The Refuge

meter-great-haThe Refuge is no joke. It’s the ideal eatery as far as I’m concerned; they have fantastic beer and a no-bullcrap menu executed to perfection. What’s not to like? I’m really not sure how else to sum it up… I honestly wish all restaurants were exactly like this place.

” It’s the Disneyland of beer and meat “

The first time I heard about The Refuge was on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I was only halfway listening to the television at the time, but the discussion of Belgian beer and crazy good pastrami got my full attention. When I heard it was within fifteen miles of my house I knew right then I’d be paying a visit. And so I have.

It's a Belgian beer kind of lunch. Quite the tasty dubbel I might add.

It’s a Belgian beer kind of lunch. Quite the tasty dubbel I might add.

I suppose I should start with the beer. The Refuge offers a lot of varieties with a heavy emphasis on Belgian styles. I don’t mean ten or twelve beers, I’m talking over a hundred. MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED KINDS OF BEER.

Let that sink in a moment.

Yeah, you’re right. That’s a lot of drinking that needs to be done, and there’s no time to waste. It’s a big responsibility, but I know that if we all work together we can tackle this challenge. And for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, please don’t order a Coors Light or an MGD or any other mainstream domestic atrocity of modern pisscraft. Hey, if that offends you then you don’t deserve the best beer in the entire Bay Area anyway, so quit being all sensitive and get over to The Refuge for a REAL glass of suds.

It's the Disneyland of beer and meat.

It’s the Disneyland of beer and meat.

The next thing I’d like to cover is the pastrami. The culinary wizards at The Refuge have elevated this single, humble meat into a new tier of food awesomeness all its own. The pastrami melts, literally melts, when you eat it and.. There, you see? I’ve gone and droobled on my keyboard. Yes, “droobled”. But anyway, this pastrami is hands down the very best I have ever had in my entire life and, as evidenced by my doughy physique, I’ve sampled quite a lot of it over the years. I know my pastrami, so believe me when I say this stuff is the cat’s ass.

You have never had a pastrami burger like this. Never.

You have never had a pastrami burger like this. Never.

As you can imagine, The Refuge of course makes one of the best Reuben sandwiches you are ever likely to find. It’s piled so ridiculously high with meaty goodness that it’s too big to serve with fries. On my most recent visit I skipped the Reuben and gave the pastrami burger a try, and I was wowed yet again. The bun (pretzel I believe) was straight-out-of-the-oven fresh, the hamburger patty was seasoned to perfection and grilled with a nice crust on it, and a lovely little hill of that magical pastrami topped it all off.

I don't know why they're called 'goofy fries', but I don't have any better suggestions.

I don’t know why they’re called ‘goofy fries’, but I don’t have any better suggestions.

The Refuge also produces an array of epic salads, appetizers, and sides, including “goofy fries”. These begin life as garlic fries (which are excellent on their own, by the way), but are also topped with pastrami and cheddar cheese sauce. But probably the biggest surprise of the meal, for me at least, were the Brussels sprouts. They were decadently bacon-y, cooked perfectly, and absolutely delicious. I couldn’t get enough of them. And why were they a surprise? Because I can’t freaking stand Brussels sprouts, that’s why. Those nasty, skunky little green pods of misery come straight from the depths of Hell, I’m sure of it, and yet somehow The Refuge made them awesome. Now that’s impressive.

I discovered that I like Brussels sprouts. Well whaddya know.

I discovered that I like Brussels sprouts. Well whaddya know.

By now it should be relatively clear that I have a total food crush on The Refuge. Top notch grub, top notch beer, no ridiculousness. I give it 99 Belgian beer bottles (on a Belgian wall of course) out of 100. I plan to spend quite a bit of quality time here. Oh yes.

The Refuge
Two locations in the Bay Area
www.refugesc.com

The REFUGE on Urbanspoon


This is the Reuben you've been looking for.

This is the Reuben you’ve been looking for.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Choose Your Own Restaurant Review

 

It’s a hot day in California, as hot as fresh jalapenos. The air feels like a pizza oven. The corn-yellow sun shines its rays like yet another stupid food-based metaphor that you can’t be bothered to think of. Suddenly, you remember that you are a food blogger. A feeling of mild panic mixed with hunger starts in your gut and works its way into your eyelid, making it twitch.

