Hello, 2017!

Well, so far my blogging plan for 2017 hasn’t exactly worked out. Lots of things are happening right now, including I STARTED COLLEGE! So, I have not been getting my blogging done like I had planned. But…I will write my first review of 2017 tomorrow after I get home from class. Spoiler alert: it’s about pizza.

Oh, and if you have been on Facebook at all in the last week, you probably know already that there was a story about me in the Charlotte Observer. Big thanks to Kathleen and Justine for that. And of course, thank you Mom and Dad, and Spencer too.

headline-02052017

And because of that story, an orthopedic doctor from Seattle contacted me about doing some writing for a HUGE project he is doing. You should check it out. I have to see if I can keep up my blog and college first, but this is a really cool project he is doing. I think I would like to do it.

If this last week is any indication of what 2017 is going to be like for me, I am going to have a super fantastic year.

Thanks for reading my blog!

– the dude

Goodbye, 2016!

Well, here we are, at the end of a year. It’s like my plate when I get chocolate chip pancakes, there’s not much left of it at all.

oph

I realized the other day that I could have done a lot more. I didn’t get to start college and I didn’t write as much as I meant to. It makes me a little angry, but stuff happens.

I ate a lot of good food. I ate some not so great food. I went to some awesome places that I go to often and I went to a couple places that were pretty horrible that I will never go to again. I learned a lot about blogging and I learned that there are rules and ethics and things I never realized. I made some new friends and went to Chicago and made more new friends there. I didn’t dislocate my toe on my birthday or Christmas or break any bones. Mom and Dad were sure glad about that, too. I did get kidney stones, so that wasn’t great. I had a pretty good year. I hope you did too.

We don’t do new year’s resolutions in our house. Mom says it’s like setting yourself up for failure because most people don’t stick with them then wind up beating themselves up and that just isn’t good for anyone. I think she’s right. I remember the time she made a new year’s resolution to go to the gym every day. Boy was she mad at herself in March.

So I am not making any new year’s resolutions. Instead, I have a plan. Plans can work out just the way you meant for them to or not and you can always change them. So my plan is to do a blog post every week, start college, and finish the book I started writing. I’m also going to keep working on my computer skills. Maybe I can do some video blogs. Maybe my plan will work out, maybe it won’t. But that’s my plan. And I have a whole year to see if I can do it all. Oh, and not dislocate my toe on my birthday or Christmas or break any bones. And definitely a big fat no to getting kidney stones again. I miss you, tea.

Whatever plans you have for 2017, I hope they work out for you.

Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2017!

– the dude

This is a good review on my rating scale, but I have a few suggestions and so does mom.

We have a pretty awesome neighbor who loaned us an air conditioner last summer when it was ohmygodImgonnamelt degrees outside and our air conditioner was dead and she mentioned a place she just heard about to my mom, so of course I asked if we could try it. (Thanks, Jennifer!) It’s called J Peters Grill and Bar and is in Mount Holly. They have several other locations in South Carolina and Georgia.

I have never posted a very critical review because I really don’t like to hurt peoples’ feelings and I really like it when everything is just awesome. So I need to tell you right now that this is a good review overall. I gave them 5’s on all five categories, BUT…there are a few things they need to improve on and Mom always says if you don’t get honest feedback, you don’t know what you need to improve on. So…this is the story all about how…hahaha no I am not going to sing Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But you thought I was for a minute, so I got you.

Anyway…

Well, my dad had his first Friday night off in a year so we decided to go for dinner last night. It was weird to have Dad home for dinner on a Friday night, but I like it.

So we rolled out in omygodImgonnafreeze degree weather to check it out. It’s only been open a few months or so but it was already pretty crowded at just after 5 PM. It’s right on the water on the Catawba River. It has a nice ramp to get in, but I took the stairs anyway because I need the exercise.

The first thing I noticed when we went in is that it is very loud. That loudness had a lot to do with everything that happened at dinner I think.

We did not have to wait for a table. We were asked if we wanted a table or a booth and we took a booth. Their booths are HUGE. It was me, Mom, Dad, and Spencer and we had plenty of room.

