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I was in Milwaukee recently and had some time to kill between appointments on the west side of town. It was getting close to lunch time and I was getting a little hungry. I had read about a place called Matty's Bar and Grille and how they're supposed to have a killer burger. The only problem is that Matty's is out in New Berlin (pronounced BER-lin, not ber-LIN like in Germany) and it was a little bit of a drive from where I was. I put their address into my GPS and about 20 minutes later I pulled up in front of the bar on W. College Ave. (see map)
Matty's has been around since 1997 and is owned by Matt Anderson. Anderson transformed a sleepy little bar into one of the top destinations to watch sports in the greater Milwaukee area. While it's not as big as Major Goolsby's in downtown Milwaukee, nor does it come close to the number of televisions that Goolsby's has, it's more like a friendly little neighborhood bar that has better than average sports bar food. Their signature burger, the Smokehouse burger - part smoked beef brisket and certified black angus - was concocted by Chef Bob Nicholson who has run the kitchen at Matty's for the past seven years. In addition to their burgers, Matty's also has a number of delectable sandwiches and their own in-house thin-crust pizza.
Matty's is situated in a building with a stone front around the entrance and it looks like the place has been added on to two or three times. It definitely had been added on to in the back of the place with their four seasons room which, in contrast to the main part of the place, features a high ceiling, large windows and an exit to an outside beer garden off to the side of the building. The main part of the bar area is more cozy than the open and airy four seasons room in the back.
I was greeted by a young lady who asked me if I wanted a table or to sit at the bar. I opted for the bar and sat down just as the noon news started on the television in front of me. On the back bar of Matty's, there was a somewhat sophisticated computer than controlled the multiple satellite receivers they had for receiving sports on their 18 televisions. Matty's subscribes to DirecTV so they have access to every professional sports television package, as well as all the regional networks that feature college sports in the fall and winter.
A young lady who was working behind the bar - Gabby - offered me a menu and told me that it was "chili day" at Matty's. For $9.99 you got a sample of three different types of chili that Chef Bob Nicholson came up with for that particular day. Chili did sound good on a day that had come on the heels of a cold front that plowed through the area overnight, but I was still in the mood for a burger.
After getting a Capital Wisconsin Amber that they had on tap, I looked through the menu to see if anything else jumped out at me other than getting one of their burgers. One of the interesting items was the Mama's Meatloaf sandwich, a secret meatloaf recipe that is topped with a sauce and served on ciabatta bread. They also had a pastrami sandwich - "Matty's Style" - that featured thin slices of warm pastrami, topped with a brown mustard and served on marble rye bread. I'm a sucker for a good pastrami sandwich and the description of the one on Matty's menu almost made me forget about a hamburger.
But, no, the Smokehouse burger was the draw for me on this visit. (I figured that I could come back to Matty's at some point for the pastrami.) At Matty's, you build your own burger - first choosing from one of over a dozen different cheeses that range from American to smoked cheddar to provolone to crumbled blue cheese to exotic cheeses such as black peppercorn and white cheddar, and dolcina cheese that is part cow and goat milk cheese with a sweet creamy gorgonzola taste. Being that you're in Wisconsin, you wouldn't expect anything less for a good burger with cheese.
After choosing your cheese, you have the option of ten different toppings including green peppers, jalapenos, fried egg, sauerkraut and sun-dried tomatoes. Then you could get your choice of over a dozen spices or sauces such as cajun or Caribbean jerk seasonings, blue cheese butter, black bean corn relish (probably more for the grilled chicken sandwiches) and garlic aioli. The combinations were endless and I was in a little bit of a fog trying to figure out what I wanted.
When Gabby came back to take my order, I ended up getting the Smokehouse burger topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon that is smoked in house, and mushrooms. I had my choice of a side with the burger - sides that included homemade potato chips, cottage cheese, fruit, pasta salad and cole slaw. I decided upon French fries to go with the burger.
With the lunch rush kicking in while I was there, my burger came out less than 20 minutes after I ordered - long enough for me to down a pint of the Wisconsin Amber and time to order another. The burger came out wrapped in a paper half-wrap that could be used to hold the burger without getting any juice or condiments on your hands. I quickly tore it off so I could inspect the burger with the bun open. It featured copious amounts of chopped mushrooms, two thick slices of smoked bacon and a gooey amount of pepperjack cheese. The fries were nothing special to me, but there was a nice little treat sitting on top of the fries - a homemade chocolate chip cookie. I'd never had a cookie as part of the overall meal before.
The first bite of the burger elicited an "Mmmmmmmm..." from yours truly. The 1/2 lb. Smokehouse burger was lean, but juicy. The combination of the cheese, bacon and mushrooms only heightened the taste sensation I was having. The bun was light and chewy, yet firm, holding together wonderfully with everything that was on the burger. It was cooked to what I would call a perfect medium with a slight hint of pink the very middle of the burger patty. It was simply one of the best burgers I've ever had.
So far this year, I've had a handful of burgers that would either make my Top Ten Burger List or would be high honorable mentions. And the Smokehouse burger at Matty's Bar and Grille was one of the best I've had this year. While I may think about getting a pastrami sandwich or to try their pizza when I make it back down the road, it's going to be tough to pass up having another Smokehouse burger with some other combination of toppings. I immediately liked Matty's and was jealous of the people who were regulars of the place. It was one of those places that I could see going to time and time again to watch sports and grab a bite to eat if I lived nearby.
Indian food is becoming my "go-to" comfort food when I'm on the road. Many times when I need a "stick-to-my-ribs" meal when I've been traveling for awhile, I'll look for a place that serves a good hot beef sandwich. But that always lays so heavy in my stomach and I don't sleep very well because of that. So, I've been turning more and more toward Indian food as a comfort food alternative. One of my favorite Indian restaurants - Taj of India in Indianapolis (click here to see my entry) - had recently been sold to another Indian restaurant in the area - Amber Indian Restaurant. I was staying in the north Indianapolis suburb of Carmel recently and I found out that the original Amber Indian Restaurant was literally across Meridian St. from the hotel at which I was staying. Needing some comfort food that evening, I took the short trip across Meridian to have dinner at Amber Indian Restaurant. (see map)
Aulwinder Singh is the owner of Amber Indian Restaurant. Singh bought Taj of India last year, but for some reason it doesn't show up on Amber Indian Restaurant's web site. I felt the chicken curry I had at Taj of India was the best I'd ever had so I was hoping that the curry dishes at Amber Indian Restaurant were just as good, if not better.