“I really should go eat at a restaurant somewhere,” you say to yourself, thoughtfully placing a hand over your gurgling stomach. The three people that have been sitting on the couch in your living room look at you suddenly, concerned to see you speaking to yourself yet again. “Oh,” you say, attempting to salvage the situation. “Do you guys…”

Choose: “…want to go to an Italian restaurant?”

Choose: “…have any ideas where we should go?”


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You suggest going to an Italian restaurant.

Everyone seems to like the idea of Italian, and without much fuss you all climb into the car and start driving towards a half-decent chain restaurant. As you cruise down the street, you notice a biplane towing a banner overhead… and then you remember. There’s a 49er game today, and you are heading straight into the belly of the beast. Quick, you need to avoid traffic! You decide to…

Choose: Take the freeway.

Choose: Take side streets.


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You ask for advice on where you should go eat.

Seizing the opportunity to dictate the menu, the pickiest eater of the group leaps to his feet and begins listing restaurant criteria. “It should be not too expensive and not too cheap, but also not greasy and probably there should be no cheese. Except if we go to my favorite burrito place, then grease and cheese are ok,” he says, hardly taking a breath. “It can’t be Chinese because I demanded to have that yesterday and now I am tired of it, and it can’t be American or Greek or Burmese or Lithuanian or African or basically anything that I say it can’t be. In fact, it must only be a very specific type of curry, my aforementioned favorite burrito shop, or a pizza place an hour away. Also…”

But those are the last words he ever says. The other two people in the room throttle the picky eater to death with their bare hands, and you help them bury the body. Eventually you are all caught by the FBI and are sent to prison for the rest of your natural lives.

Go back


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You take the freeway.

In a stroke of sheer luck, traffic on the freeway is very light… but in the wrong direction. You have no choice but to try and get away from the football crowd, so you start driving with no destination in mind. Before long you realize you are headed straight towards Murphy Street in Sunnyvale, and you know for sure that there are some decent places to eat there. Maybe things will turn out alright after all. Quickly, you park the car and shoo everyone in the general direction of food. You walk along Murphy Street and then…

Choose: You go to the kebab joint.

Choose: You go to the Italian bistro.

Choose: You go to the Mexican place.


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You take side streets.

Using local shortcuts is always a good choice… right? After only a couple of blocks you realize you have made a terrible, terrible mistake. You are stuck right in the middle of the worst gridlock you have ever seen, surrounded by raised pickup trucks draped in 49er flags. You are trapped and there is no way out.

You're screwed now.

You’re screwed now.

The starvation slowly drives your passengers to insanity over the course of the next twelve days. Eventually, it is decided that cannibalism is the only path to survival… and you are the main course.

Go back


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You walk towards the kebab joint.

As you draw near to the kebab joint, you hear your stomach grumbling… but then you realize it’s someone in your party voicing their disapproval of kebabs. Well, it’s not the worst thing ever. The sun-faded posters in the window of this place look kind of scary anyway, and there are way too many dead flies on the inside window sills. Yucky. You turn back to pick another place to eat.

Go back


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You arrive at the Italian bistro.

The place is packed to the gills, even the outside patio. “Ugh,” you mutter to yourself. “What in the world are all these people doing here at 1pm on a Sunday??”

“It looks like they’re watching the football game on that giant portable TV screen they’ve parked in the middle of the road over there,” says one of your starving companions.

Sigh. It seems Italian just isn’t meant to be today. Disappointed and somewhat depressed, you turn around and walk back up the street to choose from one of the other two restaurants.

Go back


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You decide on the Mexican place.

You find yourself at Roberto’s Cantina, a small-ish place tucked in a corner along Murphy Street. The scent of delicious, scratch-made Mexican food meets your nose, and to your surprise there are still a couple of tables open. You are quickly seated and given some chips and salsa to graze on.

You discover that both types of salsa are excellent.

You discover that both types of salsa are excellent.

You spend some time looking through the menu, and a few different entrees catch your eye. The waiter arrives and asks you what you’d like to order.

Choose: A combination plate.

Choose: Al Rebozo (bacon-wrapped shrimp).

Choose: Steak fajitas.


 

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You order a combination plate.

You figure that the best way to try out a new Mexican restaurant is to go for a mix of favorites. You opt for a carne asada enchilada and a quesadilla, and of course refried beans instead of pinto or black beans.

