Milwaukee: La Fuente

on Friday, February 27, 2009 in , , , , , ,
After New York I took a quick detour to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where I flew in and out for our sales meeting. This action-packed week has been fun but a little tiring. Nevertheless I was excited to meet up with my fellow co-workers...we always have a great time.

I flew in on Tuesday night and met some folks for dinner. My boss had a particular Mexican restaurant in mind which took some time to find it but it was worth it! The area of Milwaukee we were in was close to downtown and seems to be going through a fairly significant revitalization. There is a heavy Hispanic influence and therefore a lot of Mexican dining options.

Let me give you a little background on my experience with Mexican food. First, I have never really been a big fan of Mexican food. It's not something I can put my finger on, but for whatever reason it has just never really appealed to my palette the way other cuisines do. Recently, however, I'm finding out that maybe I've just been just eating at a lot of crappy Mexican joints! My boss was pretty adamant that this place was the bomb and anyone with that much conviction about a restaurant probably has just cause.

La Fuente is off the beaten path a little, very much a casual place with a good crowd of folks in the bar area and lots of diners. A full house is always a good sign! As is customary in a Mexican restaurant we were promptly served chips and salsa to munch on while we perused the menu. The chips are homemade, as is the salsa. I ordered an extra spicy salsa that I didn't think was very hot but mixed well with the regular salsa.

The menu had all the usual suspects. I have attached a link to their site for you to check it out for yourself: Click here.

I ordered a number five combination which came with a ground beef burrito, a chicken tostada, and chunky beef enchilada. These items were served with Mexican rice and re-fried beans.

Out came the platter and it looked pretty standard. Then I took a bite! The difference between this place and others was amazing. You can tell with one bite that the quality of ingredients used here are far superior to many other establishments. The meats are all seasoned to perfection, and I especially liked the chunky beef that was marinated, cooked and then baked for the enchilada. The cheeses used were not processed crap - very creamy and authentic. I polished down everything on my plate except the beans. I forgot to ask for black beans as I am not a fan of the re-fried stuff. Regardless, it was an absolutely fabulous meal that made my night!

With the high-quality ingredients and the prompt service one would expect a price tag just as high. Fortunately, their prices were as bargain basement as their food wasn't! I think they definitely bank on you downing some of their frozen margaritas to make up on the food costs. As you scan through the menu you will see the prices are great. Frankly, everything about this place is great. Next time you are in town check it out!

La Fuente on Urbanspoon


NYC: Seattle Cafe & Grill

on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 in , , , , ,
This has been a whirlwind trip so far. This week holds 4 states in 5 days in store for me, so I may have to post some of my eating observations well after-the-fact.

I want to write about a quick bite I had for lunch the other day in NYC. A colleague and I had wrapped up a meeting and were chilling at a Starbucks next to Penn Station when we decided it was time for lunch.

As usual, I didn't have a lot of time so it had to be quick. I planned to stop at a Quizno's to grab a sandwich on my way to the train for my next appointment. On, the way there my co-worker pointed out a different place and said I had to try it. It was called the Seattle Cafe and Grill, and I figured why not grab a sandwich there? It's closer to Penn Station anyway.

We walked inside to discover that the place was absolutely full - no seating for anyone. Customers had to stalk people for their chairs as they left.

Next, I noticed the menu. They had everything from burgers, sandwiches, soups , to....wait for it...wait for it...INDIAN FOOD!!!!

Look at the title of this entry to understand why that was so surprising! I had not had Indian food in a while, so it was very tempting. I'm a very particular about Indian food and I have to say, it looked really good. I broke down and ordered Indian food at the Seattle Cafe & Grill - what did I have to lose?

I ordered a non-vegetarian platter which included 2 meats, a vegetable dish rice, daal and naan. For those new to Indian food, daal is lentils and naan is our version of bread (have I mentioned that I am Indian?).

The two meats I chose were simply bbq chicken or what we call tandoori chicken. One was marinated in traditional tandoori spices while the other was marinated in a more heavy cream sauce. Both were great. I also had a chick pea curry which was amazing with the rice and naan.