It was around 6:30 when I entered Amber Indian Restaurant located in a nice strip mall. (Now, I have to tell you that none of the pictures I took inside the place turned out. The lighting was dark and each picture I had taken was fuzzy. I usually can't tell how bad a picture is until I download it onto my computer. Doing that later that evening in my hotel room showed that the dozen or so pictures I took inside the restaurant didn't turn out.) I was greeted by a young man and shown to a table near the front door. As I sat down and began to look at the menu, I took a look around the elegant dining room and noticed a number Indian families dining at Amber. While I was there another number of people of Indian descent came in to pick up orders to go. I figured that if Indians eat at Amber, it must be pretty good.
They did have a number of curry dishes at Amber Indian Restaurant and I have gotten over my distaste for lamb dishes. At the top of the lamb part of the menu was the lamb curry. And when the waiter came over to take my order, I immediately ordered the lamb curry with some garlic naan. I got a Kingfisher beer to go along with the meal.
Not long after my waiter left the table, another young man brought over three sauces and some chips. Included in the sauces was the green sauce that I fell in love with at Viceroy of India in the Chicago suburbs. (Click here to see my entry on Viceroy.) I never knew what it was until recently - it's a coriander mint chutney. It's flavorful and refreshing and helped to counteract the spiciness of the two other tomato-based sauces I had on the table. I just love the coriander mint chutney.
I was still devouring the chips and the chutney when my meal showed up. The garlic naan was light and fluffy, but it was significantly smaller than other naan breads I've had in the past. But that was OK, it was also only $2.00 and I usually can't eat all the naan I'm served anyhow. The portion of the lamb curry they served me was sort of small, but they gave me a heap of rice and I knew I wouldn't eat all of it.
The lamb curry had a deep red color and had bits of potatoes in with it. I'd ordered the lamb curry to be "medium-hot" and I could have easily gotten the hot as I didn't think it was all that spicy - at least not to me. The lamb was tender to the bite and while there was curry in with the lamb, it wasn't as forward as the curry taste I got at Taj of India. I'll have to say the meal was good, but I guess I was expecting more from Amber Indian Restaurant.
I will say that I've had my troubles with service at other Indian restaurants, but the staff at Amber Indian Restaurant were superb. They were attentive, but not hovering. There were three young gentleman who helped out waiting on me that evening and they were all pleasant guys. Once I finished my first Kingfisher beer, one of the guys magically showed up and asked if I'd like another. I'd give the service at Amber two curry-stained thumbs up.
While I may have been expecting more out of the lamb curry at Amber Indian Restaurant - it was far was bad. In fact, it was very good. I guess I was just hoping for the same taste explosion I got from the chicken curry at Taj of India. I've now eaten at enough Indian restaurants to know what I like and I loved the coriander mint chutney at Amber, and the garlic naan was also very good, as well. The lamb curry was also very good, but I thought for $15.49 it was a little too costly for what I got. Still, if I were in the area and wanted Indian food I'd go back. I just don't know if I were over in Castleton or Noblesville that I'd drive out of my way to get there, though.
I found myself in the south Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek one evening as I had a training session at a nearby dealer scheduled for the next morning. Thanks to winter hanging on deep into spring, I had been driving in a mixture of rain and sleet before it finally turned to all snow just as I got into the greater Milwaukee area. Being a little burnt out from the drive, I just wanted to eat at some place close to the hotel, and quick to eat - preferably, a place that sold alcohol. Driving south down Howell Ave., I passed an interesting looking restaurant with an equally interesting name called El Fogon Tacos and Beer. "Hmmmm....", I thought to myself. "I like tacos and I like beer!" I decided to make a U-turn and head back toward the place. It turned out that going north on Howell and getting into El Fogon was sort of a challenge. But a left turn on Puetz Road, then another U-turn later down the street with a double back, I pulled into the parking of the restaurant at the corner of S. Howell and Puetz Rd. (see map) (Getting out of El Fogon to go back north on Howell was a problem, as well. You're cut off from entering the northbound turn lane onto Howell and you have to go east on Puetz, then do a U-turn to come back to take a right on Howell.)
El Fogon - which translates into "The Chimney" in English - is owned by Filberto (Phil) Lando and his wife, Nelly. It's been open for about two and a half years and is situated in a small strip mall - curiously, it's right next to a bank. It's not a large place, it probably seats 40 people, The decor wasn't fancy in the least in the well-lit dining area. I was met by a waiter who wanted to know if I wanted to sit at a table or sit at the bar.
I ended up sitting at the bar that had a gas fireplace in the middle of back bar. At least I thought it was a gas fireplace. Hell, it probably could have been one of those fake ones, considering all the alcohol they had on shelves around the bar.
The waiter dropped off a menu for me and for a place that touts "tacos and beer", they didn't seem to have a very good selection of beers to choose from. But they sure did have a lot of tequilas on the shelf and their menu touted a number of specialty margaritas including a cucumber margarita served with cucumber slices and lime juice, and a pineapple/cilantro margarita. El Fogon has some "secret ingredient" that they add to a number of their margaritas. I wanted a beer, so I got a Dos Equis Amber.
I also got a complementary basket of chips along with two different types of sauces. One was a spicy green sauce that was just outstanding. The other was an even hotter red sauce that was very peppery to the taste. My server asked me if if I wanted anything more mild like their pico de gallo or their homemade peanut salsa. I told him the green sauce was fine and dandy with me. It was killer!
And don't let the name fool you - they definitely have more than just tacos on their menu. They had Alambre, something I'd not had since our visit to Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan peninsula about 15 years ago. Alambre is basically a skewered meat that is roasted and then mixed in with onions, peppers and topped with cheese. El Fogon gave you the choice of chicken or steak with their Alambre. They also had fajitas, enchiladas and something called Chicken El Fogon - a grilled chicken breast that is topped with grilled onions and jalapenos, with a side of lettuce and guacamole.
I'm usually a sucker for fish tacos and they had them on the menu at El Fogon, as well as shrimp tacos. Of course, they had steak, chicken, ground beef, and al pastor (spicy marinated pork) tacos, as well. You could make a combination meal out of tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, mini chimichanagas or quesadillas. But one thing sort of jumped out at me when I was looking through the menu.
