Red Robin Cupcakes

28 05 2010

Red Robin is a sit-down restaurant chain that specializes in gourmet burgers. There are a few Red Robins in the Baltimore area, and I try to make a trip to one every month or so. The burgers are fries are always high quality, and the service has always been good.

The Red Robin in my area recently introduced a regional special that seems to have flown in under the radar. New specials are typically represented on paper cubes that are placed on each table.

No, not this cube.

Each side of the Red Robin cube has a different special. The latest cube showcased a new “Cuban Burger”, some rice bowl with fish in it that looked gross, and a new salad. Sticking out of the top of the cube was a new dessert item – cupcakes.

Now you are probably thinking, “Cupcakes? Big deal…”, which is what I thought at first. You have them at birthdays, an eight year old can make them at home… old news right? Wrong. Red Robin totally made me believe in cupcakes again after one taste.

There are three Red Robin cupcakes – Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry Lemonade. They are all small to average size, and sell for two dollars each. The chocolate cupcake is chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting and a chocolate wafer on top. The vanilla is the same, but with vanilla. The strawberry lemonade cupcake has a lemon flecked cake with strawberry icing and a vanilla wafer on top. I was hoping for a lemon wafer but what can you do?

The chocolate cupcake was downright delicious. The cake was incredibly rich and moist, and the icing was soft and creamy. I have never had a better cupcake in my life.

Why don’t more conventional sit-down restaurants serve cupcakes? After a big meal, I never have room for a gigantic slab of cake or a huge brownie covered in ice cream. A cupcake is cheap, delicious, and satisfies that after dinner sweet tooth craving. Other restaurants, like T.G.I. Fridays and Applebees, are serving “dessert shots”, which are little cups with chocolate mousse or similar. After a 2,000 calorie meal, dessert should be something modest like this.

Red Robin’s cupcakes are a diamond in the rough – if you have a chance to try them, go for it!

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Wienerschnitzel

24 05 2010

The chronicles of Phil’s road trip to the west coast finally come to an end with a visit to a hot dog chain known as Weinerschnitzel. This restaurant does not exist in my area, and I have never been to one. Here is Phil with the review.

Phil: So it’s been over a month since I actually went on the West Coast Fast Food Road Trip and I am just now posting my review of Wienerschnitzel, the last stop of the trip. Yes, I procrastinate waaaaay too much. So with out further stalling, here’s the review.

Wienerschnitzel


The location actually is really important for this particular Wienerschnitzel because it’s the Burbank location that is next to the NBC, Warner Brothers, and Disney Studio Lots. Apparently this is one of the only Wienerschnitzels to have beer on tap! This is a great location for anyone that works at those studios or is visiting them and wants a snack, lunch, or buzz. I didn’t try the beer because it kind of threw me off guard and I wasn’t really dying to drink in the early afternoon. It looked like they had your typical domestic beers, so you know what that tastes like. I did have a couple of dogs and limeades though…

Chili Cheese Dog


I was a little unsure about this one when I ordered it, but I’m sure glad I got it. I didn’t know how the chili would be at fast food joint, but it was actually pretty good. In comparison to a famous Baltimore place know for its chili dogs, G&A Restaurant (Guy Fieri went there for Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives!!!!!!!!), Wienerschnitzel was actually better. Like, a lot better (I guess that’s a review for another day). The chili wasn’t runny, had no beans, it had a nice kick/ flavor to it, and it complemented the hot dog. The cheese on top was of the shredded cheddar variety and was a nice accent to the dog. This was tasty and worked great for a little snack, if you’re really hungry you might need a couple other dogs to fill you up. The price wasn’t too bad at a couple bucks and some change.

Other items –

Mustard Dog

This was just a plain ol’ hot dog with mustard on it. The bun did its job and wasn’t stale, so I was happy with it. The hot dog was decent, cheap and made for the perfect snack before going on a studio tour. A few of these will definitely hit the spot any time your stomach is growling.