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

You find the refried beans to be flavorful but mostly average, a sure indicator of the rest of the meal. The quesadilla is about the same, but the enchilada turns out to be rather good. It is unfortunately impossible to eat, being nestled in a shallow bowl and inaccessible to knife and fork, but you still enjoy it. Without warning, your spouse asks you for half of your quesadilla in exchange for a couple of bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Accept the trade and give the shrimp a try.

Refuse the trade and keep your quesadilla.


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You try the Al Rebozo.

You’re not sure who Al is, but apparently he makes pretty decent bacon-wrapped shrimp. The scent of crispy bacon and fresh seafood wafts tantalizingly through the air.

When in doubt, wrap everything in bacon.

When in doubt, wrap everything in bacon.

You’ve had questionable bacon-and-shrimp plates before, so you’re not really sure what to think of this one. You tentatively take a bite… and wow! That is one tasty dish. The bacon is nice and crispy, but surprisingly the shrimp inside are not overcooked. Whoever is preparing this dish has apparently done this before, and they are very good at it. You decide that these shrimp are so tasty, in fact, that you would even eat them if they were served on top of a dried cow pie. You aren’t too sure about the weird chipotle sauce that came with them though.

Conclude your meal.


 

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You order steak fajitas.

Hey, who doesn’t like fajitas? Unfortunately, the answer will soon be you. The steak fajitas arrive piled high, sizzling on a cast iron thingy and smelling delicious. As you begin eating, however, you realize that they don’t have a lot of flavor, and the tortillas are a little odd as well. You probably should have ordered something else.

Go back


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You foolishly refuse the trade.

Like an idiot, you decide that it’ll be a good idea to decline your spouse’s trade. You greedily hoard the remainder of your combo plate for yourself, all the while being given the hairy eyeball. Later, when you arrive at home, you are assigned to pull weeds in the hot sun for the rest of your life. That evening, your PlayStation mysteriously appears in the toilet.

Rethink your decision


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You finish your meal and wrap up the restaurant review.

meter-good+In the end, you consider your experience at Roberto’s Cantina to be a success. All four people in your lunch party – including the picky one – ended up mostly happy with their meals. There were a couple of things about Roberto’s that you didn’t love, such as the flavorless carne asada and fajitas, but there were also some things that you thought were pretty good. You’d be happy to come back some day, but you can’t give it the highest score ever. You decide to rate this restaurant 7 out 10 pork-wrapped seafood items.

And then everyone lived happily ever after.

Roberto’s Cantina
168 South Murphy Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 739-2021
www.robertos-cantina.com

Roberto's Cantina on Urbanspoon




Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.

 

McMenamins Six Arms

meter-great-

If you’re looking for a mean pint of brew and a tasty meal, McMenamins Six Arms is the pub for you. It’s not the most super fabulous place in the whole world, but then again it’s not trying to be. Six Arms serves a mind-boggling (and gut-rumbling) array of comfort food gems, all of which pair up nicely with McMenamins lovingly crafted beers. Mmmmmmm, beer.

” The perfect reward for hiking up a hill in the rain “

Downtown Seattle is a nice place. It’s clean, cosmopolitan, down to Earth, and ever so slightly odd… but in a good way. On Labor Day weekend, however, the whole place transforms into a surreal, nonsensical alien landscape filled with mysterious clouds of body odor and people wearing elaborate costumes. This is mostly due to PAX Prime taking over the entire convention center and many of the surrounding buildings, but Bumbershoot also plays a part in the weird-ification process. The best way to describe it? Imagine being in a high school locker room on Halloween during a zombie apocalypse. It’s like that.

I found myself – along with a few friends – right in the middle of this chaos during lunch time. Every single sandwich shop and fast food joint in sight was packed to overflowing, and we knew we had to get away from the crowd somehow. Somebody suggested McMenamins Six Arms, a local pub that was just a short walk up the hill and nicely separated from the mayhem surrounding the convention center. We all agreed that this sounded dandy, so we forced our weary feet to start walking. After 10 or 15 minutes of minor uphill huffing and puffing, we arrived.

Unfortunately, the beer doesn't actually come out of those pipes.

Unfortunately, the beer doesn’t actually come out of those pipes.