They had flautas on the menu - basically thin-rolled tacos stuffed with your choice of meat and deep fried. They had a choice of either shredded chicken or shredded beef for their flautas. Those sounded really good for some reason that evening and I ended up ordering the shredded beef flautas.
The flautas came with sides of refried beans, rice, guacamole and sour cream. Actually, the guacamole was very interesting. It was unlike any guacamole that I'd had before. It had some additives that gave it a very fresh and somewhat fruity taste. I wasn't certain that I liked it at first, but found myself liking it more with each bite on a chip.
The flautas, themselves, were all right. It's pretty tough to screw up a flauta other than overcooking the beef. But the shredded beef was tender, moist and very flavorful. I poured some of the green sauce on the flautas to pep them up a bit and it helped the overall taste tremendously.
My meal at El Fogon was above-average for Mexican food, but not on the same par as some other excellent Mexican restaurants in the greater Milwaukee area that I've eaten at in the past. For the suburbs, it was fine. The Mexican restaurants around the 5th and National area of Milwaukee definitely had it beat. But if you're in the south suburbs of Milwaukee and are looking for good Mexican, I can wholeheartedly recommend El Fogon.
In Des Moines on a recent trip to the capital city of Iowa, I was looking at possibly trying either one of a couple three different places down around the Court Avenue entertainment district of the city. I was talking to a friend earlier in the day and I asked him what he suggested for a place to eat. He said, "My wife and I think Jesse's Embers is the go-to place for food when we go out in Des Moines." Jesse's Embers! I hadn't eaten at Jesse's Embers in years! What a great idea! (Photo courtesy Roadfood.com)
Jesse's Embers is one of those old fashioned steak houses that has been around for, now, 50 years in 2013. The small building on Ingersoll Ave. has served hundreds - no, probably thousands - of local and national politicians and celebrities over the years. Jesse Roush opened the original location in 1963 and his son, Rick, took over the business later on. Rick Roush oversaw an expansion of Jesse's Embers with locations in both West Des Moines and Urbandale in the late 90's and into the early 21st century. But those locations didn't last long as they never captured the 60's feel of the original Jesse's Embers just west of downtown Des Moines. (see map)
In 2007, Rick Roush sold Jesse's Embers to a group headed by Thom Ruan, the son of transportation/banking icon John Ruan; Marty Scarpino, whose restaurant teeth were cut at his parents restaurant - Scarpino's - in suburban Windsor Heights; and Marty Scarpino's wife/partner, Deena Edelstein. Marty had been the long time bartender at Jesse's Embers before he took over as the managing partner of the place. (Sadly, Thom Ruan passed away earlier this year from complications from diabetes.)
One of the first things the new ownership group did to the building on Ingersoll Ave. was to freshen up the interior and exterior, giving a more updated look to the place. From the outside, Jesse's Embers looked somewhat like a bunker with no windows. Ruan, Scarpino and Edelstein added a couple windows to allow some natural light to filter in during the daytime. I read somewhere that Jesse Roush probably would have rolled over in this grave when the windows were put in. But the same cozy dining area with an open flame grill kitchen area along the wall and the small bar area stayed intact.
It was after 8 p.m. when I pulled into the parking lot behind Jesse's Embers and went in through the familiar back door. I emerged into the dining area just next to the big open flame grill that has cooked thousands of top quality steaks over the years. As the grill chef turned a steak, a large flame flared up from underneath.
I was greeted by the manager, who introduced himself as Joe. It turned out he was Marty Scarpino's brother and I asked if I could sit at the bar and get food. He said, "Absolutely! No problem at all!" He asked what my name was and he used it in conversation with me the rest of the evening. I immediately liked the guy. He was friendly, but not in a forced fashion.
He dropped off a menu and I ordered a beer to tide me over. Joe asked me, "I take it you've eaten with us before." I told him that I had but it had been years - probably over 12 years - since I last ate at this location. Joe said, "As you can see, we've spruced up the place a bit since my brother took over about six years ago. But we still offer the same prime aged steaks that you had on your last visit all those years ago." Gee, what a coincidence! I was looking to get a steak that evening!
And they have a number of steaks on their menu. Their signature steak - the Embers Special - is a 12 oz. prime sirloin cut. They have the Yankee's New York strip steak - a 16 ounce center cut steak that sounded great to me. In addition to steaks, they have Iowa pork chops, smoked baby back ribs, grilled chicken, and a number of seafood items on the menu. My buddy was telling me that Jesse's Embers also has a great burger - the Emberburger - that he likes to get during lunch from time to time.
I ended up ordering a filet - rare. I had my choice of French fries or pasta salad, but for an upcharge I could get cottage fries, onion rings or a baked potato. For some unknown reason, I ordered the cottage fries. Later on in the evening, someone sitting down the bar got an order of onion rings as an appetizer. When I saw them, I suddenly remembered how good they were at Jesse's Embers.
A house salad came with my meal and I had asked for Jesse's Embers homemade garlic dressing to come with it. Large housemade croutons sat on top of the salad. The garlic dressing got your attention, but wasn't overpowering in taste. My wife is a garlic dressing nut and she would have loved the dressing at Jesse's Embers.
My steak came out after I finished my salad and it was a robust piece of beef wrapped in bacon. Easily 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick, the steak was cooked to what I would call "rare plus", more to the medium rare side than to the rare side of temperature. But it wasn't a deal breaker by my interpretation of what is and isn't rare. The knife easily cut through the steak and the flavor was - well, I asked myself after about the third bite why the hell I hadn't been back into the original Jesse's Embers for so long. The taste was simply excellent. It had a nice charred outer shell to the meat - the steak was so thick that it required some charring from the searing high temperatures just to get it rare. The juices were sealed in and the toasted bread underneath the steak soaked up more juices with each cut. It was a fabulous steak.
After I finished, Joe Scarpino came over and said, "So, is it going to be another 12 years until you get back in here?" God, I hope not! I forgot how underrated and how much of a great value Jesse's Embers really is. My large filet with the upcharge for the cottage fries and a salad came to $27.95. I've had steaks that were smaller, more high priced and didn't taste as good as the one I had at Jesse's Embers. The charming ambiance of the place is still there after 50 years. If you're ever in Des Moines and looking for a good steak, I cannot recommend any place more highly than Jesse's Embers in terms of quality and value.