The first girl that came to our table asked us for our drink order. She didn’t tell us her name. We also ordered an appetizer. Honey-buttered croissants, which is part of what Mom wanted to check out when she saw their menu.

Another girl came back with the drinks and the croissants and took our order. She never introduced herself either but she was very nice and made sure to tell us what all was in a house salad, which was good because I can’t have eggs. Mom and I both ordered the 11 ounce sirloin medium rare and mom added fried shrimp. I got fries and she got their loaded mashed potatoes. Dad ordered the 14 ounce prime rib medium rare, also with the loaded mashed potatoes, and Spencer ordered the prime rib sandwich. I had to tell the server my order four times then Mom and Dad finally had to tell her for me because she just couldn’t hear me. My CP makes it hard for me to speak loudly and it was really loud in there.  So if you are a quiet speaking person or hard of hearing, you might have some challenges here.

Ok, so those honey buttered croissants are DELICIOUS. Mom almost got me when I reached for the last one and Spencer and Dad were like “Have you lost your mind?” She was nice and let me have half of it. Mom really loves croissants. So do I. One of these days, we might fight over one.

jpeters-croissant-a

Mom got busy doing things yesterday and didn’t get around to eating all day so she was REALLY hungry. She actually was probably hangry. If you don’t know what hangry is, you are lucky.

Our server came back a few minutes later and took the appetizer plates and said our salads would be right out. So we were all thinking “Cool. Salad. Then dinner. This is really good so far!”

A few minutes later, our server came back with salads. And our entrees. But the salads are pretty awesome. They mix ham and bacon and add almonds on top. And…they are served with another honey buttered croissant.

jpeters-salad-a

Well, ok. Not what we were expecting because we usually get salad, then our entrees, but ok. Not a big deal I guess.

Spencer’s sandwich looked AMAZING. Look at it. I mean wow. They definitely do not skimp on the meat. He said it was every bit as good as it looked and probably tasted even better than it looked.

jpeters-sandwich-a

My dinner looked pretty amazing, too (and it was!) The portions are on the huge end of the spectrum.

jpeters-sirloin-a

This is where things took an interesting turn. Mom is looking at Dad’s plate and says “That’s not prime rib.” Dad looks down and says “Oh, wow. Nope.” Mom cuts up my steak. Perfection. So then she cuts into hers. Medium well. Yeah not good. The server comes back a few minutes later. Mom says “Ok, sorry but we have just a couple little issues. My husband ordered the prime rib. That is a sirloin and I ordered medium rare and this is, well, not that.”

So…mom and dad are told to pull the dish with the mashed potatoes off and she takes the steaks and says they will correct it and the new plates will also have the loaded mashed potatoes, so yay for leftovers for tomorrow. They come back a few minutes later and have upgraded Dad to a 20 ounce prime rib (this is not on the menu) and it looked AHHHHHHHHHHMAZING. Dad was handed his plate and told this by someone we assume was a manager but didn’t introduce herself. She just handed mom her new steak without saying anything. Mom cut into her steak and…medium well. Again. Server comes back and Mom says “Thanks for fixing this so far. I really hate to be that person, but this is still medium well. Look at his (points at mine) and look at this. Not even close. His is perfect. This one, not so much.” She apologized all over herself again. Meanwhile, we have all nearly finished dinner. Poor mom who waited all day to eat has had croissants, salad, and a few bites of mashed potatoes. By this point mom had asked the server her name and gotten it. She really did go out of her way to try to make things nice for us.

Dad said it was really good prime rib and everyone agreed that the loaded mashed potatoes were crazy good and we are some very picky people about potatoes.

Now here is where it got really interesting. A man comes out with the server and presents mom her 3rd steak and asks if she is SURE it is right THIS time. He didn’t introduce himself either. Well, in all honesty, it was more on the very rare side but at this point mom was over it and really just wanted to eat her dinner and said it was fine. Mom felt like he had an attitude about it. He did kind of have a tone about it that was less than apologetic. Our server told us “Great news, we are going to give you all dessert since we got things so wrong.” Mom said the steak was pretty good after all that. But she was stuck on how a place that features steak could get it wrong not once, not twice, but three times.

