Della Rose’s Tavern

29 03 2010

I recently signed up for the Baltimore Sports & Social Club (BSCC) spring kickball league. After our game is over each Saturday,  everyone usually heads over to the sponsor bar, Della Rose’s Tavern. This restaurant is located in the First Mariner Arena building in Canton. Della’s serves standard American fare, such as burgers, wings, pasta, and chicken. The food is generally of good quality, and moderately priced. One word of caution though – stay away from this place during the day on the weekends. About 300 loud sports players descend on this place to play drinking games.

That said, I wanted to bring you a quick review of one of the more Maryland-centric creations that Della’s offers – the Eastern Shore Club. Here is the description, taken right off the menu –

Yummmm. Its not often that you can get chicken and crab on the same sandwich.  I looked at the ingredients and thought, “well, I like everything there, I wonder how it would taste?” I thought the same thing a while back when I ordered BBQ pasta with ranch dressing subbing in for the traditional marinara sauce. While each ingredient may taste great separately, combining them can have disastrous results. Another example that comes to mind is whenever a pizza chain such as Papa Johns or Dominos offers a BBQ pizza. I like barbecue, and I like pizza, but I do not like barbecue pizza. Never substitute marinara sauce with BBQ sauce!

Back on topic – the Eastern Shore club. The myriad of flavors from the chicken, crab, lettuce, tomato, and bacon can be a little much to handle at once. I did like how the chicken added a nice texture and “heft” to the crab. I never liked pure-crab sandwiches because the texture of the crab can become mushy and saturated with the surrounding bread. Crab is meant to be eaten out of the crab, or in a broiled crab cake, in my opinion. The bacon went well on all fronts, completing a mini-BLT on top of the sandwich. Overall, the Eastern Shore Club was a lot to handle, but I was satisfied with the experience. As a side note, the Old Bay fries that are included with the club are amazing. They are crispy, golden, and lightly dusted with Old Bay seasoning, which complements the sandwich well. It would be great to have a meal like this available with a tall glass of lemonade while watching the ships glide over the Chesapeake.

Have you every been to Della’s? If so, what would you recommend I get next time?


Wendy’s Bacon & Blue

26 03 2010

Im beginning to think this blog is giving me an excuse to eat more fast food. No, that can’t be. I put myself through this for you, not me!

Anyway, I went to Wendy’s yesterday to give their new “Bacon and Blue” burger a shot. Before I get into the review, let me introduce how I feel about Wendy’s. In my youth, I was a McDonalds/Burger King kid, and Wendy’s never jumped out at me. I had it occasionally, but I wasn’t able to appreciate it back then. McDonalds and Burger King had all the cool Happy Meal toys, play places, and ball pits. Wendy’s had Dave Thomas commercials and was always full of old people. Needless to say, as a young boy, the choice was simple.

As my pallete has aged and refined, I have begun to appreciate Wendy’s more and more.  Here’s why –

  • Their burgers are just quality – never frozen, juicy, and square. They are not thin and suspect like McDonalds’ patties, or gigantic and floppy like Burger King’s.
  • The rolls are corn dusted and fresh.
  • The lettuce and tomato have real flavor.
  • They don’t dump mayonaise and other condiments on every sandwich.
  • Their new Applewood smoked bacon is amazing – leaps and bounds ahead of every other fast food chains’ bacon. It is crisp, juicy, smoky, and flavorful.

My only gripe about Wendy’s are the fries, although they are growing on me. Wendy’s fries are large and floppy – great for mopping up ketchup, but I prefer crisper fries. Overall, Wendy’s is one of my favorite fast food chains, possibly making my top 3.

On to the main event –

 Wendy’s Bacon & Blue

You have to like bleu cheese to like this burger, and that is a hurdle some people have trouble getting over. I had a terrible experience with a bleu cheese and chicken sandwich a few years back (Pro Tip – don’t grill a chicken sandwich with the bleu cheese still on top – it turns green). Luckily, I have recovered my taste for the stuff since then, and Wendy’s is smart enough to add it after the grilling process. Wendy’s describes the burger as follows –

Fresh, never frozen beef covered in real blue cheese crumbles layered with FOUR strips of thick, fresh-cooked Applewood Smoked Bacon. Top it off with sautéed onions, a creamy steakhouse sauce and crisp, fresh veggies. Can you say delicious?”