On a recent trip to Madison, I took a couple guys from one of my dealers out to dinner. Madison, of course, is a big beer town with a number of restaurants and brew pubs with good food and great beer. We had been to Great Dane brew pub a handful of times (click here to see my entry on Great Dane) and I was sort of looking to mix things up. One of the guys said, "Well, Sprecher's (a small brewery out of Milwaukee) has a brew pub over near Middleton. They have great food. We could go there." Since I was staying in a hotel in the same general area that evening, I enthusiastically agreed that we should go there.
Sprecher's Restaurant and Pub is located in an area of West Madison that has a number of hotels and restaurants (see map). The building it's housed in used to be a Houlihan's until franchise owner Randy Lederer decided the didn't want to be tied to a chain any longer - especially a chain that had been slowly fading away. (Today, there are less than 50 Houlihan's restaurants across America.) Lederer approached Sprecher Brewing Company owner Randy Sprecher with an idea that would exclusively pair Sprecher beers with upscale pub food. Sprecher was sold on the concept. The first Sprecher's Restaurant and Pub opened in Madison in early 2010. Lederer - who along with his wife, Katy, and his in-law's, Felix and Kristin Richgels own the licensing for the Sprecher pubs - turned one of his Houlihan's locations in the Wisconsin Dells area into a Sprecher Restaurant and Pub a year later, then transformed a third location in Lake Geneva into a Sprecher location, as well. There has been talk of opening a Milwaukee location, but that hasn't happened as of yet.
Our small group got into the restaurant around 6:30 and we were greeted by a hostess who asked if we wanted to sit in the bar to the right, or in the dining area that was in front of us. There was a pretty good sized crowd in the bar area and it was pretty loud. We decided to sit in the spacious and somewhat elegant dining room (below right) to discuss a little business before having a relaxing dinner and multiple beers.
We were seated at a table with banquette seats on one side of the table and chairs on the other side. Our hostess left off dinner menus for us, and soon after our server for the evening - Lynsey - came over to greet us and get our beer order. The restaurant has 14 Sprecher beers on tap and four of their soda selections including their awesome root beer. I don't drink pop any longer, but the Sprecher root beer is one of the best I've ever had. But, it's - OH! - so sweet and rich that even when I did drink pop, it was difficult to take more than a few sips of the stuff.
To me, the Sprecher beers have also been a little too sweet for my taste. We've had Sprecher beers many times at Summerfest in Milwaukee. While I can't call them my favorite, they're still better than drinking Miller Lite. Their Amber beer was probably my favorite, but it was still a little too sweet for me. On the beer menu at the Sprecher restaurant they had an India pale ale that I decided to try. One of the other guys got the Black Bavarian beer - a dark beer with a full body. They had the seasonal Winter brew on tap during our visit, described as a "flavorful blend of dark roasted and sweet caramel malts defines this smooth and robust lager." My other guest got that and I immediately asked Lynsey if I could get a sample of that. She said, "Do you want a taste or a sample size?" What's the difference, I asked. She said, "I can just bring you out a small taste in a glass or a 4 oz. sample." I took the 4 oz. sample. I found out later on that the other difference was a $1.95 charge for the sample.
Looking through the menu, the Sprecher Restaurant and Pub had a long list of appetizers, as well as a number of entrees that are almost too numerous to mention. I was a little worried about the quality of the food because they had everything from steaks, seafood, sandwiches, salads, a number of burgers, flat bread pizzas, barbecue, German food, Irish pub favorites and American comfort food. It seems that restaurants who do a little bit of everything don't do them all very well.
As we were looking through the menus, it was time to get another beer. My I.P.A. was all right, nothing special, but I did like the taste of the Winter Brew and signed up for one of those for my second beer. My one guest also got a second Winter Brew, while the other guest decided the Black Bavarian was a little too heavy for him so he switched to the Hefe Weiss.
After conducting a little business at the table, we were ready to order our food. I was torn between the schnitzel - breaded pork tenderloins served with a lemon caper sauce and topped with a fried egg; or the meat loaf - a special meat blend that comes with veggies and pepper jack cheese, then topped with their onion straws and a brown gravy. They also had jambalaya on the menu that caught my eye. But I thought the schnitzel or meat loaf would be better. When Lynsey came by to take our order, I almost jumped on the meat loaf, but ended up getting the schnitzel.
One of my guests that evening ordered the tender tips - beef tips tossed with Wit-beer marinated mushrooms served over beer-cheese potatoes and topped with a red wine reduction sauce. That actually sounded pretty good. He told me, "Oh man. My wife and I have eaten here over a dozen times over the past three years. And that's our favorite thing on the menu."
My other guest got the California burger - a burger with pepper jack cheese and guacamole on top. (I had a burger for lunch, or I would have been interested in looking into the Mushroom/Swiss cheese burger that is topped with a red-wine reduction sauce; or the Breakfast burger that is topped with cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg. I may have to go back there for lunch at some point.)
Our food made its way to the table and I was ready to eat. The Winter Brew was very good - probably the best Sprecher beer I've had. I didn't think it was sweet as compared to other Sprecher brews I've had in the past. I was looking forward to pairing it with my schnitzel.
My schnitzel featured two medium sized pieces of pounded pork filets, covered with a breading and pan-fried. A small egg was on top and a small container of the lemon caper sauce was off to the side with a medley of veggies. The schnitzel was a little dried out and even the lemon caper sauce had a hard time making it palatable. It was all right, but definitely not the best schnitzel I've ever had.
The tender beef tips were served in a bowl with large button mushrooms and onion straws on top. My guest who had that was in heaven. "This is the best thing on the menu," he said between bites. "The burgers are good here, too. But this is my go-to item on the menu."
My guest with the California burger was very pleased with his burger, as well. It came on a bed of lettuce and red onion slices with French fries on the side. There was a liberal amount of guacamole on the burger. He said, "Oh, yeah. This is good. They do have good burgers here." I'll have to try either the Breakfast burger or the Mushroom/Swiss cheese burger if I make it back.
After we'd finished, Lynsey came back with our bill. I was sort of surprised that she didn't ask if we wanted anything else because we all wanted an after dinner beer. I sort of kiddingly asked, "Do you want us to leave? We were thinking of getting another beer."