We were seated immediately on our arrival to Six Arms and given an extensive beer menu to lust over. I couldn’t resist the allure of the Hill Top IPA, and I also ordered a Reuben sandwich as a garnish. The rest of the table ordered an assortment of burgers, soups, and of course beer. The Hill Top IPA arrived in front of me in a couple minutes, and it turned out to be hoppy and refreshing without being too overpowering. It was pretty much the perfect reward for hiking up a hill in the rain.

One is never too old to appreciate tater tots.

One is never too old to appreciate tater tots.

The food was good, although perhaps not quite as good as the beer. That might just be my own perception but hey, I’m the one writing the blog here. My Reuben was flavorful and piled high, but the pastrami was dangerously ordinary. My tater tots were fried to extra-crispy perfection; I enjoyed them thoroughly in spite of the fact that they were ever so slightly oily. None of this of course slowed me down from clearing my entire plate.. er, basket I should say.. and I was pleasantly satisfied after my meal. The assortment of burgers around the table were reported to be delicious, and all of them yielded prolific amounts of juice as they were consumed. I’m not convinced over-juiciness is a good thing, but since I didn’t hear any complaints I’ll let it slide.

That is one shiny bun.

That is one shiny bun.

Ultimately, McMenamins is exactly the kind of quirky place I look for when I’m on the road. Local beer and comfort food both rank very highly on my list of critical restaurant criteria, and this place does both very well. I won’t say it was the very best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life, but McMenamins earns an above average 60 out of 67 kegs of beer – a perfectly respectable score. I will definitely be looking this place up again the next time I find myself surrounded by unwashed Millennials wearing Pokémon costumes.

McMenamins Six Arms
300 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 223-1698
www.mcmenamins.com

Six Arms on Urbanspoon



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


E&O Asian Kitchen

meter-great-E&O Asian Kitchen is a great place to eat. The varied and fanciful menu is packed to the gills with delicious Asian-influenced flavors and preparations, but somehow everything still seems down-to-earth. Some “fusion” type restaurants seem to trip over their own feet by trying too hard to be weird, but E&O has a much better idea of how far to go without over-cheffing things. The food is interesting but not shocking, and even the pickiest eaters are likely to find something here they’ll enjoy.

” It sounded too much like a place to buy T-shirts “

It was Friday night, and I was fighting tooth and nail with an intersection full of other exasperated drivers for the very last parking spot in San Francisco. Miraculously, I emerged victorious – neener neener! I had arrived at E&O only just in time for the 6:30pm reservations that had been made, dinner party in tow. Whew. A few minutes later we were seated at our table in the back of the restaurant’s stylishly appointed dining area, browsing the drink menus. E&O has a decent selection of hand crafted specialty beverages, as well as a small but admirable selection of beers.

We placed our drink orders and got down to the serious business of narrowing down our food choices, most of which feature an Asian flair of some sort. I remember this restaurant back when it was called E&O Trading Company, but apparently the ownership decided it sounded too much like a place to buy T-shirts or trade stock online. In a cunning stroke of subtlety, they changed the name to “E&O Asian Kitchen”, an obvious attempt to club people over the head with the fact that they serve Asian cuisine. Still, as a business I can’t really fault them for this approach. Sometimes you need to shout in the faces of your potential customers in order to get their attention – that’s life in the cutthroat restaurant industry.

Meat on sticks. Satay is caveman food done all fancy-like.

Meat on sticks. Satay is caveman food done all fancy-like.

Ham-fisted name changes aside, E&O’s menu is varied, intriguing, and fun to explore. There were so many different things we wanted to try that we opted for a collection of small plates and appetizers instead of ordering entrees. We kicked it off with one of E&O’s signature dishes: Indonesian corn fritters. We added steak satay, butternut squash dumplings, drunken noodles, and black pepper shaking beef. Our food arrived remarkably quickly and looked wonderful. Kudos to the kitchen staff for being on top of things in the middle of a busy Friday night.

Probably the worst picture of anything I've ever posted. Deal with it. These are corn fritters.

Probably the worst picture of anything I’ve ever posted. Deal with it. These are corn fritters.

The steak satay was so good that we immediately ordered another plate, and we nearly doubled up on the corn fritters as well. Ahh, the corn fritters. They were delicate, crispy, decadently fried, and yet as light and sweet as fresh corn. I could make an entire meal of just those, no problem. If you feel like maybe you’ve heard of E&O’s corn fritters before, you probably have. They are awesome enough to have been featured on the Food Network, so if you haven’t tried them before you owe it to yourself to seek them out.