Limeades (Cherry, Strawberry, Lime)

That’s right I had all three varieties of Limeades. I wasn’t man enough for the beer, but BOOM all three limeades. Top that. The strawberry was the best one, it was the most refreshing and the strawberry-lime flavoring just tasted great. If Wienerschnitzel were in Maryland I would get one of these once a week. The cherry was good and still refreshing, but the cherry syrup was too strong and took over the whole drink. Unless you love strong artificial cherry flavor, you might want to pass on it. Then there is the lime limeade, should be the best one right? Nope, the lime flavoring was just way too syrupy and it ruined the rest of the drink. The refreshing light lime drink I was hoping for actually turned out to be a bad mix of too much syrup and too little water. Maybe some booze would have made the drink better. Too bad they only sell beer at this Wienerschnitzel.

Overall, Wienerschnitzel was a good fast food place that had a big menu full of interesting choices. I was only able to try a few items, but the corn dogs, burgers, turkey dogs, Polish sandwich, Italian sausage, and angus dogs are items I have to try next time. Wienerschnitzel definitely lives up to its slogan of being DERlicious, so give it a try if you see one.

Trip Conclusion

Basically people on the west coast have a lot more fast food options than we do in Maryland. I’m jealous, but what are you going to do. Good thing the weather is nice out there and people can get out and work off those calories.

Jamie: Thanks for the guest reviews Phil. I hope to make it out to the west coast at some point to try some of these places. Our selection is so limited here in Baltimore…

This is the second hot dog review posted on JCR! What is your favorite hot dog chain? Post a comment!





Taco Bell $2 Meal Deals

18 05 2010

Another month, another Taco Bell special to talk about. Unfortunately, this one is even more disappointing than last month’s Tortadas. In a marriage made in hell, Taco Bell has began including Doritos in four new $2 meal deals.

Oh the humanity!

I knew it was bound to happen some day. Taco Bell is already famous for serving faux-Mexican food. Why not pair it with the most Americanized, fried, fake tortilla chips money can buy?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t find the pairing of Doritos and Taco Bell food to be appetizing. In the very least, I would have preferred the chips and nacho cheese that Taco Bell already offers, or maybe some beans and rice. Anything but Doritos. I don’t even need to go to Taco Bell and try this new deal. I already know what it will taste like.

There are four meals to choose from –

  1. 1/2 lb. Cheesy Beefy Burrito
  2. Gordita Supreme
  3. Chicken Burrito
  4. Double Decker Taco

The choices are all decent value menu options (I will pass on the Double Decker Taco). Ordering the Gordita Supreme will provide the most bang for your buck, and it would be my top choice if I were forced to order one.

I have to admit though, for $2, a 1/2 lb. cheesy beefy burrito with a bag of Doritos and a soda will make you full. It is nothing I would want to be “full” of, however. These meals are a nutritional nightmare. Even my fast food-iron stomach would have trouble. Can you imagine going to the gym afterward and keeping it down? I do not want to find out.

If you are really hungry, love Doritos, and only have a couple bucks to spend, Taco Bell’s new $2 meal deals might be right up your alley. I am still not comfortable with Taco Bell selling Doritos though. Next we will have McDonalds selling Lays potato chips. Then…the apocalypse!

What do you think of Taco Bell’s latest promotion? Post a comment!





Polls Page

14 05 2010

TGIF – go celebrate with a Double Down!

I wanted to give any loyal readers a heads up – I quietly added a “Polls” page last week. I will post new polls there every week or so. Tasting and reviewing new food and drink is my passion, and I want to know your opinion about everything I write about. The latest poll has to do with  light beer, so go check it out.

If you have a poll question in mind, leave a comment!





KFC Double Down

10 05 2010

In case you haven’t heard, KFC has released a new sandwich called the “Double Down”. This sandwich has gained fame and notoriety all over the internet for being incredibly unhealthy, even for fast food. What makes the Double Down sandwich so bad for you?

They replaced the bun with fried chicken.


That’s right – unlike a normal sandwich, where there is usually meat of some sort between two slices of bread, the Double Down packs cheese, mayonnaise, and bacon in between two fried chicken breasts, skipping the bread entirely. When I first heard of this dastardly creation, I felt both excitement and dread at thought of eating one myself. I was curious as to how it would taste, but fearful of getting a coronary afterward. Luckily I found this chart to compare its nutritional information to some other fast food offerings.