This burger is pretty darn good. Not many fast food establishments can pull off a sandwich with bleu cheese, and Wendy’s pulled it off. The bacon, steak sauce, and veggies are really complemented by the tanginess of the bleu cheese. When biting into the sandwich, I first noticed the rich texture of the premium bun, the bite of the cheese, followed by the juice from the burger and the smoky aftertaste from the bacon. You will be hard pressed to find a juicy burger at McDonalds or Burger King.

The only drawback is the price – this burger ain’t cheap. It will set you back over four dollars if you buy it separately, and tack on a few extra bucks for the combo meal. I guess this isn’t terrible considering McDonald’s seven dollar+ McBistro meal, but this burger would be absolutely amazing at around a three dollar price point. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind reviewing this burger a few more times.

Any of you bleu cheese haters out there? Get over it and give this sandwich a shot! You won’t regret it.

Del Taco – Tales From A Foreign Land

25 03 2010

Hey everyone,

My friend Phil was in Los Angeles last week and was able to try a few fast food places we normally don’t have access to here in Baltimore. I am jealous of course, but to tide us over, Phil sent me a review of his experience at Taco Bell’s long lost cousin –

So…. take it away Phil!

Phil: SURPRISE! Jamie is letting me borrow the keys to the blog to take a little trip out west and explore a few fast food joints we east coasters have barely heard of.

Recently I went on vacation in Los Angeles and I was able to eat at a few of the west coast’s more popular fast food chains. This will be a three part series that explores Del Taco, Jack in the Box, and Weinerschnitzel.

Whenever I go on vacation I like to visit a regional fast food chain or local restaurant just to get a feel of the area and the everyday lives of it’s people. Avoiding national chains that I can find in Baltimore is the main priority while on vacation, and besides a late night trip to a Subway after Disneyland the trip was a success.

Ok, all packed up and ready to go? Del Taco is the first stop on the road trip…

Well I went to a Del Taco 6 years ago when I was in Las Vegas and I remember enjoying it, so I had to go back! This is what I had this time… 

–          Macho Taco $1.79: Hard Taco Shell, Ground Beef, Sour Crème, Cheddar Cheese, Spicy Taco Sauce, “salsa” (pico de gallo), and lettuce. My Take: Tasty taco (I’m not a huge sour crème fan, but I didn’t find it offensive on this) that has great ground beef that blows Taco Bell out of the water. This thing is loaded too, lots of meat and other toppings. Next time though I’ll probably just get either a regular Taco or Classic Taco (check my wish list below) since they’re cheaper and you can save room for other items on the menu.

–          Del Beef Burrito $2.69 – Soft Tortilla, Ground Beef, Zesty Red Sauce, Cheddar Cheese. My Take: Again, fantastic ground beef for a fast food joint! Just your basic burrito, but very tasty and filling. Getting a Del Burrito (Beef, Chicken, Bean, or Combo) is required if you’re a Del Taco newbie.

–          Crispy Chicken Taco (around $2) – Soft Gordita-like Tortilla, Crispy Chicken Breast piece, salsa, lettuce, secret sauce. My Take: This must be a special or limited item, because I can’t find it online anywhere. Basically it was a soft taco with a fried chicken breast. The chicken was nice and juicy and was a perfect fit in the tortilla. It wasn’t exactly your traditional Mexican dish, but it worked. The special sauce was a perfect compliment to the chicken. The only negative that I can mention was that the Gordita-like flatbread tortilla wasn’t the best. Taco Bell’s Gordita shell has flavor and is almost good on its own, the Del Taco version was plain and not as fresh.

–          Chicken Soft Taco $1.09 – Soft Tortilla, Grilled Chicken chunks, secret sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese. My Take: Beats Taco Bell’s. The chicken actually looked and tasted like real chicken, unlike the Grade D chicken you get at the Bell. The secret sauce was a nice touch and if I could remember what it compared to I would do so, but I can’t so you’ll have to take my word for it.