Normally if you eat this type of food at an Indian restaurant in the city, you would likely spend $50. Here at the Seattle Cafe & Grill, $7.95! That's right, all of the above and a fraction of the cost! It wasn't gourmet Indian food, but I would absolutely go back when in a pinch and hungry. Service was fast, and truly a take-out place. For the price it is a no-brainer, I would recommend it to anyone.

The Seattle Cafe & Grill
430 7th Ave
New York, NY 10119

Seattle Cafe on Urbanspoon


NYC: Bali Nusa Indah

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , ,
Tonight I flew into NYC for a quick trip to meet with some customers. The flight landed just in time - I was ready to chew my arm off!

My family lives in the area, so my parents, sister and I went out tonight to try something different in the cuisine capital and melting pot of the world. My sister recently spent several months in Singapore and traveled extensively in the Far East. She developed a taste for Indonesian flavors - a fusion of Thai, Chinese and Indian spices. Sounded great to me!

We went to a restaurant in Hell's Kitchen called Bali Nusa Indah. We arrive around 7pm and the place was empty. That always scares me a little? With all the places to eat in NYC I suppose it shouldn't surprise me, especially because most folks were probably at home - it is Oscar night, after all.

The decor inside is filled with little artifacts from all over the Far East - pictures, sculptures, paintings - all very tastefully decorated. Bali Nusa Indah is a small place but not like some other NYC eateries where you are basically sitting on your neighbor's lap.

I let my sister do the ordering since she's the expert in this cuisine. We started with two appetizers; vegetable corn fritters and chicken satay in a peanut sauce.

The vegetable corn fritters came out piping hot, fresh as can be and were a mix of corn, peas, and other mixed veggies fried to a perfect crisp in a spicy batter. They were accompanied with a spicy sauce similar in taste to a Sriracha sauce and a sweeter ginger soy sauce. Those things were good! I really enjoyed them with the spicy sauce and would have ordered another round of them but wanted to save my appetite for what was coming.

The chicken satay was good, nothing special in my mind but still pretty tasty. The peanut sauce was not a typical one you may find at Thai restaurants where the peanut flavor is far more dominant. Here the peanut sauce is a melody of peanuts, and other herbs blended together. The chicken was moist and well-prepared on skewers. The appetizers were served in decent portions and can easily be shared by up to 4 people.

For the main course we ordered three entrees. First, a vegetable-fried rice with a bunch of different veggies cooked to perfection and lighting up the dish with their bright colors. No eggs in this fried rice differentiating it from more common Asian rice dishes.

To go along with the rice we ordered a spicy tofu in a red curry sauce. Awesome. This curry sauce was not the typical curry. It had a tomato sauce base and was thicker then conventional Far Eastern curries, a little more similar to Indian if you ask me. It had a tremendous amount of flavor that had hints of garlic, cumin and a kick with curry powder and chili.

The other dish we ordered was a Red snapper fillet prepared in a coconut curry sauce with steamed veggies. I can tend to be skeptical of seafood, but this hit the mark. The fish was perfectly cooked and melted in my mouth. The coconut curry sauce was incredible.

My biggest observation with this type of cuisine is that it is a perfect mix of the region's flavors. I wouldn't recommend eating the fish with the fried rice, it tasted better with plain white rice. The tofu and the fried rice made a better combo.

To my palate, none of the items were excessively spicy. I found myself continuously adding the spicy sauce served with the corn fritters but remember I have a bad judgement when it comes to spice - for me, the hotter the better. The food was so good I wanted to order a few more entrees. Maybe next trip.

I did notice other dishes going by us that seemed like platters of food serving one person, like a combo of everything we had and they all looked and smelled wonderful!

In our family, we never skip dessert. This one featured a fried banana crepe topped with ice cream. Nothing special but hit the spot after a fabulous meal.

I highly recommend this place to those who like the cuisine of the far east. It is different - you shouldn't expect your typical Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes. You really can't go wrong with the dishes here. This place has captured the best the regions have to offer and does so at bargain prices. Everything we ordered totaled about $10 a head. Hope you get to enjoy this place!