The dessert we got is not exactly on the menu. They have three dessert items. One is “Strawberry Croissant Madness.” We got that but asked for no strawberries since me and mom can’t have them. It’s supposed to be deep fried croissants dusted with powdered sugar and topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. We got chocolate sauce instead of strawberries. It was ridiculously good. I didn’t even care that mom took a picture of me with whipped cream in my beard.

I will definitely order this dessert next time. Then go lie down on the couch.

When our server brought us our check, she told us that they were charging dad the price for the sirloin instead of the prime rib, so that was pretty cool considering our adventure.

So here is my rating, despite the things that happened:

  • Space and accessibility – 5 It’s a really nice place, they have ramps in front and in back and inside the layout is easy to get around in. You’d have no issues in a wheelchair here at all.
  • Sanitation – 5 Everything was very clean.
  • Friendliness of staff – 5 Our server Kenzie (not sure if I spelled it right or not) was really nice and really went out of her way to try to make up for the things that went wrong.
  • Service time – 5 Surprisingly fast aside the wrong orders, but their timing with the courses could be better.
  • Overall taste – 5 Despite the mix ups, really good food.
  • Bang for your buck – 5 Prices weren’t bad for steak/seafood American cuisine and at the price range they are at, the portions are huge. NOTE – they do not have a different lunch menu so the  menu items, portions and prices are the same for lunch and dinner except that you cannot get a baked potato before 4 PM.

I should probably tell you right now that my mom worked in the restaurant industry for years before she became a Borg and got into technology and I grew up hearing all about it. She worked as a server, a bartender, a manager, and even got in the kitchen on more than one occasion, and she trained servers and bartenders, so she has some insider knowledge on how things work and what likely went wrong when things don’t work. So when she says something could be improved on, she usually knows what she is talking about. Mom says “Overall, J Peters is good, but they have a few areas they could work on.” She said servers should always introduce themselves, it’s just good manners and it also lets you know who to ask a hostess or other server for if you need them. I agree. Mom also said every restaurant she ever worked in, it was standard procedure for a manager to come to your table, introduce themselves, and tell you what they were going to do to make it right when they messed up. And usually that meant “comping” your meal or a portion of the check. Though the free dessert we got was pretty darn amazing and they did only charge dad for sirloin instead of prime rib. Mom said it was pretty obvious to her they had some “green” staff that just needed more training. Not a deal breaker, just something to know about. And our server did do her best to fix every issue we had, so there is that. Not at all uncommon in a new restaurant. Great restaurants take feedback like this and work the kinks out. So we will see what they do with our input.

I think my mom’s input on the issues we experienced is right.

We’re definitely going to try them again. The food was worth giving it another shot.

They have some really nice menu selections and they are priced comparable to Midtown Sundries or Outback and the portions are huge. The food itself is pretty darn good. But they do have a few wrinkles to iron out with some service and training issues. We’ll see how things are next time I go and mom said I should do an update when I do. So I will.

– the dude

Chicago part 2 – let there be pizza (and beer!)

On our first morning in Chicago, we waited for our friend from England to arrive. When we picked him up at the train station, we all decided we wanted breakfast food for lunch. Our AirBnB hostess had recommended a place called El Chile. So, we decided to try it.

It didn’t look like much from the outside. Or the inside, either. Mom said it reminded her a lot of some places she went in Mexico. Inside was this odd combination of restaurant, pool tables, and what looked like a small dance floor. Mom had read some Yelp reviews that weren’t very encouraging but our AirBnB hostess had been right so far, so we decided to trust her. She described it as a “Mexican pancake house” so we kinda had to try it.