–          World Famous Crinkle Cut Fries $1.49-$2.29 based on size – The name says it all! My Take: Actually the fries were average and sort of tasted like Ore-Ida frozen fries you could get at the grocery store. They were ok and if you order a meal they will come with it. If you’re not ordering a meal, don’t bother.

Wish List for Next Time: Big Fat Taco (Compare to a Taco Bell Chalupa), plain ol’ Taco (meat, cheese, and lettuce) and Classic Taco (same as the Taco, but double meat/cheese and with tomatoes), any of the Burgers or Quesadillas (just to see if they’re any good), and one of my favorite fried foods, the Churro.

Overall Del Taco gets my seal of approval! Not to hate on Taco Bell (because Lord knows I can’t drive by one without drooling over the monthly special plastered on the windows), but Del Taco seems like a step above in terms of quality and ingredients. The pricing was fine and you could certainly get lunch for a couple of bucks, but just like Taco Bell you could end up ordering a bunch of stuff and have a $8-12 check. Del Taco also has a lot of menu options and seems like the perfect place to go with a car full of people wanting different things. Somebody wants tacos, CHECK! Somebody wants a triple stacked burger, YUP! Someone wants a milk shake, OH YEAH! Someone wants a giant bowl of fries with chili and crap dumped on it, YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!

I would love some opinions on my opinions and if you’ve been lucky enough to eat at Del Taco, make sure to leave a comment to let us know your take. Thanks again to Jamie for letting me guest blog, maybe we can turn this into periodic column on JCR!

Bust out the sunscreen, fanny packs and visors, because next time on the road trip we’re visiting our buddy Jack (in the Box).

It’s the McBistro!

24 03 2010

I stopped by McDonalds yesterday, a place I usually try to avoid.  As much as I enjoy fast food, I rarely have a good experience at McDonalds. It seems like every fast food chain has something special… except ol’ Mickey D’s. Arby’s has their roast beef, Burger King has their huge burgers, Wendy’s has their never-frozen burgers. McDonalds….has…..the Big Mac?

Anyway, I found out that Baltimore is only one of three test markets for a new product from McDonalds.

Enter – the McBistro –

Don’t get too excited, it never looks as good as the picture.  Basically, the big gimmick here is choice…. imagine that. You, the customer, are able to choose whether you would like your McBistro with grilled or crispy chicken, what sauce (barbeque, honey mustard, or ranch), and whether you would like bacon for an additional fee. Burger King has been “having it your way” for years and McDonalds just now caught on to the idea? Here is how the conversation started in the McDonalds board room –

McExecutive – “Hey, lets allow our customers to decide what sauce they want on their chicken sandwich! And if they want bacon! Genius! Instead of offering a grilled and a crispy chicken sandwich, or any of these ‘club’ sandwiches, lets do the McBistro! We can take a stab at Starbucks in the process too, even though it has nothing to do with a ‘bistro’!”

Trust me, that’s what he said, I was there… and that’s his real name too. Anyway, this sandwich is decent, but its nothing new. If you have ever had a crispy or grilled chicken sandwich at McDonalds, the McBistro is nothing new. Its a hulking chicken sandwich, drenched in ranch or whatever, with a ton of greasy fries (that apparently never decompose!). Top it off with a huge sweet tea, and you are guaranteed to sugar crash in about 45 minutes. From a marketing perspective, the McBistro kind of makes sense… All the people on diets can order the McBistro grilled with honey mustard, and those less scrupulous can get it fried and covered in ranch. Its still a “McBistro” either way. With a large McBistro meal coming up to the min 7-dollar range, I will stick to my dollar menu McChickens.

Value Menu Burgers Part 2 – Burger King

22 03 2010

On to part two of the Value Menu Burgers series! For this installment, I will be discussing Burger King’s famous “Whopper Jr.”

Luckily, the Whopper Jr. that you order is not impaled by a teenager with a bad combover.

Thats more like it. This burger consists of a a flame-broiled beef patty topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, pickles, and onions-all on a toasted sesame seed bun. This burger is just plain better than McDonalds’ double cheeseburger. The bigger patty ends up being around the same amount of beef as McDonalds’ two smaller patties. The toppings are more generous as well, including real onions, lettuce, and tomatoes instead of McDonalds’ diced onions and condiments.  The bun is of higher quality as well, with a richer texture complemented by the sesame seeds on top.  Does it cost more? No, its still only a buck.