Here is a link to the restaurant and menu:
Bali Nusa Indah on Urbanspoon


Memphis: The Butcher Shop Steak House

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
Still in Memphis, I was looking for a nice place to eat out for dinner. I was in the mood for a steak and gone are the days of expensing Ruth's Chris or Morton's. I checked with the concierge and some local customers for recommendations.

Over and over, I was referred to The Butcher Shop. Interesting name to say the least. One of the ladies we asked said she was a vegetarian but even she would consider eating the steaks from that place! Pretty impressive reference! Here is a link to the website and menu.

The restaurant was only a few blocks away from our hotel. The atmosphere is very laid back and casual. To be frank, I was not a big fan at first glance and first whiff. The place kind of stunk - it smelled like a dive bar with beer on the floor, etc. Not appetizing.

Well, no turning back - it was getting late and this was probably our best bet in the area. After looking at the menu we decided to get the Cajun shrimp appetizer and we both opted for the salad bar to start our meal.

The salad bar was OK, nothing special, I have seen better salad bars at Jason Deli's or even Ruby Tuesdays.

When we came back from the salad bar our shrimp app was served nice and hot. Surprisingly, it was really good! It was supposed to be Cajun and had some of that Southern spice and heat but was served in a scampi format with a little more sauce that the shrimp were floating around in. Still very good and very rich.

For my entree I ordered the 8-ounce filet with a baked potato. The steak came out and it was cooked to my liking, medium-well. Typically, I would order that cut of meat cooked medium, but the questionable atmosphere pushed me to medium-well.

For the price ($30.00 per head) it was a reasonable steak.

Butcher Shop Steak House on Urbanspoon


Memphis: Neely's BBQ

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
I was recently in Memphis, TN and looking to sample some good BBQ. I don't eat pork so my options are limited to Brisket and Chicken at most BBQ places. While traveling on business I also don't have a lot of time so I needed to find some good food fast.

Many of the locals have pointed out Neely's to me as being the place to check out. Many of you might be familiar with the Neelys because of their popular shows on the Food Network. Even prior to their fame on the network they have been putting out some great food in Tennessee for years. Here is a link to their website and menu items. Given my tight travel schedule I had to sample the food at their airport location.

Many of you would suspect an airport location might be a bit sketchy. Well, forget about the myths of airport food. The line was huge, and I wondered if it going to be worth the wait. Let's put it this way; after waiting in line for a while, the next time I get to the Memphis airport I am going straight to Neely's, and again as I head out! I would even miss my flight to get some of that stuff!

I had the brisket sandwich smothered in their bbq sauce which was just awesome. I am not a bbq expert but I do know enough about good food and flavor to say this joint is worth the trip into Memphis. For $8.00 give this a shot and skip the other same ol' airport dining options when in Memphis. You won't be disappointed.

Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue on Urbanspoon


Naples: Blu Sushi

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
This time around, I am in Naples, FL visiting some customers. While anywhere this close to the open water I like find good seafood. What better cuisine to sample seafood then Sushi?

I asked some of my customers where might be a good place and they all recommended Blu Sushi. Blu Sushi has a couple of locations and I was staying very close to their Naples location. Click here for link to the site and menu.

The decor is ultra hip with blue neon lights, of couse. They seem to have good drink specials to lure in the happy hour crowd. For dinner you find well-dressed folks looking to grab a bite before they paint the town. Looked like a pretty happening date scene, too. This definitely seemed like it was a popular joint with the locals. The menu has a wide selection of Japanese dishes and of course some really original sushi rolls.

I was with a group so I had the pleasure of ordering a lot of menu items. My faves included the following rolls:

Blu Special
Crab and cucumber wrapped in avocado and topped with baked scallops and shrimp in a cream sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, served hot.

Lava Drops
Crab chopped and mixed with spicy mayo, a hint of cream cheese, cut and individually tempura dipped and deep fried each brushed with sweet eel sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Tuna chopped in hot sriracha sauce with flying fish roe, cucumber, avocado and tamago wrapped in soypaper, cut into quarters and served with a side of our spicy ponzu sauce.