She sort of jumped and embarrassingly said, "Oh! I'm so sorry! Sure, you can stay! Stay as long as you want!" I immediately ordered up another Winter brew, while my other guest who had been drinking the Winter brew switched to the Pipers Scotch Ale - a reddish-brown beer with a slightly smoky taste. My other guest - full from his beef tip entree - decided to go light with the Fire-Light, the lightest beer Sprecher has in their beer arsenal. I've had it before and it has a distinctive fruit taste that I didn't care for. I was happy with my Winter Brew.
My schnitzel was pretty underwhelming and, as I suspected, a place that has many diverse things on the menu doesn't do all of them well. My guests seemed to like their beef tips and burger, respectively. Overall, the experience at Sprecher's Restaurant and Pub was nice, we had good service from Lynsey and the dining room was a very comfortable setting. I'm just wondering if they could cut down on a third of their items on the menu and focus more on the food that is left. I just think there's too many things to choose from on their menu and some items - like the schnitzel - suffer because of it.
Whenever I get into a "food funk" on the road, I've found that sushi usually pulls me out of it. One evening in the northern Chicago suburbs, I wasn't certain what I wanted for dinner. I didn't want pizza since I knew I was going to go out for pizza the next evening. A burger was out of the question. I thought about Thai food or a steak, but those ideas just didn't trip my trigger. I did a quick Urbanspoon search to see what was in the area and found a place called Nobori Sushi on Waukegan Ave. in Glenview. (see map) I set my GPS and took off for Nobori Sushi.
Noburu Nakamura is the man behind Nobori Sushi. He grew up in the Kanto region of Japan and immigrated to the U.S. over 30 years ago to work in a sushi restaurant in New York City. There are dozens of sushi restaurants in Greenwich Village and Noburu found work at one such restaurant. About 25 years ago, he moved to Chicago and began to work in a number of sushi places around the area.
In 2010, Noburu decided to open his own sushi restaurant suburban Glenview in a strip mall along busy Waukegan Ave. The name "Nobori" means "sun rising in the morning" and Nakamura believed the restaurant would also rise to greatness.
It was around 7:30 when I entered Nobori Sushi. The place was half full of patrons, so seating was no problem. I looked to sit at the sushi bar as I'm want to do when I eat sushi by myself, but there were curiously no chairs in front of the small sushi case. I was ushered toward the back of the restaurant and given a menu by, I believe, Mr. Noburu Nakamura himself.
The restaurant is not large and has your typical contemporary Japanese restaurant decor. A number of tables and chairs hug the wall and it has a number of can lights that helped keep the ambiance to the restaurant warm and inviting.
I was there for the sushi even though Nobori Sushi has a number of teriyaki entrees including chicken teriyaki, beef and asparagus teriyaki, and tuna or salmon teriyaki. They also had a number of noodle-based dishes to choose from on the menu including ramen noodles and yakisoba with chicken, vegetables and noodles.
When Noburu came back to ask me what I wanted to drink I asked for an Asahi beer, then told him that I was ready to order up some sushi. I ordered a spicy tuna roll, some smoked salmon sushi, as well as tuna, yellowtail and shrimp sushi. He said he'd have it right out.
And less than 10 minutes later he came over with the sushi platter. The spicy tuna rolls were wrapped with seaweed and weren't exactly the largest spicy tuna rolls I've ever had. But they were very good and had a nice kick to the flavor. The smoked salmon sushi was also very good with a nice forward smoke flavor to the bite. I liked the shrimp sushi, as well. It had a nice sweet taste and the shrimp meat was firm, not soggy. While the tuna was also pretty good, I'll have to say the yellowtail was a little mushy and had a hint of a fishy taste to it. It was probably at the end of its cycle in the sushi case, but it was far from bad.
Noburu came over after I finished and asked if I wanted another Asahi or more sushi. I contemplated getting a couple more pieces of either the tuna or the smoked salmon, but decided I'd had enough. I was full enough from what I had just eaten.
Nobori Sushi was fine - a pleasant find of a good sushi meal. The service was fine, the food was above average and the place was comfortable. Not being able to sit at the sushi bar to watch the chefs prepare the meal was a little disheartening, but I was comfortable at the table. There's a number of good to great sushi places in the Glenview/Northbrook area and Nobori Sushi can be added to that list.
Eating alone on the road is sometimes a lonely challenge. Eating alone on the road on Valentine's Day is almost downright pitiful. Even though my wife and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day (why should you show your love on only one day to your spouse or loved one?) there's a number of people that do. And that usually means dinner for those people at a nice restaurant. On a trip to Minneapolis recently, I was staying at the Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport in Bloomington (see map) on Valentine's Day night. I was told the hotel had a pretty damned good restaurant - Woolley's Steakhouse. It was cold out, I didn't feel like venturing out and I decided to just go downstairs and have dinner in Woolley's.
Since the Embassy Suites in Bloomington opened in 1986, Woolley's Steakhouse has served thousands of travelers and locals the finest in steaks and seafood. Unlike most hotel restaurants that are nothing more than glorified coffee shops, Woolley's is an award winning steakhouse that serves 28-day aged, certified Black Angus beef and has also been given the "Award of Excellence" by Wine Spectator magazine. Chef Peter Christenson oversees the kitchen at Woolley's Steakhouse. Christenson is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York and is currently on the advisory board for Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute.
It was around 6:30 when I went down to Woolley's to see if I could get a table for dinner. I walked up to the hostess stand and scanned the already packed restaurant. One of the two young ladies looked up and asked if she could help me. I said, "Ah, yes. Valentine's Day. I probably can't get a seat in here right away."
She gave me a forlorned look and said, "Do you have a reservation?"
I sort of chuckled, leaned in closely and said, "Now, how big of a loser do you think I am to make a reservation for one on Valentine's Day?"
Both of the girls laughed at that comment. I turned toward the bar area and said, "Can I eat in the bar?"
The young lady said, "Sure!" She grabbed a menu and we walked over toward The Corner Bar. Actually the bar was quite full, as well, and I was able to find a single seat at the bar. The menu at the Corner Bar is quite different from the Woolley's Steakhouse menu, but they allowed me to order off the Woolley's menu in the bar that evening since the restaurant was full. She asked me if I wanted the wine list and I told her that I'd just get one from the bartender if I wanted to look through it.
