Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sanity Scene - Dayton, Ohio - (Part 2 of 3)

Here are the next few restaurants that I was able to try in Dayton, Ohio.

I like to categorize these as "Places to Pig Out"!  To meet the criteria for places to pic out, the restaurants either are serving huge portions, "chipotle-fying" everything, open 24 hours, or all of the above.  These are all places that I would come back to in a heart beat and actually wish were open in the Chicagoland area.  Check em out!

Fusian on Urbanspoon

The first place my brother and his wife brought me to was Fusian.  This was the first restaurant that I had encountered that adopted the Chipotle-style service.  Rather than choosing a pre-made combination of sushi, you get to create your own.  First, you get to choose which type of seaweed and rice you want.  Next, choose the protein, which includes tuna, shrimp tempura, chicken, steak, and a half dozen or so other types of fish.  Now choose the veggies you like, such as cucumber, carrots, jalapeños, and many more.  If you thought you were done, you still need to make a decision on which sauce you want... they range from a spicy mayo to a sweet and sour chili to even teriyaki.  You are allowed two sauces so take advantage.  And finally, you can choose toppings.  I love the tempura crunch and ginger, but masago (fish roe) is also available for an additional cost.  Once everything is chosen, they place the roll into a sushi cutter and there you go... chipotle style sushi at a reasonable cost.  Some rolls end up the size of a burrito.  Each comes with 10 pieces so don't order too many!

Piada Italian Street Food on Urbanspoon

After living in Dayton for a week or so, I stumbled across a restaurant that described itself as "Italian Street Food."  Having lived in Florence for more than a month, I was excited to see what street food was offered.  As I entered, I felt like I walked into a higher class Chipotle.  But rather than the typical tortillas and other Mexican ingredients, I saw pasta, rosemary chicken, fried calamari, fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, and much more.  I chose to create a piada, which I like to call an Italian burrito.  The thin crust dough was filled with a thin layer of pasta coated in olive oil and parsley.  I chose to have italian sausage in my piada along with the following ingredients:  artichoke, spinach, arugula, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, white beans, eggplant caponata, black olives, peppadew peppers, crispy pancetta, fresh mozzarella, parmesan reggiano, a fresh basil pesto, and a spicy tomato diavolo sauce.  It sounds like a lot, and it was, but how can you pass up on such fresh ingredients?  The piada itself is huge... I finished just half because I splurged and bought an order of calamari and also a pepperoni piada stick.  The calamari was fried to order with sliced jalapeños and other hot peppers.  The piada stick was simple... the piada filled with parmesan reggiano cheese and pepperonis.  Easily one of the best "fast food-like" restaurants I have tried and one that I continue to crave.


Bill's Donut Shop
Bill's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

When my brother's wife's sister was in town, we went out to eat several times.  But somehow, at midnight, she and I were both hungry and craving something sweet.  After searching for late night spots, it was revealed that Bill's Donut Shop was a 24-hour hot spot in the Dayton area.  We drove towards this long standing establishment and ordered exactly what all the reviews said... the sour cream old fashioned doughnut.  This freshly baked doughnut had a cake-like consistency and a sugary icing.  We also chose a few random ones, including a peanut butter long john, a traditional glazed, and a banana cream-filled one.  All were sweet, rich, and satisfied our craving.  I was pleasantly surprised with the restaurant as well.  At midnight, all of the booths were filled with the younger crowd.  I guess Bill's Donut Shop doubles as a cool hangout.


Rooster's Wings
Roosters Wings on Urbanspoon Roosters Wings on Urbanspoon

Following my 9-hour marathon exam, I was in the need of a beer and some wings.  My older brother and I decided on Rooster's, one of the more popular sports bars in the area.  We came during happy hour, meaning my beer was dirt cheap, saving some money for dinner.  My bro and I decided to each order 10 wings... I chose the killer sauce (2nd hottest) while my brother chose more of an enjoyable sauce, the mild buffalo.  We had previously tried the BBQ and the sweet thai chili, so today we felt like sticking with traditional buffalo flavors.  We also stuck with the dumpster fries appetizer:  fries covered with melted cheese, bacon bits, scallions, tomatoes, jalapeños, and their dumpster sauce aka ranch.  When it comes to the wings, the 10 wing option was plenty.  The wings are deep fried and covered in your choice of sauce.  Out of all the flavors I tried, the killer was without question the hottest, but still had an enjoyable flavor.  The sweet thai chili was the next best, while the mild was just too buttery for my liking.  The fries was a great bar food option, especially with a nice domestic beer in hand.  Couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate that exam being over!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sanity Scene - Dayton, Ohio (Part 1 of 3)