This is totally my kind of place. I like the fun, energized atmosphere and more importantly, the food was really good. Original rolls and fresh ingredients led to a great night out with co-workers. Plan on about $20 per head when with a group of 4.
BLU Sushi on Urbanspoon


Orlando: Miller's Ale House

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
Being in Orlando for so long had gotten to us a little so we decided to ask some of the staff at the resort where they eat before and after work. It was late in the evening and we decided to grab a snack and have a beer after a long day of work. The staff recommended local favorites including Miller's Ale House, a casual bar located just outside the Disney resort area.

After a $10 cab ride we found ourselves situated at a table in the bar surrounded by big screen TVs broadcasting various sporting events. Miller's Ale House is not fancy - just a good old-fashioned American tavern with a pretty expansive menu located here for your review. I didn't realize at the time that the place is a chain but as it turns out they have plenty of locations across the US.

Miller's is known for their Zingers, basically chicken fingers in a sauce of your choosing. For an appetizer, we ordered a round of Zingers with Mt. St. Helen's sauce which was supposed to be "dangerous" hot. Now, I grew up on spicy food so my palate can sometimes run a little more tolerant of spice than most, but I can honestly say this was just not spicy. The sauce gave the chicken fingers a nice coating of flavor but not much heat.

For the main course I ordered the blackened prime rib sandwich. I was a little skeptical after the mediocre appetizer but as the entree came out it looked really good.

Looks didn't disappoint - the meat was prime and cooked to perfection. My first bite took me by surprise (after the appetizer) as the sandwich was really good! The portion was huge so I only ate half of the sandwich. The au jus sauce was great- I could smell and taste all the flavors the prime rib had to offer. After a beer (really nice selection by the way), apps and a great sandwich we called it a night.

Again, nothing fancy about this place, including the price. Don't get suckered into the Zingers; they're really not worth the hype. Stick with the sandwiches which are on the cheap but have what you are looking for when it comes to taste! A drink, apps and prime rib sandwich set us back $25.00.

Miller's Ale House on Urbanspoon


Orlando: The Wave restaurant at the Contemporary Resort

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
Still in Orlando and looking for a decent lunch without breaking the bank, I went to the Contemporary resort with co-workers looking to escape the trade show floor for a bite to eat.

The resort caters mostly to families. There are character breakfasts and lunches that feature Disney characters for kids during meal times and most diners pay a premium for these activities.

For the Eating Executive, I wasn't looking to dine with cartoon characters. Instead we found a restaurant called The Wave. For those of you who like to plan ahead, here is a link to the website with menu.

The Wave has pretty typical American cuisine with a modern flare. Portion sizes are decent and should fill most appetites. The decor is really nice with a very trendy bar/lounge featuring a blue-lit lounge playing up the "wave" theme. As an added benefit the restaurant is known for using only organic ingredients and is also defined as a "green" establishment making it eco-friendly.

Because it was lunch, I opted to order light. I went with the vegetarian sandwich made with grilled tofu, zucchini, eggplant, roasted red pepper, and herb goat cheese served on grain bread. My colleagues laughed at me as I'd more typically order heartier fare, but it sounded good and it did not disappoint.

I really enjoyed the sandwich. The texture and firmness of the tofu was just right giving it a little crunch and not feeling rubbery, as can be the case with tofu. The veggies were crisp and grilled nicely locking in all the flavors that were so perfectly released with every bite. The dish came accompanied with a papaya slaw that was really good as well.

Since we were on a tight schedule, we appreciated the prompt service that allowed us to eat well and get back to work all within an hour and within our budgets. A drink and entree cost $15.00 - a very reasonable price considering it is a Disney resort serving quality food.
The Wave on Urbanspoon


Orlando: Grand Cafe, Wolfgang Puck

on Sunday, February 22, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
Last week I attended a conference in Orlando, FL - not one of my favorite places to go, especially since we were stuck on Disney property most of the week. The Disney experience usually means some pretty big dollars! For the most part it's pretty hard to find decent food at a reasonable price while on the resort. However, I did manage to find some reasonable items, at least as good as it gets given the location.