Bigger isn’t always better, and this burger does have its downsides. Every time I order a Whopper Jr, it is slathered with condiments. It always seems like Burger King loves dropping a metric ton of mayo and ketchup on this thing. These ingredients mix into an overpowering substance that masks much of the flavor of the burger. This is a shame because Burger King includes real lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on top. Is a ton of ketchup really necessary on a burger that already has tomatoes?

Consensus – You can quickly tell that Burger King wanted one purpose for the Whopper Jr – “Be bigger and better than McDonalds’ value menu burger.”  In this regard, I believe that Burger King succeeded. Despite some quality control issues, the Whopper Jr is a solid burger, and you could do much worse for your dollar. Unfortunately, there are other dollar burgers out there that really challenge Burger King for the crown. Check back soon to find out!

What do you think about the Whopper Jr? I want to hear about it!

Padonia Station – Batemans in disguise?

17 03 2010

First off, I want you to know that the chain of restaurans in the Baltimore area known as “Batemans” is one of my favorites. I try to make a trip at least once every few weeks for their crab pretzel, wings, and beer. That said, I had an interesting experience the other night at a restaurant that tries really hard to be Batemans – Padonia Station.

The experience was decent, but talk about deja-vu! This place is like a bad immitation of one of my favorite restaurant chains.  The menu is similar, the atmosphere is similar (except for the large amount of Colts memorabilia – im sure that went over well during the last NFL season…), and everything else just smacked of Batemans. Right down to the crab pretzel and the wings.

The food wasn’t terrible, but it really felt like a prototype, wanna-be Batemans. The crab pretzel didn’t have that magical touch of old bay and scallions. The wings were decent, but not the best. The bar area was darkly lit and sparsely filled, reminding me of a party that died off a long time ago. The spattering of middle aged men in jean vests didn’t help any either.

Have you ever been to Padonia station?  How was it for you?

Value Menu Burgers Part 1 – McDonalds

5 03 2010

Every fast food chain worth their mettle has a “value menu” of some sort. This sub-menu usually consists of various items priced around a dollar each. I will be posting an entire philosophical discussion on value menus soon, but for now, I want to focus on just value menu burgers.

The hamburger is an American tradition – and the personification of fast food. Food service industry titans such as McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s all offer value menus that include burgers. So if you are out looking for a hot, fresh cheeseburger and only have a few dollars to spend, which restaurant is your best option?

Today I will be discussing what McDonalds brings to the table –

1. McDonalds – Double Cheeseburger

McDonalds is world-renowned for their Big Mac, which unfortunately is too expensive to make their value menu. One of their prominent dollar menu offerings however,  is the double cheeseburger. This sandwich consists of two hamburger patties, two slices of cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. Now you might be thinking – two hamburger patties for only a buck, what a deal! Unfortunately, the two patties included on this burger are among the smallest in fast food; they are pathetically tiny. If you added four of these patties together on a sandwich, it still would not compare to some larger burgers.

McDonalds’ hamburger patties are 100% beef, in an 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio. This would be bargain bin ground beef at your grocery store – considering 20% of it is fat. They are prepared on a special electric griddle that allows McDonalds to take the burger from frozen state to ready to eat, over the counter in less than two minutes. Unfortunately, what McDonalds enjoys in cost savings and efficiency has the side effect of producing lackluster burgers.

The toppings on the double cheeseburger are relatively unexciting as well. No fresh tomatoes or lettuce here – just processed cheese product, pickles, and diced onions. I am not a fan of the ketchup + mustard combo either. I apply the hot dog condiment rule to burgers as well – never mix ketchup and mustard on the same sandwich (and for hot dogs – leave the ketchup out all together – it is heresy). when you bite into a good hamburger, you should notice the juiciness of the meat, its texture, and the spices it was cooked/grilled/marinated in. Covering the burger in ketchup and mustard ruins this, although, with McDonalds, I can see why they may want it covered up.

Overall, the double cheeseburger is a decent offering for only a buck, but you get what you pay for. I believe there are better value menu burgers out there, which I will be discussing soon.

What do you think about the double cheeseburger from McDonalds?