Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I think I'm going to take a break from being very active on here for a while.... maybe, once we see how much we keep going out with our baby I might come back to post some, but I think I'm going to work on a private blog to "scrapbook" our baby's first year, so I may make that my side project from real work for a bit.....

Not many recent recommendations...... Over the holidays, tho, I did really enjoy this podcast from Freakonomics Radio. Since my undergrad was in economics, I really appreciate the approach that Dubner and Levitt take. It is a great question they ask - "Do more expensive wines taste better?" If you love your subscription to Wine Spectator, you won't like this podcast.

Be well!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vending Machine Advancements

From today's Washington Post's day in pictures (picture #9)....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Steer-In review

Peering over at Indy Restaurant Scene's blog, some people take breakfast pretty seriously. I mean, I guess I do too... but, I find my breakfast tends to be the time I typically show the most restraint and, hopefully, good judgement. Lots of yogurt, granola, berries and Raisin Nut Bran on a typical basis... but.... well, we all have to indulge sometimes, right?

The historic Steer-In is over on the east side, at 5130 E. 1oth Street. It is an old drive-in restaurant with a lot of history - it was originally built by the Laughner family, who used to have a string of cafeterias.

I had been to the Steer In before, but it has been a long time. So, the Better Half and I met up with mom for a late breakfast last Saturday.

First off, the place is just sooooo cool looking. A complete step back in time, and I feel like it would be a great location in a Quentin Tarantino film. It is a full service restaurant with a wide menu of typical item from breakfast to lunch to dinner. I have only had breakfast at the Steer In, but from looking at a neighbor's Reuben sandwich, I'd like to go back and try theirs....

I had one of the skillets - the fiesta. It was loaded with the potatoes, peppers, some sausage and two eggs over medium on top. I added in a side of sausage gravy for my biscuit, and it was good but not great. The meal ended up something like $8.79 with the $1.99 for the side of gravy, but it is a big, filling breakfast. It is pretty typical of what you'd expect from a good diner breakfast, with the emphasis on good. The diner is clean, the service is efficient, the food arrives fast. And, it has a counter, which seems a pre-requisite for a diner.

The verdict: Great venue, good value, good food - what you expect, when you expect good from a diner - 4 belly rubs (out of 5).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bar-B Q Heaven review

On MLK Jr. Blvd. and about 25th Street, you'll find the retail location for Bar-B Q Heaven. From the mural on the side of the building, Bar-B Q Heaven has been open since 1952. They seem to have originally began as a retail location, but they've grown to a food distribution business as well. You can find Bar-B Q Heaven jars of sauce in some local grocery stores.

I stopped by recently after an appointment downtown, and took home a combo meal. I was hoping to get a combo of pulled pork and some rib tips, but... unfortunately, the combo at Bar-B Q Heaven is defined only as two (very large) ribs, and a half of a chicken. The combo meal also comes with two small sides, two slices of bread, and your preference of sauce (I went hot). A very large meal for a very respectable $8.88.

I find the food at Bar-B Q Heaven to be much like what you'd expect at a friends cookout. Only your friend has a serious set up for smoking the meat over wood. The ribs were meaty, large and a good mix between tender and a bit chewy. The chicken was huge, and the skin had gone somewhat crisp yet the meat was still tender. The hot sauce had a nice kick. The beans were pretty basic (no extra trimmings with the beans) but tasty. The cole slaw had some mustard in it, it seems, and it was decent. The cheap slices of white bread are perfect for sopping up more of the sauce. I had enough left over for the Better Half to have some of the breast meat with a salad for lunch the next day, too.

Overall, the value at Bar-B Q Heaven is high, though I don't necessarily crave the meat or sides. I'll go back, though, to taste the chopped pork and the rib tips. The interior of the store might put-off some since there are thick plexiglass walls between the employees and the customers, and you pay through a slot, but..... it is decent 'cue and will fix a jones for smoked meat.

The verdict: Good barbecue, good value, average sides. 3.5 belly rubs (out of 5).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Caesars and value

Wednesday, dinner ended up being quite late, so we decided to just grab something fast rather than cook. It has been ages since I tried a Little Caesars pizza, and this whole idea of a $5 "hot and now" pizza seemed like something to try. We took home a large sausage pizza for a grand total of $5.45 right as this location closed at 9:00 p.m.