Sitting alone at the bar also brings its own set of challenges. On my left was a couple - I'm guessing they were in their 40's - and quite possibly on a first date. They were waiting for a table to open in the restaurant and were talking about their life experiences. The lady didn't sound very smart and the guy was heaping loads of praise on her for some of her very menial accomplishments in her life. This guy was putting the hammer down on love that night. It was actually pretty sickening and funny at the same time.
The guy to my immediate right was a nice guy from North Carolina by the name of Pat. He and I watched a basketball game on a television behind the bar. As time went on that evening, I found out that he grew up in the Twin Cities, but had moved to North Carolina for school 30 years before. He had owned a couple companies, but ended up selling one and going bankrupt with the other due to the economic slowdown in 2008/09. Pat was looking to move back to the Twin Cities to be closer to his daughter who had moved back to Minnesota with her mother a few years prior.
The very busy bartender - Chad - finally came over to great me and asked what I wanted to drink. I didn't recognize any of the beers on tap, so I just asked for a pale ale. He said he had an India Pale Ale on tap and I signed up for one of those. It was all right - not the best I.P.A. I've had, but drinkable.
Looking through Woolley's menu was quite daunting. In addition to the number of steaks and chops they had to offer, they also walleye, grilled salmon, shrimp and scallops. Their Valentine's Day special that evening was a petite cut (6 oz.) beef filet with a lobster tail. Along with steak and seafood, they also had pasta dishes, and "comfort food" such as Swedish meatballs, chicken marsala, short ribs with a ginger/carrot puree, and their Woolley's Burger Deluxe - a half-pound burger made with mixed cuts of meat ground in-house. (I want to go back sometime for just the burger - it sounded great.)
The socially awkward couple to the next of me had ordered the calimari appetizer. The lady had never had calimari before, but the guy kept telling her it would taste like fried shrimp. She was a little hesitant when it was brought out to them. To me - it looked damn good. If she wasn't going to eat any, I was going to volunteer to eat what was left over.
I wanted steak that evening, but I was getting tempted from a number of different areas. They had prime rib on the menu, and it had been a long time since I had prime rib. The "Red-Eye Ribeye" featured an ancho chili and coffee rub. The "Martini Steak" was a seasoned flat-iron steak served with blue cheese crumbles and chopped green olives.
But the filet was looking good for me that evening. The Kings cut is a 10 oz. filet and for an additional $4.95 you can get it "classic style" with mushrooms, bacon, onions and blue cheese; or "gratinee style" with croutons, caramelized onions and gruyere cheese. For an additional $6.95, you can order it "oscar style" with a bearnaise sauce and crab meat. I got just a regular old beef tenderloin filet - rare. For my side, I ordered the scalopped potatoes, although the grilled asparagus sounded good for an additional $4.95. The bartender, Chad, understood my dilemma and he said, "I'll have the chef throw a couple asparagus spears on the plate for you."
Woolley's Steakhouse also has a pretty impressive salad bar and he asked me if I wanted to go through the salad bar for an additional $4.95. (Lots of upcharges at Woolley's, have you noticed?) I saw that they had a half wedge salad for the same amount and I just ordered that.
Quite actually, I should have gone through the salad bar because the wedge salad was pretty pedestrian. It featured a few leaves of lettuce, some runny blue cheese dressing with some bacon bits. It was all right, but it wasn't the best I've had.
As I was waiting for my steak, I had finished my India pale ale. Chad asked me if I wanted another and I asked him for the wine list to see what they had for "by-the-glass" wine selections. The wine list was pretty impressive - it was no wonder why both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have given Woolley's awards. I found a Rodney Strong cabernet to have with my dinner.
I was hoping that the average salad wouldn't be an indicator of the rest of the meal, but that pretty much went out the window when I had the first bite of my steak. It was actually cooked more medium-rare than rare, but that was fine. The steak was juicy and flavorful. It had a great taste to it and I was very happy with it.
True to his word, the bartender saw to it that I did get some asparagus spears along with the scalloped potatoes. I only took a couple bites of each as I was focusing on the steak. But the couple three bites I had of each were good, as well.
But the steak was outstanding. I was quite surprised that a steakhouse of this quality was inside an Embassy Suites. I've stayed at a few Embassy Suites in my day (I got a great price for the room at this one - less than $100 a night - and I was surprised at how nice it was), but none of them had a restaurant even on the level of Woolley's Steakhouse.
Sometimes I get surprised by some of the restaurants where I eat. Woolley's Steakhouse was a pleasant surprise, even though I had to eat at the bar and endure the insipid conversation from two socially challenged people to my left. (They never did get seated at a table for dinner. But I don't think the guy cared - he was trying his best to get her out of there and into a bedroom. And she was too stupid or naive to notice.) The steak I had at Woolley's was excellent. Chad - although very busy - did a good job of taking care of me. I was more than happy that I made the choice to stay in and eat at the hotel restaurant that night. I normally don't do that, but I'd go back to Woolley's even if I were staying at another hotel in the area. It was that good.
Yesterday, I got an e-mail from someone who said, "Hey, did you see you had a mention on Urbanspoon's blog last month?" Actually, I didn't know Urbanspoon HAD a blog! I followed the link and it was an entry from Ken Goldstein, one of the administrators of the Urbanspoon web site, on the occasion of the 10,000th blogger to join Urbanspoon. I scrolled down through the entry and saw the familiar Road Tips heading with this beside it -
Urbanspoon's Most Traveled Blogger
The hometown of Road Tips is listed as Davenport, Iowa. But how meaningful is a hometown for the blog of a traveling sales guy who has managed to post reviews in 65 different metro areas from Seattle to Savannah (including our only post to date in Minot, North Dakota)? We'll also give a nod to Suits in Strange Places, a group blog which has posted reviews in 69 different metro areas, but falls a bit short of the lone-wolf achievement of Road Tips.
(Click here to see the whole blog entry.)
That was a nice thing for the people at Urbanspoon to do for Road Tips. This blog joined Urbanspoon in February of last year after getting a request from a restaurant to link a review that we did on the place directly to Urbanspoon. I began to link other blog reviews to other restaurants and after awhile I got a communication from Ken at Urbanspoon who wrote, "You know, you're becoming one of the more prolific bloggers on our site. Instead of us adding the information, here's how you can publish your own entries on Urbanspoon." So, now I'm my own editor on Urbanspoon.