First off, Wolfgang does it right. If you have ever dined at one of his restaurants you know it's top notch when it comes to service and atmosphere. Even in the commercialized world of Disney he has managed to create a restaurant where it is fun to dine with a great, vibrant atmosphere and a friendly, knowledgeable crew. The crowd is diverse, you will find some of the patrons dressed to the nines coming out of the Cirque Du Soleil show while many are casual theme park-goers looking to recharge after a long day of Mickey madness.

The menu is just as diverse as the crowd. Click here to see the website with menu options. You will find something for even the pickiest of eaters. From sushi, to pizza, steaks to pasta - take your pick! I opted to sample the sushi, specifically the Chef's Sushi Special roll. It was eight pieces of yum. The roll was a spicy tuna roll, with crispy tempura bits inside and topped with smoked salmon, drizzled with a spicy ginger sauce. I enjoyed the combination of the flavors and loved the heat of the spicy tuna and sauce that was on top. As other dishes went by me to neighboring tables they all looked well assembled and the faces of the people eating them looked very satisfied.

For being in the middle of tourist trap overpriced restaurants, Wolfgang delivers on the reputation his brands are known for at a reasonable price. A drink and the Chef's Sushi Special set me back $18.00. If I find myself back in Downtown Disney, you can bet I will be heading back.

Wolfgang Puck Cafe on Urbanspoon


Kennesaw, GA: The Boxcar, A Cheesecake cafe

on Saturday, February 21, 2009 in , , , , , , ,
Today for lunch my wife and I decided to try one of the restaurants near our home in Kennesaw, GA. I read about a cafe called The Boxcar; the menu looked simple with a good selection of sandwiches, wraps and salads.

The restaurant is located in historic downtown Kennesaw and has a very homey and comfortable setting. You can tell it is a place full of regulars as the wait staff pretty much knew everyone by name. Service is prompt and friendly and I was very excited to give the menu a try.

Despite all the great first impressions, we got off on the wrong foot. One of my biggest pet peeves is a restaurant that runs out of items listed on the menu. We wanted to start with the spinach and artichoke dip, but..."we ran out"...ouch, not good. We decided to order the Mushroom Quesadilla for an appetizer instead.

On to ordering the main course. My wife wanted the French Dip...again..."we have no roast beef"...how does a sandwich place run out of roast beef?

Instead, my wife ordered a chicken salad pita with chips and potato salad. I ordered a turkey melt on whole wheat with chips.

First came the Mushroom Quesadilla appetizer. It was cut into 4 pieces and accompanied with salsa and sour cream with a lettuce garnish. The quesadilla was filled with grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. The outside was crispy, cheese melted well but the mushrooms were just not that warm, at least for my liking. Regardless flavors worked well. The salsa was really ordinary and nothing special.

Next came the sandwiches. The turkey melt I ordered was great! Topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo and cheddar cheese, the deli turkey tasted great and the portion of meat on my sandwich was just right.

My wife's chicken salad pita sandwich was not as good but I liked it. There were some elements of the sandwich that was not typical of chicken salad. A combination of pecans, apples, a little celery, and mayo made up the chicken salad, however it was served warm. I have never had warm chicken salad - not bad, but definitely unexpected. The pita was filled with lettuce and and cheddar cheese as well. Like I said it was a little unconventional but still okay. The meal came accompanied with my personal favorite item which was a mashed potato salad. Something I have never had but is apparently popular in the Tennessee area. It had just a hint of cayenne mixed in for a slight kick which made this a great little side item.

The Boxcar calls itself a cheesecake cafe, and sadly we did not try any! Gotta watch those calories. However, in the hour or so we were there a line of folks were waiting just for the cheesecake to take out, that has to be a good sign! Maybe next time.

Overall I like the place, we got off to a rough start with the missing menu items but the rest of our meal was good with the highlight being the mashed potato salad. The best part...PRICE! Appetizer, 2 soft drinks and 2 entrees totaled $22. Not a bad deal in my mind.

Check it out for a good inexpensive casual deli experience.

Here is a link to their blogspot: The Boxcar Cafe

The Boxcar - A Cheesecake Cafe on Urbanspoon