizers. Jack’s Zucchini Cakes are made with feta cheese, tzatziki, and cucumber-tomato relish. Even though they are deep fried, they are surprisingly light. Jack’s has made it a little harder to share. They used to serve three cakes and now they serve two. Adding to my disappointment, they used to be a little larger. I chalk this up to inflation, trying to keep cost down. Even still, Zucchini cakes are an excellent way to start a meal.
I have a new favorite Fish and Chips. No need to find an Irish pub if you live within driving distance from Jack’s. The portion size was surprising. Jack’s serves three large fillets of Alaskan Cod dipped in their beer batter. The cod was light and flaky. They serve it with lemon and vinegar or tarter sauce. I found I didn’t need either. I’m not certain my picture does this meal justice, but their Fish and Chips now tops my list.
Given that Jack’s was so close, I actually ate their, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One of my favorites in their salad section of their menu is their Crispy Buffalo Chicken Salad. There is no need for an appetizer. I’m certain you will not walk away hungry. The Buffalo Chicken has just enough heat for those of us that like it spicy. But it’s not too spicy, for those that can’t take the heat. I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes chicken wings and looking for a hearty lunch.
The French Toast breakfast was just ok. Nothing to write home about. Maybe it’s because I have been spoiled by restaurants back home. My first complaint was that the scrambled eggs did not seem fresh. They appear to come out of a premixed container. The French Toast was good, but they have served better. Brunch used to be more of an event at Jack’s. Now it is good, but if I still lived their, I would look for another breakfast spot. Don’t get me wrong, if you are looking for a family breakfast, Jack’s should be on the list.
With four locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, it should be easy to find a Jack’s to visit. I was impressed with the quality of the food and that they have kept the cost down. If I make another journey to the Bay Area, Jack’s will be on my list. Have you been to Jack’s? What is your opinion? Leave me a comment.
In planning my trip to California I had two or three restaurants I wanted to eat at. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years, I knew I wanted to visit some of my favorite haunts, schedule permitting. La Tapatia was at the top of my list. You can tell by the crowd whether a restaurant is serving authentic food or not. On the night I visited, more than half the diners were Latino. So then the question became, are they still as good as they was?
On the East Coast, I don’t see Chile Colorado on a lot of menu’s. Chile Colorado is one of my favorites when dining in a Mexican restaurant. So, my choice this evening was simple. I have probably had this dish more than 100 times. On this particular evening something was off. I couldn’t be certain if the chef was having a bad night or have they switched to lower quality meats. I realize inflation is hitting restaurants hard and they have been dealing with the increase in cost in various ways. I can’t say what the issue was here. The flavor was not bold, in fact the sauce seemed grainy. The meat was chewy and fatty. The highlight of the meal was the re-fried beans and rice. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a bad night. I have too much history with this restaurant to judge them on one so-so meal.
La Tapatia Mexican Restaurant and Cantina has been a Concorde Staple for more than 20 years. If you are in the mood for authentic Mexican food, I would consider making the trek. They have been too good, for too long to judge them on this one meal. If you have eaten at La Tapatia or have a favorite Mexican restaurant, leave a comment.
A trip to the San Francisco Bay Area would not be complete without eating at my favorite Japanese restaurant, the Blue Gingko. Outside of Japan, the Blue Gingko is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. It starts with the food. Blue Gingko imports food from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. It ends with tastes that will transport you to Japan.
Something unique to Blue Gingko is fried rice balls. Picture this, you pick up your Hashi, better known in the States as chopsticks, and you slice through the outer shell of a fried rice ball to find the soft inner body. This has to be one of my favorite ways to eat rice. The fried rice balls at Blue Gingko are served with an unagi sauce (Eel Sauce.) Unagi sauce is a thickened, sweetened soy sauce. For the squeamish amongst us, this sauce is not made from eels, it is a sauce that is traditionally served with grilled eel dishes in Japan.
Call me crazy, I actually went to Blue Gingko twice on this trip. Knowing that it will be a while until I go back to the Bay Area. On my second trip, I ordered Gyoza. This is one of my favorite appetizers. Blue Gingko has the right touch, they are deep fried to the point of having a light crunch and the pork is tender and flavorful. To complement the Gyoza it is served with a dipping sauce that is made of soy sauce and vinegar. After the unpleasant experience I had in Rochester, it was a pleasure eating their Gyoza.
As soon as I confirmed my trip back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew I was going to dine at least one night at Blue Gingko. There was also no doubt what I was going to order, Tonkatsu. You may ask yourself what is so special about a deep-fried pork tenderloin cutlet. Blue Gingko’s pork tenderloin is cut to the right portion size. They do not cut their pork tenderloin to thin. Cutting pork tenderloin to thin has a tendency to make it too dry. Theirs is tender and juicy. The panko crust has just enough seasoning to enhance the dish. Let’s not forget the Tonkatsu Sauce. Tonkatsu Sauce is a complex sauce made from fruits and vegetables, plus soy sauce, vinegar and no less than 10 spices. If you haven’t had Tonkatsu Sauce, it has a rich flavor with a slight tanginess. The Tonkatsu Sauce is what brings the dish together. Having eaten this dish in Japan, Blue Gingko’s tastes like it was transported straight from Japan.
When I want to change things up, I order Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken. Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken has a light, sweet teriyaki flavor. If you are watching your carbs, this dish may not be for you. I highly recommend this dish. The day I was eating dinner there, I heard another patron tell their dining partner, they only order Teriyaki Chicken when they eat there.
Blue Gingko is definitely a restaurant worth the drive if you live in the San Francisco Bay area or just visiting. Whether you are looking for sushi or want to try my favorite Tonkatsu, you should make plans to visit Blue Gingko in Lafayette, California. Have you been to Blue Gingko? Please feel free to leave a comment.