In just a little less than 15 months on Urbanspoon, Road Tips has had over 100,000 hits from Urbanspoon users and is hovering around the Top 100 of worldwide Urbanspoon blogs in terms of total hits. It's a rather confusing situation - Road Tips has been as high as 69th worldwide, and just last week we were in the upper 80's. For some reason I'm sitting at 110th on the Urbanspoon list of blog hits as of right now. I don't understand how I can go from 115,000 total hits down to 110,000 hits. I just let Urbanspoon worry about that. But, hey! 110th out of 10,000 blogs still isn't too shabby!
Road Tips has also gotten recognition from Urbanspoon for being a popular blog with people looking for places to eat in the metro and statewide areas that the web site serves. Right now, Road Tips is a Top Ten blog destination for Urbanspoon in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Omaha, and we're hovering just outside the Top Ten for Chicago. And as of today, Road Tips is the most popular Urbanspoon blog in the Quad Cties, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, the state of Illinois and the state of Minnesota, and lately we've been trading the top spot in the state of Iowa on Urbanspoon with the fun Des Loines blog that searches out the best pork tenderloin sandwiches across the state. I'm just thrilled that someone takes the time to click on the links to Road Tips.
There are a number of travel and restaurant sites out there - most notably Yelp and Trip Advisor. I have colleagues that contribute to Yelp, but it's not a "blog friendly" web site. And that's OK with me. For a blog that has taken on a life of its own over the past few years, I have limited hours during the week to devote to working on Road Tips.
Right now, I've attached 679 blog entries to restaurants listed on Urbanspoon. While it may seem that I'm one of the most prolific bloggers they have, I'm not even in the top 10. There are some bloggers who have done well over twice the amount of blog entries I've contributed to the site. I don't know how long Road Tips can last, but it will end when I cannot keep up with my work - which helps contribute to entries on the blog - and balancing home life. Until then, I'll keep adding more unique and interesting places to eat that I've come across in my travels.
Thanks for looking in!
I'm not a restaurateur - I only know how to eat in them. So, it was interesting to me how a local Milwaukee area chef could take what was a popular casual Mexican restaurant featuring tacos filled with eclectic ingredients and turn it completely around into a gourmet burger joint after 4 years of being in business. That's exactly how chef Jake Replogle, Jr. did in transforming the former Haute Taco eatery into Jake's Burger in suburban Brookfield. A tip of the hat to Dawn for giving me the "heads up" on Jake's. On a recent visit to Milwaukee, I had lunch at Jake's Burger before leaving town.
In 1960, Jake Replogle, Sr. bought a supper club called Wally Behl's in Wauwatosa and opened his eponymous steakhouse - Jake's Steakhouse. Living above the restaurant, he and his first wife (it was said Jake Replogle, Sr. married 8 to 10 times) worked to make the restaurant a destination for steak lovers, as well as offering duck dinners and seafood. In 1967, he bought another Wally Behl steakhouse/supper club in Pewaukee and named it Jake's, as well. He closed down the Jake's in Wauwatosa and concentrated on the new location in Pewaukee. As the area grew up around Jake's, it became a favorite of thousands of people for great steaks and good food. (Replogle also owned the Ocean Grill in Vero Beach, FL, spending half his time in Wisconsin and the other half of the year in Florida.) Jake's son, Jake, Jr., helped his father in the restaurant business and he ended up buying the restaurant from his father in 2005. (Jake Replogle, Sr. passed away in 2009. His son, Charles, runs the Ocean Grill in Florida.)
The younger Jake Replogle - along with his wife, Karen - opened Haute Taco on the north side of the Sendik's Towne Centre in nearby Brookfield. Sendik's Towne Centre is a small shopping complex that has a number of shops and restaurants and is anchored by a Sendik's supermarket (see map). The shopping complex has had trouble attracting both merchants and patrons since it opened just before the economic downturn in 2008. Proposed housing projects in the immediate area have not come to fruition as quickly as planners had hoped. Today, the shopping complex still has a handful of empty spaces, but it's much better than the 18% occupancy rate the center had about four years ago.
The younger Replogle had spent part of his youth growing up in Mexico and he remembered some of the casual foods that he had in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He opened Haute Taco with the Milwaukee diner in mind. Although beef tongue was one of the delicacies of the area he lived in Mexico, he knew it wouldn't go over well as a taco filling in suburban Milwaukee. He developed tacos that had beef short ribs or duck as the main filling. Haute Taco was in business for four years before the Replogle's decided to shift gears, close Haute Taco, completely remodel the space, and then reopen as Jake's Burger in the spring of 2012.
The basic burger at Jake's Burger is the same one that is served at Jake's steakhouse - a blend of brisket, sirloin and short beef. Extras include Nueske's bacon, port-caramelized onions, brie, Wisconsin aged-cheddar and blue cheese. The "Haystack" onion straws at the burger place are also the same as the very popular onion rings served at the steakhouse. Most of the burgers start at less than $10, but the extras can add up pretty quickly running the total cost of the burger to well over the $10 buck mark.
It was right at the noon rush when I made it into Jake's Burger. I was able to find a spot up front as there was an empty store space next to Jake's and a frozen yogurt shop on the other side of the empty space. Not many people were hankering for frozen yogurt on a cold late winter day.
As you walk into Jake's, there's a bar area up front with small bar and a number of top shelf and call liquor bottles on a glass shelf behind. A couple three televisions are on the wall in the bar area. Near the front door when you come in, there's an old Coca-Cola machine that stores vintage cans of beer. During "Happy Hour" - which comes twice daily at Jake's Burger from 2 to 5:30 p.m. and once again from 8 p.m. to close Tuesday thru Friday - vintage can beers from the Coke machine are $2.00
I was seated in the dining room behind the bar area underneath a wall that had a potpourri of "Jake's Burger" logos stamped on the wall paper. From what I understand, there used to be a colorful mural in its place when Haute Taco was in the space.
Looking through the menu, in addition to their sirloin/short beef/brisket mixed burger, they also feature turkey burgers and grass-fed beef burgers. They also have something called "raft burgers" that are served open faced and meant to be eaten with a fork and knife. They had an albacore tuna raft burger as well as the Cali raft burger with Nueske's bacon, butter lettuce, special burger sauce, and oven-roasted tomato with avocado. There was a portobella mushroom burger on the menu, as well as a beer-battered cod burger. Jake's Burger also had a handful of salads to choose from if you didn't want a burger.