The pizza is... okay. I am sure that it would be quite a bit better if it was fresh, so if you can time that, it is likely a really good deal. For instance, the next day at lunch, I ran out and grabbed a foot-long chipotle chicken sub at Subway and made it the combo. That cost me $9.97. Now, I realize that the Subway locations have some liberty in pricing and I could have gotten that week's $5 foot long, but... wow. $10 for a meal at Subway? That just seems way too expensive.

Anyhow, the pizza at Little Caesars isn't very good. It is even worse if you want to re-heat it later. But,... $5 for a large? If you're feeding a large group fast, especially if they're kids, well.... that'll make your money go a long way.

You know what else is also amazing? Mike Illitch, who started Little Caesars, owns both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. Wow. Make all the jokes about Detroit's economy or real estate (the old Silver Dome sold for the crazy low price of just over $500,000), but that is amazing that his pizza chain led to these other businesses.

Now, in the holiday season, there is a lot of shopping going on. We are doing even more as we prepare a room for our baby. So, I've been making some interesting finds while shopping......

Perhaps for the man that has everything? Including active follicles on his back.....

Was this perhaps an attempt at trying to produce the least politically correct doll ensemble possible?

I don't know, but one of these things just does not seem like the others (or as historically significant).....

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday message

No, this isn't about world peace - it is about diet soda. Now, if you listen to much sports radio, you might know that Colin Cowherd beats this drum already, but... if you want to drink a diet soda, try Fresca. No, it is definitely not the most manly drink out there, but... it's fresh and tasty! And, I think the thing that really helps it is that there is no full calorie alternative to compare it to. No matter what you tell me, I'm not going to like Diet Pepsi more than a real Pepsi. But, Fresca is just in diet, and... it stands well on its own.

Mike Wilbon has left the Washington Post to go to ESPN full time. A nice final column here.

Dan Lebatard has some great and interesting topics as a writer and commentator. His show producer did a segment as a phony character - Mark Hackman - commenting on the LeBron stuff for a Cleveland radio station. If you heard it or take the time - Hambuerguesa Con Queso!

Xavier Nuez has been to Indy for Broad Ripple Art Fair as well as a featured show at the Indianapolis Art Center. Love his urban shots. Anyhow, having spent 7 years in NE Ohio/Cleveland, I really like this recent shot from the Cuyahoga River.

Found this song by Bloc Party, "I Still Remember" related to a Neon Trees song. Nice.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saffron Cafe review

I have a slightly sinking feeling that my blogging days are winding down or will be cut back even more with our baby on the way.... so, I have this urge to get to some of my favorite places, and log some necessary record in the form of a review.

Saffron Cafe is on the short little stretch of Ft. Wayne Avenue, in the building that used to house breakfast stop Canary Cafe long ago, right near the IPS administration building, and not far from the Elbow Room. We've been to Saffron Cafe about 6 times now, and my only complaint about the place is that they need a 2nd set of doors to block some of the cold in the winter. Otherwise, this is a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant - Moroccan by specific ethnicity.

On this visit, I had picked up the Better Half from her office place to go out for lunch. We were both craving the shwarma from Saffron Cafe, which is in my opinion the best gyro (or gyro-like substance) in the city. So, no sampling from my dear wife's plate, since we were both getting the same thing. We did start with the zaalouk, which is basically Moroccan babaganoush - an eggplant dip. The pita is warm and the zaalouk is savory. A great starter.

We then both had the shwarma delivered. Ahhhhh.

For $8.95 you have the choice of salad or soup with the shwarma, and I had that day's special soup, which was basically Moroccan chicken and vegetable. With an appetizer already on board, and with the large portion of meat for the shwarma, the soup, while tasty and very hearty (lots of chicken), was really an afterthought. We were focused on the shwarma. The meat isn't from the same old mass produced 15 pound cone at Saffron Cafe. Instead it is a 90-10 blend of ground lamb and ground beef, mixed with seasonings in the kitchen and grilled then sliced for each order. It is just fantastic, savory, richly seasoned, and juicy. There are pickled onions, a little lettuce and both a cucumber sauce and some hot sauce. To make the pita manageable, I have to eat about 1/3rd of the meat without the pita - which is not a chore. Then, you can finally fold the thing together and eat it in an intact "sandwich".

Again, the shwarma is far and away my favorite gyro in the city. Please, give it a try. You'll never view the cone-meat the same way again.....