Butternut squash dumplings. Who'da thunk it?

Butternut squash dumplings. Who’da thunk it?

The butternut squash dumplings were the biggest surprise for me personally, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t expect to like them. I find the flavor and texture of squash to be off-putting at times, but neither of these traits made an appearance in the dumplings. They were creamy and wonderful, and the red curry lemongrass sauce was jam packed with the delicious flavor of every single Thai dish you’ve ever had. The drunken noodles were the only real let-down, and that’s because they were simply good and not great like everything else on the table. I’ve also been spoiled by the drunken noodles at my favorite Thai place, so E&O’s version just didn’t quite make the grade for me.

The drunken noodles were mostly just tipsy.

The drunken noodles were mostly just tipsy.

For dessert we opted for an order of “bananamisu”, devil’s food cake with salted caramel, and spicy ginger cookies. As with the savory dishes, all of the desserts were excellent. The bananamisu, as astute readers might guess, is a banana-based twist on tiramisu. It’s a combination that really works.

Knock knock. Bananamisu. Bananamisu who? Not sure where else to go with this one.

Knock knock. Bananamisu. Bananamisu who? Not sure where else to go with this one.

The well-executed (although predictable) devil’s food cake was delicious, but it was the ginger cookies that got my attention. They were just-so chewy, warm, and intensely gingery. Two of us at the table thought the cookies were tastiest, while the devil’s food cake and bananamisu got one vote each for best dessert. Because I don’t care about opinions that differ from my own, we can conclude that the ginger cookies were indeed the best. One thing that did catch my eye about the bananamisu and devil’s food cake was how similar they looked to one another. They were both dark brown, rectangular bricks of the same size served on the same dish at the same offset. Considering how creatively everything else was plated, this stood out as a bit of a shortcut. There, how’s that for being picky?

COOOOKIIEEEEE  (These are the ginger cookies I mentioned earlier, by the way.)

COOOOKIIEEEEE (These are the ginger cookies I mentioned earlier, by the way.)

In the end, I wasn’t able to find much at all to complain about with regards to my experience at E&O. The only thing that really stood out was that the shaking beef would have been better if it was served with rice. Of course rice is available as a side, but it wasn’t until after the meal that we realized we had missed out on soaking up all that wonderful sauce. It wasn’t a deal breaker by a long shot, just a curious omission. Based on the excellent experience all of us had throughout the meal, I rate E&O Asian Kitchen a solid 9.2 out of 10 corn fritters. It’s certainly worth looking this place up, assuming you can somehow find a parking spot.

E&O Asian Kitchen
314 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 693-0303
www.eosanfrancisco.com

E&O Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon


If I squint my eyes I can almost see the salted caramel. No, it's gone now.

If I squint my eyes I can almost see the salted caramel. No, it’s gone now.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Ro*Tel Sausage Dip

This easy-to-make, satisfying recipe is one of my favorite party foods. It’s delicious, doesn’t mess up your whole kitchen, and requires no real planning ahead. It comes together as quickly as a box of brownies, and it’s far less likely to be duplicated by other party patrons. It’s also hearty enough to act as a makeshift dinner, should you find yourself starving to death amidst a forest of pretzels, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and inexpensive cheese cubes.

I was first introduced to this recipe some years ago by my wife. At the time I had assumed that, like her, Ro*Tel sausage dip heralded from Texas. Upon further research, however, I discovered that nobody really knows where the hell it comes from. I know where it’s going though, and that’s in my belly.

This picture makes my blog look like a Penny Saver ad.

This picture makes my blog look like a Penny Saver ad.


Ingredients

Your first task is to collect the items you see before you. I strongly recommend against substituting anything, as the strength of this recipe lies in the synergy of its simple ingredients. To goof around with any of the three main components is to invite disappointment. If you have a hard time locating the Ro*Tel, look wherever your grocery store stocks canned tomatoes.

  • 1 lb Jimmy Dean bulk pork sausage
  • 1 can Ro*Tel (10 oz)
  • 1 brick (8 oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1 bag Tostitos Scoops


Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Before you do anything else, take the cream cheese out of the fridge and set it on the counter to soften – this will make it easier to work with later. On medium-high heat, brown the sausage in a large frying pan. Or, if you have a cast iron skillet, use that instead. Not only does it do a better job of crisping up the sausage, but it can go straight into the oven as well.