With my 4th year of medical school underway, I knew the second part of boards was quickly approaching.  In order to prepare for this test, I decided to hide out.  I found myself living with my brother and his wife in Dayton, Ohio... a city not known for their food scene.  While here, I considered putting my blog on hold for the month, but I eventually realized I wouldn't keep my sanity if I did so.

Anyway, I decided to lump together all the different restaurants I tried while in Dayton, Ohio into three blog posts.  There is no particular order... just a quick description of what I really enjoyed and what I will never eat again.
The first post includes mostly chain restaurants, but these are ones not available in the Chicagoland area.  In fact, some of these I had never heard of prior to arriving in Ohio.  Enjoy!

Skyline Chili
Skyline Chili on Urbanspoon

Before arriving in Dayton, I had heard about Skyline Chili and seen the ridiculous pictures of cheese topping their spaghetti.  So I had placed Skyline high on my list of restaurants to try.  There were too many options so I ended up ordering a couple of the smaller sized dishes to try.  First was the three-way, which was their classic spaghetti topped with their famous sauce, beans, onions, and of course that mound of cheese.  I also tried a cheese coney... basically a hot dog covered with the chili and, this time, I chose habanero shredded cheese.  All I can say is the first bite or two is delicious, but it gets old real fast.  Also, the smell is just a little strange for my liking.  I enjoyed the coney more than the spaghetti, but it still wasn't enough to make me want to come back.  Maybe it was too much cheese, but I felt real sick after eating here.  Also, the raw onion is just way too much.  They need to lighten up on their overgenerous hands with toppings.


Penn Station
Penn Station East Coast Subs on Urbanspoon

It was the 4th of July when I was essentially forced to eat at Penn Station.  My brother and I drove around to several restaurants... unfortunately, every one was closed.  Finally, we decided on Penn Station, a restaurant that features East Coast subs.  I still don't fully understand what that means, but after trying the toasted subs, I was hooked.  I had the chicken parmesan sub, while my brother stuck with the philly steak.  Both are generously filled with meat and veggies.  The best value is one the second largest sub sandwich.  The bread is buttered and toasted till a nice crust forms.  I would share a large fries between two people.  Make sure you request for additional vegetables... there is no extra cost so add whatever you like!  Overall though, the sandwich combinations are limited.  I wished for a more extensive menu, and a little more flavor to the sandwiches.  Everything was surely under seasoned.


Graeter's Ice Cream
Graeter's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Dessert time!  The best ice cream in the area belongs to Graeter's.  With dozens of locations, it was always within a mile of wherever I was at... this was dangerous.  Graeter's is known for the "chip" flavor ice cream.  But rather than having the typical small chocolate chips present, it was more like a rough chop of a huge chocolate bar that added the "chip" to each flavor.  From chocolate coconut almond chip to peanut butter chip to even black raspberry chip, Graeter's had flavors that would make anyone's sweet tooth happy.  The ice cream is extremely rich and the cones add the crunchy texture that I love.  The prices are very reasonable especially for the amount of ice cream they give you.  Now that I am back in Chicago, I still crave Graeter's.


Schlotzky's Deli
Schlotzsky's Deli on Urbanspoon

I still remember when my family found out that the Schlotzky's Deli in Decatur closed.  We were all disappointed because where else would we find that focaccia-like style bread, and for me, where would I get the BBQ chicken pizza that I craved.  As soon as I arrived in Dayton, my brother told me schlotzky's still had an open location here.  It was high on my priority and after ordering a Grilled Chicken & Pesto pizza and the Fiesta Chicken Sandwich, I knew I made the right decision to come here early in my stay.  The bread was just as I remembered... soft in the middle, crispy and buttery on the exterior.  It soaks up all the different sauces and juices from the ingredients placed inside.  Definitely order the medium sized sandwich.  It is significantly larger than the small and only a buck or two more.  The sandwiches are all made to order so it may take a few more minutes, but definitely worth the wait!