We were given a tajine for a wedding gift, and it hasn't really been a highly used item. But, you can find many tajine-based items on the saffron cafe menu. Due to the fact that tajine-items are for slow cooking, I don't believe most are cooked to order IN a tajine, but instead are served in very cool decorative tajines. But, there are some wonderful dishes to try, both lamb and chicken and a few other items. I've heard wonderful things about the steak specials for the evening meal, but not tried one yet. The meals are hearty and very filling. The wait staff is prompt, professional and attentive. The interior is dark and intimate, yet very friendly. Most of the entrees are under $20, so great value. Above all, the meals are so full of flavor.

And, something that has to be mentioned is Chef Sentissi. I believe every time we have been to Saffron Cafe, he has at some point come out to talk to patrons at each table, introduce himself, and seek feedback. He is warm and engaging and seems to truly love his work - it definitely shows. You can also see him during an appearance on WISH TV.

The verdict: robust flavor, big servings, warm welcome, good value - an Indy Grub Review favorite! 5 belly rubs (out of 5).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Great Cooks The Bakery review

This review would definitely have been more timely if it had come BEFORE Thanksgiving... but anyhow.....

I have been driving by this plaza where Great Cooks The Bakery is for a long time. I didn't notice it for most of that time, but finally it caught my eye. Great Cooks is at 86th Street and Ditch Road, in the plaza at the SE corner of that intersection. Having lots of company expected over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to go try them out early. And, it is a great little bakery.

There is still a sign for "Great Cooks at Home" on the other (North) side of 86th Street. Apparently that is the old location, when Great Cooks started as more of a catering business. I am not sure if they still cater, but they are now a bakery with soups and sandwiches available.

I realize that bakeries can be hit and miss based on availability of products, the season and individual preference. But, almost everything we tried in 2 visits within 3 days was great. The chocolate and raspberry rugelach (sweet, buttery, Jewish crescent rolls) are out of this world. In fact, I may stop tonight and get some more for company this weekend. The staff is friendly, the cases are brimming with selection, the sweets are delectable. The only thing I didn't care for was the pumpkin roll-up, which was a bit too "perfumey" in taste for me.

Anyhow, Great Cooks the Bakery is a very nice local bakery. Give them a shot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hank's Smoked Brisket review

Time to get back to some reviews....

When we lived downtown, I'd pass by Hank's Smoked Brisket on MLK Blvd quite often. It is just south of 38th Street, across from part of Crown Hill Cemetery (best view of downtown, from the top of the "Crown", up where James Whitcomb Riley is buried). So, after an appointment downtown, I grabbed a brisket sandwich combo (comes with 2 sides) and took it back to the ranch.

Hank's is only a take-out restaurant. In fact, when you go in, it almost seems like a waiting room for a doctor's office, but only a doctor's office that has a wonderful aroma of smoked meat (something I doubt Clarian is considering). I placed my order, than joined 4 other gents waiting for their grub in chairs akin to the waiting area of a barber shop. I had the beef brisket sandwich with sauce on the side and the beans and mac-n-cheese (I also used this opportunity to try one of the sodas I'd picked up at Jungle Jims - the Moxie Blue Cream Soda).

The brisket at Hanks is tender, juicy, smokey and delightful. They must smoke them earlier and wrap them up, as the only deficiency I'd note on my visit was that the crust was not very crunch, but had become more moist again from being wrapped in some cling wrap. Still, the meat was just very tender, a great flavor, and a load of it for a sandwich. The mac-n-cheese was pretty decent, and had was loaded with cheese and a bit of a crust to it as well (bonus points). The beans were a bit of a disappointment. To me, the beans often show the care of a bbq restaurant if they really put effort into them. I found these bbq beans a bit average, and I was not completely convinced these didn't just come from a can and then get enhanced with a bit of trimmings (sparse as they were) and some jazzed up sauce. However, I felt like the brisket was definitely worth going back for. They were taking orders for Thanksgiving, and since we were having a houseful for both Thursday and Friday, I did consider mixing things up and getting a few pounds for Friday, but... I made some cowboy chili instead.

Hanks is definitely worth the visit. The brisket sandwich combo was about $8.50, and you'll be satisfied and full after the meal.

The verdict: very good brisket, decent sides, good value. 4 belly rubs (out of 5).

And, as a side note, the Moxie Blue Cream was nice, but.... a pretty basic cream soda. But, the slogan on the bottle cap is stellar - "If you have Moxie, you have taste!" I love it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Product Review: Cherry Cordial M&M's


Have a great Thanksgiving. I hope it is filled with friends and family most of all, and keep your belly full!