Brown that little piggy. Brown him good.

Brown that little piggy. Brown him good.

Break up the larger chunks of sausage as it cooks, making sure it’s done all the way through. If the grease freaks you out, drain it off.

Reduce heat to medium and add the cream cheese and can of Ro*Tel. There’s no need to drain the Ro*Tel, just dump it in there juice and all.

Everyone in the pool!

Everyone in the pool!

Stir carefully until the cream cheese has completely melted and the mixture is evenly blended, then turn off the heat and transfer the whole mess to a casserole dish of some kind. A Pyrex baking dish is a good choice; any size will do as long as it can hold all of the sausage mixture without overflowing.

Bake uncovered for 10 or 15 minutes, until your newly created sausage dip is bubbly and awesome. Break out the Scoops and dig in, but remember not to burn away all the flesh from the roof of your mouth. If you’re going to take this to a shindig at someone else’s house, cover it securely with aluminum foil, wrap it in an old (but clean!) bath towel, and lay it flat in the trunk of your car. It will stay hot for a couple hours this way – no reheating necessary.

Enjoy!

Warning: It's 3,697 degrees hotter than you think it is. Consume slowly.

Warning: It’s 3,697 degrees hotter than you think it is. Consume slowly.



See also



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


El Taco de Oro truck

meter-good-greatThe el Taco de Oro truck is exactly what you’d expect it to be, plus a little something extra. Sure, it’s “just” a taco truck, but the quality of the preparation and flavor of the food are worth noting. If you’re in the mood for some tasty south-of-the-border eats and don’t mind standing on the side of a busy road in the process, look no further.

I love food trucks. There’s no better way to get out of a restaurant rut than to seek out some mobile cuisine; it’s a great way to try something new without having to go very far out of your way. Unfortunately, you can’t just stroll down to the corner and expect the exact truck you want to be waiting for you there, but there’s usually something awesome lurking nearby. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, there are a number of sites that facilitate the process of locating meals on wheels, such as Roaming Hunger and Moveable Feast. It’s like a treasure hunt for your stomach.

” The quesadilla bar has officially been raised “

On this particular day, I just so happened to stumble across the El Taco de Oro truck while out and about running errands. It was parked along El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, and the scent of scratch-made tacos wafting through my sunroof was more than I could bear. I pulled into an adjacent parking lot and tried not to drool as I walked over to where the truck was parked.

Exciting and bizarre multi-culture fusion cuisine is great and all, but sometimes I just want some really good Mexican food. A quick browse of the short-but-sweet El Taco de Oro menu told me I was in the right place. The first thing on the menu that caught my eye, not because it sounded delicious but because it confused me, was “beef cheak”. This is either a mildly amusing typo or a cleverly marketed combination of steak and beef cheek.

The menu seems to be a bit tongue in cheak.

The menu seems to be a bit tongue in cheak.

I wasn’t feeling quite brave enough to give cheak a try regardless of what it turned out to be, so instead I went for a quesadilla with pollo asado. Dee. Flippin. Licious. I normally think of quesadillas as benign and slightly boring, but the magician working the grill managed to coax a huge amount of flavor into the pollo asado. The richly marinated chunks of chicken were tender and perfectly cooked, the cheese was well portioned and melted just-so, and the toppings were all fresh and wonderful. Big thumbs up. The quesadilla bar has officially been raised.

I really and truly had a dream about this quesadilla later that night.

I really and truly had a dream about this quesadilla later that night.

Clearly, more exploration of the menu at this truck is required. For now, though, I have plenty to go by for a review. The quality of the food and outstanding flavor are enough to earn El Taco de Oro a very satisfactory rating of 9 out of 10 pounds of beef cheak. This mobile Mexican masterpiece is well worth taking notice of, and if you find yourself on El Camino in Sunnyvale, definitely do give it a try. Forget the Internet, just roll your car window down and follow your nose.

El Taco de Oro
(408) 502-5202
eltacodeoro-sj.com
El Taco De Oro on Urbanspoon


What a happy little truck.