Mom was happy because they had corned beef hash. It was served with two eggs, hash browns, and pancakes. She said it was surprisingly good. She is a little bit of a snob about corned beef hash because her mom used to make it at home from scratch instead of canned. So if she says your corned beef hash is good, you did something really right. I got the chocolate chip pancakes and they were awesome and huge. Dad got fajitas. Dad almost always has fajitas. He said they were fantastic. Our friend, The Bard, had the special and seemed to like it. Mom and Dad call him The Bard because he writes poems. He’s cool.

We left very full and happy. It was also surprisingly cheap. Mom and dad were very happy about that.

  • Space and accessibility – 5 It was a fairly open space
  • Sanitation – 5
  • Friendliness of staff – 4 Our server was very friendly
  • Service time – 5 It was super quick, but we went mid afternoon and the place was almost empty so it may be different at peak times
  • Overall taste – 4 Surprisingly good breakfast food, no complaints
  • Bang for your buck – 5 For the four of us we spent less than $30, including tip, in Chicago

A lot of the bad reviews on Yelp were for delivery. I can’t say how they are for that because we ate at the restaurant. I would definitely go again.

When dinner time rolled around, we decided to get pizza. Everyone said we HAD TO get pizza in Chicago. We had a hard time deciding where to go, but decided to give Golden Crust a try since it seemed close to where we were staying. It was further than we thought. Mom forgot to put my walker in the car when we left home, so I had to walk without it. We finally got there. Dad and The Bard were very happy to see the part about 40 taps. They like beer.

golden-crust-1

It’s a neat place. Dark inside but really a cool vibe. We decided to get a large meat lovers’ pizza. We were not prepared for how large large is. I mean look at it! Mom said her first car had smaller tires than this thing.

golden-crust-2

I am used to New York style pizza. Mom said it would be like pan pizza from a certain place, only good. She was right. The sauce was nicely balanced. Not too tangy, not too sweet, not too spicy, just right. The cheese was amazing. Everything about that pizza was just plain awesome. Now I get why everyone said we HAD TO get the pizza. Thanks, everyone.

golden-crust-3

I could only manage to eat one slice. We wound up taking Lyft to get back to where we were staying because no one could walk anymore after that.

Golden Crust

  • Space and accessibility – 3 It’s a really nice place, but if you were in a wheelchair you might have a very hard time
  • Sanitation – 5
  • Friendliness of staff – 5 Our server Bree was super cool and really took great care of us
  • Service time – 5 Surprisingly fast once we decided what to order
  • Overall taste – 5 This is another time I should go higher than 5, it was amazing
  • Bang for your buck – 4 Prices weren’t bad considering we were in Chicago, especially for such giant pizza

I would definitely go again. I would recommend to them to maybe make more space between tables for people who have mobility issues, but aside that, it was a really great place to be. We had a great time and the food was excellent. Dad and The Bard said the beer was too.

The next day, we went to our friend Marti’s house for a cookout. Her fiance cooked for us. He made brats soaked in beer and they were the best ones I ever tried. Mom doesn’t even like brats and said they were delicious. We had a great time and ate very well.

The next morning we had to get up early to drive back to NC. I wish we could have had more time in Chicago. I have been mentioning to mom and dad that I want to go back to Chicago. We probably will. There are a lot more places there I want to try.

I must be a turkey because I got stuffed, but I liked it.

Brace yourselves, mom and dad. You’re getting reviewed by the dude.

Mom didn’t have a working oven and stove for a couple of years and her kitchen was a hot mess because the people who put in the kitchen did a really bad job. Well, little by little, mom and dad got all of it fixed over the last two years and they did it up big yesterday.

First up, dad’s potatoes. Smashed redskin potatoes with a little garlic, butter, salt, milk, and cheese.

dads-potatoes

That’s it. They are the best potatoes you could ever hope to eat. I almost think they are better the next day. You should try them.

Mom taught me a new thing: mise en place. That’s French and it means everything in its place. Mom likes to have everything ready before she cooks. She chopped up oregano and basil to let the roast rest on after cooking. It makes a huge difference.

tgiving-2016-2a

Which brings me to that roast. Mom got a whole beef tenderloin and she and dad herb rubbed it before putting it on the grill.

tenderloin

Mom grills it long enough to get a good sear then lets it finish in the oven at 275 degrees until it’s medium to medium rare. Mom won’t tell anyone exactly what all she puts on it. I can tell you what it tastes like though: Magic!