Tim Horton's
Tim Hortons on Urbanspoon

As a child, I remember stopping at Tim Horton's on our way to Niagara Falls.  And I remember being able to order a sandwich and then choosing a doughnut for my side.  This concept intrigued me and I had to come back to see if this was still an option.  And, it was.  Here, I ordered a buffalo chicken panini and was able to have the sour cream old fashioned cake doughnut as my side dish.  Unfortunately, everything about this meal was awful.  The sandwich was essentially microwaved, making the bread soggy.  The buffalo sauce was not spicy, and in fact, tasted a little sour.  The doughnut itself was old... making it less cake-like and more of a stale, dense piece of bread.  Never again will I come back to Tim Horton's.  The price is not worth the food you get.  At least they have decent coffee.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

El Barco

Location: 1035 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
El Barco on Urbanspoon El Barco on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
When it comes to seafood, Chicago has a variety of speciality restaurants that range in cuisine from Chinese to Mexican.  El Barco has been one of the longer standing establishments located in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood.  This restaurant features seafood with a Mexican twist.  From deep fried whole red snappers to every kind of seafood tostada imaginable, it is easy to see why El Barco is always packed whenever I drive by.  Unfortunately, after sifting through the extensive menu, we were met with one amazing seafood dish and one that was some of the worst fish I have ever eaten.  I was confused because the ceviche was extremely fresh while the fish was not.  I am questioning how there is such a large spectrum of freshness at this restaurant.  The staff is a little on the relaxed side with very little service and longer times to even place an order.  The atmosphere reminds you of a seafood restaurant in Mexico with open windows and even a few flies hovering around.  Because I had one amazing dish and one terrible, I decided on rating them right in the middle... 3 miles.  I will be back and hope to have a fresher red snapper hit my table.

No chips and pico here... Instead, tostada shells, a spicy
salsa verde, and pureed chipotle peppers. 
What We Ate:

Shrimp Ceviche

First my friend and I decided on the shrimp ceviche.  We were both craving shrimp and the refreshing aspect of ceviche sounded like the perfect dish.  Here, the ceviche was made with chopped shrimp, diced onions, cilantro, avocado, and plenty of lemon juice. The acidity of the lemon essentially cooks the shrimp to a point that makes it safe to eat.  We ordered the small and it was perfect for two of us.  Add it to some of those tostada shells with a little salsa verde and enjoy.

Whole Fried Red Snapper in Tomato Sauce

We heard from several sources that the whole fried snapper was El Barco's speciality.  And, when the dish arrived at the table, I understood why.  Not only was the presentation out of this world... the dish was huge, definitely enough to share with two or three people with average appetites.  However, this dish was a huge DISAPPOINTMENT.  Just to be clear... the fried red snapper is prepared deep fried and then lightly topped with a tomato sauce.  It is served on a bed of Mexican rice and accompanied by lightly sautéed mixed veggies and a nice helping of guacamole.  The reason the dish was disappointing was how FISHY it was.  It tasted as if the fish was old, especially for a nice red snapper.  I honestly think we got a bad fish or an old fish.  I will probably try it again just for good measures, but would have my hopes as high.

Pina Colada

This drink may have been one of the tastiest I have had in a while, but unfortunately the alcohol was definitely on the stingy side of the spectrum.  But I can look past that on a hot summer day. The coconut and pineapple flavors are equally prominent, making a delicious and balanced cocktail.  Definitely going to order again, but next time I will request for double alcohol.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- For $60, they offer a sampler platter of seafood including grab, shrimp, fish, and much more.  It is a little pricey and comes with a few sides like rice and vegetables.  I wish we ordered this... probably next time.  I saw a few people with this sampler... I assume it will raise my rating drastically.

- Be skeptical on the fish.  It appears fresh, but if you dislike fishy flavor, don't order it.
- Alcoholic drinks are on the weaker side.  Good flavor that lacks the punch.

Look at that grin!
How far would I walk for this food?