What a happy little truck.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Danville Station Firehouse Bar & Grill

meter-bleh-okMy experience at Danville Station Firehouse Bar & Grill (henceforth abbreviated as DSFB&G) was ultimately not a very good one. It started out pleasantly and with much promise, but over the course of the meal it became clear that this place unfortunately sucks. It’s too bad too, because the location is prime and the wait people (wait persons?) are great, but I just couldn’t get past the terrible food.

“ Holy flavorless meatsticks, Batman! ”

On a typically lovely Saturday morning in July, my wife Shawn and I took our dogs to well-to-do Danville for a day of strolling about and shopping for random things. After a couple hours’ worth of browsing through old chandeliers and decorative concrete whatnots, we decided it was time for an early lunch. There are a lot of really great places to eat in Danville, so it was with much excitement that we took inventory of our food options along Danville’s main drag. We read through some good looking menus and peeked in a bunch of windows, but ultimately we decided on DSFB&G.

Downtown Danville is as cute as a button.

Downtown Danville is as cute as a button.

DSFB&G has a lovely shaded patio with cozy tables – mostly all filled with happy looking people – and so we figured it had to be pretty good. We were welcomed inside the patio, dogs and all, and were seated immediately. Our waitress quickly brought over a couple menus and a bowl of water for our dogs. Major bonus points there. The menu, as it turns out, was a bit on the short side and included only breakfast items. Strange for 11:30am, but that’s fine. We’ll go with breakfast. We asked our waitress about a couple items on the menu and as it turns out she hadn’t tried either of them, but she did make sure to mention the name of another restaurant where said menu items were really good. Curious. I shrugged it off as nothing and ordered the chicken and waffle with an iced tea, while Shawn opted for a banana buttermilk pancake short stack, side of chicken apple sausage, and a Diet Coke.

This is just like any other chicken and waffle dish you've had, except that it isn't good.

This is just like any other chicken and waffle dish you’ve ever had, except that it isn’t good.

Our food arrived shortly afterwards and it was very… ordinary. It didn’t look unappetizing per se, just ho hum. Upon closer inspection it turned out that the underside of my chicken was very dark, almost burned, and the waffle was dry and sad. At least the eggs were prepared correctly. Shawn’s banana buttermilk pancakes were literally only that – two ordinary buttermilk pancakes with sliced bananas on top. The pancakes, waffle, and chicken were all sub-average and tasted identical to one another. To add insult to injury, we then realized there was no butter anywhere to be found. What the heck, no butter?? If I was governor, I’d make that a class 2 misdemeanor.

Bananas on top of pancakes do not banana pancakes make.

Bananas on top of pancakes do not banana pancakes make.

Just as I was trying to figure out how to choke down my waffle without butter, Shawn said, “This is the worst chicken apple sausage I have ever had.” Being morbidly curious, I tried a piece. Holy flavorless meatsticks, Batman! She wasn’t kidding. Those sausages were the most offensively bland food I have accidentally touched with my tongue in the last 10 years, and I promise you that I’m not exaggerating. They seemed to be nothing more than week-old boiled rooster meat sprayed with apple-scented air freshener. Oh, and they were cold in the middle too. Quadruple yuck.

And what is one supposed to do with disgusting food when they don’t want to make a scene? That’s where the dogs come in. Our fluffy little mutts were thrilled to help and eagerly ate pieces of sausage, which they seemed to enjoy just fine. They also like bully sticks, though, so I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

If there is a Hell, this is what they serve for breakfast.

If there is a Hell, this is what they serve for breakfast.

When we had finished, our waitress brought our bill, commenting how she hadn’t tried the chicken and waffle but there’s this really good waffle joint down the street that is supposed to be killer. Now she tells us. We paid, tipping decently, and left DSFB&G forever with no intention of ever returning. As we walked away, Shawn produced another quotable: “The best part of that meal was the Diet Coke.” Ain’t that the truth.

And just when we thought our disappointing meal experience was wrapped up for the day, one of our dogs barfed up the chicken apple sausage on the drive home. Sigh. It’s a fitting end I suppose. DSFB&G has good ambience and friendly employees, but whoever is running the kitchen has pretty much ruined everything. I’m sad to say that I rate this place a dismal 1 out of 12 bottles of floor mat shampoo, Randomly Edible’s lowest score ever. If you’re considering visiting this restaurant, don’t.

Danville Station Firehouse Bar & Grill
340-348 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526
(925) 838-8800
www.firehousebarandgrille.com
Danville Station Firehouse Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart toy.