We also had:

Haricots verts (Mom says that’s French green beans) sauteed with almonds

Mom’s 7 cheese macaroni and cheese baked in the oven (she won’t even tell dad what all the cheeses are)

Dressing with walnuts (Dad never had it before, now he knows why I love it) It’s dressing if it isn’t cooked inside the turkey

Turkey breast

Mom’s wine sauce for the beef

Italian Mascarpone Torta and Key lime pie with chocolate sauce for dessert

tgiving-2016-3

Mom and Dad – you rock. Of all the things I am thankful for, you are at the top of the list. I’m ready for some leftovers!

tgiving2016-1a

I’ll be finishing up the story about our Chicago trip later in the week.

– the dude

Shane’s Rib Shack – good, inexpensive ribs

I recently went to Shane’s Rib Shack Shane’s Rib Shack for lunch during regular lunch hours. They use a sweet and spicy sauce and you can taste the cayenne. It’s a little “hotter” than medium spicy. The ribs fall off the bone. Ask for towelettes, they are messy, but worth the mess. I ordered a half rack of ribs with 2 sides. I had an order of fries and a side salad. They have macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, or a side salad as well as a few other options. If you like Texas toast, you’re in luck. It comes with everything. Dishes are served in baskets.

If ribs aren’t your thing, they also have barbecue sandwiches and other menu items. If you like baked potatoes, be warned: they’re HUGE. (see below) Among other toppings, you can get barbecued chicken on your potato.

Note: they do not serve dessert, but it’s not like you really need it because the portions are large.

shanes-ribshack-1

Shane’s Rib Shack is pretty much an “everybody” kind of place. Work lunches, families, whatever. If you like any of the sauces, they sell them by the front door. I want to get a bottle of the sweet and spicy.

Location visited: Gastonia

  • Space and accessibility – 5 Tables were spaced for getting around well, ground level entry.
  • Sanitation – 5 Everything was nice and clean.
  • Friendliness of staff – 5 No issues, everyone was friendly
  • Service time – 5 Service is fairly quick
  • Overall taste – 5 Ribs were amazing
  • Bang for your buck – 4 Prices are comparable to Midtown Sundries

Some chain restaurants are different.

I don’t usually write about chain restaurants because I really don’t like eating at them. I like locally owned, small places and that’s where I usually wind up eating. So that’s what I end up writing about. But tonight, I went to a chain restaurant with mom and dad for their anniversary dinner and it was really, really nice.

I didn’t really do a full review with my rating scale, but I did want to take a minute to say it was a very nice experience I had tonight.

Longhorn Steakhouse in Huntersville, take a bow. The service was wonderful. Our server, Brooke, was a rock star. And the manager, Debbie, took a picture of my mom and dad and gave it to them with a coupon for a free appetizer on a later visit, and wished them a happy anniversary.

The appetizers were out in a short time. The dinner was timed perfectly so we didn’t still have our appetizers and salads half eaten. The food was cooked exactly as we requested. Also, it was really nice that my steak came to the table already cut for me. See, I can’t use a knife because of my CP, so usually mom or dad has to help me out. Then, people stare. Then, I just want to leave. Some places give me a weird look when I ask if they can cut my meat for me. Some places just say “No.” At Longhorn in Huntersville,  it’s always “Absolutely! We’ll be happy to do that for you!”

I’ve been to other locations of this restaurant chain and while the food was good, the service was only “ok” and it didn’t feel like we were all that welcome. The Huntersville location is a different experience. I have been to this location before and they are consistenly not like the others, in a very good way. It feels more like a small, locally owned place where the staff are happy to see you.

We were all really full after our meals, so mom and dad got a dessert to go for later and the server did the sweetest thing.

longhorn-dessert1

The kind of service we got tonight is why I generally prefer small, locally owned restaurants over chains. I will definitely be back. Longhorn in Huntersville, thank you for being different.

– the dude