(click the picture for a full-size shot)

Who knew that a chicken sandwich from Panera was worse for you than this monstrosity? We all know this sandwich isn’t a nutritional godsend, but how did it taste? Lets get to the review.

The KFC Double Down

As if ordering the sandwich wasn’t enough, I also opted for a side of mashed potatoes and potato wedges. I absolutely love KFC’s mashed potatoes and gravy. As you can see, the Double Down is basically two hunks of chicken with pepper jack cheese, bacon, and chipotle mayonnaise in between. The sandwich lost immediate points because the cheese was cold and not melted whatsoever. They could at least nuke the sandwich for 15 seconds before serving it. The sandwich is wrapped in thin paper, allowing you to eat it without actually touching the greasy chicken.

Don’t you want to take a bite?

After biting into it, I first noticed the warm chicken, which was quite juicy and infused with KFC’s spices. This was followed up by the cold, creaminess of the cheese and the subtle bite from the chipotle mayonnaise. This is one rich sandwich, as you may expect. In a weird way, it is almost refreshing to each chicken this way, without having to deal with bones or a large, doughy bun. The chicken was high quality, but the stuff in between, not so much.

Would I order it again? Probably not. This thing sat like a rock in my stomach, making me feel like taking a nap the whole afternoon. Even I have limits to what I can take from a fast food joint, and this is too much for me. I am glad I tried it though, and I would recommend that you give it a shot if you are at all curious. The KFC Double Down will be remembered as one of the more controversial offerings in the history of fast food, for better or worse.

What do you think about the Double Down? Post a comment and let me know.





Arby’s New Value Menu

5 05 2010

I adore Arby’s roast beef. I don’t know why – it does not taste like or resemble natural roast beef. I guess it has that Taco Bell appeal – totally unnatural and processed, yet amazingly tasty. Or maybe they are slipping something into the sandwiches that is purely there to make people addicted to the product. What do you think soda companies use caffeine for?

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Arby’s FINALLY came out with a respectable value menu. As a fast food connoisseur, I have learned that one of the first things to look at when browsing the menu is everything on the value menu. You can often find the same food that is included in the combos without the inflated prices.

Arby’s used to have an amazing “5 for $5.95 deal” that allowed the customer to pick 5 items from a value menu for one price. I always chose 3 roast beef sandwiches, 1 fries, and 1 drink. Why would you order a combo for the same price and only get one moderately larger sandwich instead of three? The other advantage of this promo was that you could totally customize your order. If you really liked fries and were craving a shake, you could order 2 sandwiches, 2 fries, and a shake. Its that simple.

So how does Arby’s new value menu compare to the old $5.95 deal? Not especially well. Most if not all the items on the new value menu are priced around a dollar. Items include –

  • Roast Beef Sandwich
  • Ham and Cheese Sandwich
  • Chicken Sandwich
  • Small Fries (really small)
  • Apple / Cherry Turnover
  • Jamocha Shake

Pricing each of these separately has the benefit of not forcing the customer to spend $6.00. However, I was seriously disappointed by one change they made to this menu.

The sandwiches are really small. Now this may have been just my experience, but the sandwiches on the old $5.95 menu had way more meat than the new $1.00 roast beef. I feel confidant in this theory, because I know for a fact that Arby’s carefully weighs the meat before it is placed on each bun. They may have scaled down the portion size… say from four ounces to three ounces, and it is noticeable. I ate three value menu sandwiches, and a fries, and I was nowhere near full. These new roast beef and ham sandwiches would be the perfect size in a kids meal for a five year old.

The chicken sandwich was marginally better. It was about the same as Wendy’s value chicken sandwich (fun fact – Wendy’s owns Arby’s). The chicken was of the processed and formed variety (a.k.a. disc-shaped chicken nugget). It was decent though, and had more to it than the pathetically small roast beef and ham sandwiches.

The small fries were just that – small. When the employee does not fill up this tiny fries to the top, its really not worth ordering. Its like ordering your fries in a dixie cup.

If the items on Arby’s new value menu were beefed up a bit (pun intended), I would be all over it. I will still have to stop by to have my roast beef fix now and then. Oh and while I’m at it, one last word for Arby’s –

Change the name of the “Large Roast Beef” back to the “Big Montana”!





Bargain Beer Battle

27 04 2010

Sorry for the posting-hiatus, I have been feeling a bit under the weather over the past week. I went to KFC and tackled their infamous “Double Down” sandwich over the weekend. Keep an eye out for a full review soon. Until then, I wanted to touch on a topic that many people have been asking about. Which is the best main-stream light beer?

But before I get to that, I would like to profile those who drink beer and relate that to how I see myself. There are two major types of beer drinkers – the casual and the connoisseur.

The casual drinker usually goes for cheap, drinkable light beer. He or she will most likely be drinking beer out of a can or a frosted mug. Casual drinkers range from college students who buy cases of cheap beer for parties to people who just like a Bud Light with wings.

The beer connoisseur prefers more complex, full bodied beer, and often avoids cheap light beer at all costs. This is the person who goes on brewery tours, understands the difference between barley and hops, and may even be able to recommend a good cheese to go with a certain beer. The beer connoisseur often looks down on the casual drinker, while the casual drinker doesn’t mind much.

Of these two viewpoints, I put myself somewhere in the middle. I usually prefer a light beer with dinner – something easy to drink that quenches the thirst without filling you up or interfering with the taste of the meal. At the same time, I also enjoy a heavier, hoppy beer during the afternoon or evening – usually by itself or with pretzels. I have been on brewery tours, and I have bought cases of Miller Light.

This split preference is not all that uncommon. I would venture to say, that if the average drinker was rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being totally casual and 10 being the most experienced connoisseur, most people would rank at about a 3. I would rank myself at a 6-7. Where would you fit on the scale? Remember – it is just a preference, a higher number is not better than a lower one. Post in the comments!

Now, because there are thousands and thousands of different beers in the world, a beer comparison from a connoisseur’s perspective would be like reading War and Peace. Therefore, I will discuss my perspective on the top 3 light beers, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light, to guide all you casual drinkers out there.

Beer #1 – Bud Light

Bud Light is a great mix between flavor and drink-ability, and because of this, it is my favorite of the three. It has more flavor than Coors Light without having the distinct taste of Miller Lite. This beer goes great with wings, burgers, pizza, you name it. Keep an eye out for Bud Light in aluminum bottles at sporting events – those are a real treat. Bud Light also comes in a “Select” 55-calorie variety, but then it starts treading dangerously close to flavorless-Coors Light territory.

Beer #2 – Coors Light

“The Silver Bullet” – “The taste of the Rockies”. Well silver bullets are meant to kill werewolves and I don’t imagine that the Rocky Mountains taste that great. Coors Light is the most watery of the three, and has the least flavor. You might think that a watery beer would be easier to drink, but in many cases, casual drinkers have a hard time with Coors Light. The ironic reason why – its not bitter. Part of what makes beer drinkable – ironically – is its slightly bitter taste. Much like spiciness in food, if the bitterness is too much, no one will like it, but a small amount will have people coming back for more. You take a sip – the hint of bitter flavor makes you thirsty – you take another sip – etc. This is how beer works, and this is why Coors Light does not work.

Beer #3 – Miller Lite

Just to be different, the people at Miller like to spell the word “Light” their own way. Miller Lite describes itself as “True Pilsner Beer”. Remember the beer connoisseurs that I was talking about before? This statement makes them laugh. Miller Lite has more flavor than Coors Light, but so does everything else. Its flavor is more distinctive than most light beers, and most people have a love-hate relationship with it. Bud Light’s flavor is more ambiguous – drinkable but very similar to other light beers. Miller Lite is still fairly drinkable, but also easily identified. It all comes down to personal preference.

So of these three, my top pick is Bud Light. It is cheap, drinkable, and refreshing. Which do you prefer? Post a comment!