One other great thing about Jake's Burger is the beer menu. I'm not big on Belgian beers, but they had a nice selection of those, as well as a number of lager, wheat and pale ale-style beers. I noticed that they had the Bell's Two Hearted pale ale on the menu and I got one of those while I was looking through the menu.
With the extras that you can order to put on a burger at Jake's, you can come up with some pretty interesting combinations. Their signature burgers include the Truffle Burger that is topped with brie truffle cheese, white truffle oil and arugula, and the Wisconsin burger topped with beer-cheese sauce, their haystack onion straws and Nueske's bacon. I was looking to do some additions to my burger so when my server came back to take my order I got the Classic burger - with the mixed beef - and it came with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and topped with a homemade pickle slice. I added a fried egg for a buck more and for $2.50 more I got a couple of slices of Nueske's bacon. Nueske's has been called "the caviar of bacon" by a food critic for the New York Times. My server asked me if I wanted any fries or onion straws with my burger - also an extra charge. Something told me to order up the onion straws. Later on, I found that I was glad I did.
It took about 15 minutes from the time I ordered my burger to when it was brought out to me. It was topped with a large sesame seed bun and cut in half. On the menu they said they cooked their burgers "medium +", but I asked for a more medium burger with some pink in the middle. They couldn't have gotten it any closer to how I like my burgers.
The cheese was draped over the top of the burger with the Nueske's bacon sitting on top. The fried egg was underneath the burger patty resting on the veggies. It was a big damned burger to say the least.
The first bite was wonderful. The taste of the burger meat was flavorful and juicy. Coupled with the cheese, fried egg and bacon (I ended up pulling off most of the veggies because they were falling off anyhow), it was an excellent tasting burger. About the only quibble I would have with the burger at Jake's is that there was a little too much bun. But it was tasty and chewy, and didn't overpower the overall taste of the burger.
As good as the taste of the burger was, the highlight of the lunch were the onion straws. I prefer onion straws over onion rings and these were just outstanding. They had a little bit of a spicy taste to them in addition to the beer-batter flavor coating the rings. Oh, man! My stomach is doing jumping jacks just thinking about the onion straws! I normally don't get fries or onion rings when I order a gourmet burger, but I'm telling you - I'm glad I decided to try the onion straws.
I've read some on-line reviews on Jake's Burger where a handful of people didn't like the place. I thought my burger was excellent and the onion straws were out of this world. Most of the time when people say they don't like the place, it usually comes down to price. And I will say that Jake's Burger is not cheap. If you want to stay basic and get one of their Classic burgers with no extras and a soft drink, then, yeah, you can stay under $10 bucks. But to me, that's not too fun. Yeah, the extras - especially the Nueske's bacon - really zip up the price of a burger. Unless you live in the Brookfield area, Jake's is a little bit of a haul from anywhere in Milwaukee, but I think it's worth the trip to try it at least once. I'd go out of my way a couple three miles when I'm out in Brookfield to try another burger at Jake's Burger.
I wish I could remember who told me that I had to go to Lagasse's Stadium at The Palazzo when I was out in Las Vegas for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (I think it was my late friend, Craig Evert, if I'm not mistaken), but I decided to find the place for a lunch during my time out there. I had a meeting with one of my dealers in the middle part of the day during the show and he wanted to go get something to eat for lunch. I said, "Let's go try this one place I've heard about."
Lagasse's Stadium is one of the many restaurants under the umbrella of famed chef Emeril Lagasse. It is the only sports-themed restaurant of the 14 Emeril-run restaurants. Given the amount of sports restaurants or sports books in Las Vegas, Lagasse's Stadium had to make a big splash when it opened in the fall of 2009. Its main room features stadium seating with leather couches with betting windows up front. A large screen television flanked by 16 small large screen televisions are the main visual attractions in the room.
After a winding journey through The Palazzo, going down a level and then back up some steps, we were able to find the inside entrance to Lagasse's Stadium. We were met by a hostess who inquired if we were there for lunch. She offered to have us sit in the dining area up front, but I took a quick look past the bar in the front dining area and saw the room with the stadium seating. It was in that room that my dealer, one of his salesguys and myself set up for lunch just after 1 p.m. Understandably, with no major sporting events going on at that time, the room was pretty much to ourselves. We took a seat on one of the leather couches with sort of a small coffee table in front of us and our server came over with some menus.
Most of the food on the menu is your typical sports bar fare - sandwiches, appetizers, burgers, wings, etc. They also have entrees available such as fried chicken, ribs, steaks, and grilled salmon. Pizza is also available at Emeril's. There was a guy seated not far from us who was noshing on a pizza when we sat down. It didn't look too bad.
Because eating at the low coffee tables was going to be rather awkward, I decided on getting a sandwich. They had a pastrami sandwich on the menu that looked appealing to me, as did the reuben. I thought about the French dip for a moment, as well as the andouille sausage and peppers sandwich. But I figured that they both would be pretty messy and I didn't want to get anything on my clothes as I still had a half day to go with the show.
When our server came back, I inquired about the pastrami sandwich. She said that it was cold pastrami and I sort of winced. She said, "Yeah, I seem to get that quite a bit. I like a warm pastrami sandwich better than a cold one, too." She pointed out the reuben and said that the corned beef was hot with that. I asked if I could get a pastrami reuben with the pastrami warmed up. She sort of halted for a second and said, "Hmmm... You know, I don't know. I'll have to check with the chef." I told her that if she could get the reuben with warm pastrami, then I'd go for that. If not, I'd take the regular reuben.
My dealer got the Stadium Burger - plain. And I mean plain. He didn't want pickles or mustard, or any of the veggies. He said, "I can't stand pickles or mustard." I told him he probably didn't like the vinegar taste. He said, "I don't know, man. I've never been able to handle pickles or mustard." He did get Swiss cheese on the burger, however.
His salesguy ordered up the barbecue pork sandwich - slow-roasted pork, shredded and put on a bun and topped with a Creole mustard slaw, fried pickles and a tangy barbecue sauce. Fries came with all of our sandwiches.
Not long after we ordered, our food showed up. My reuben was made with corned beef, not pastrami. It wasn't a problem with me, but I just thought it was a little weird that they didn't have a hot pastrami sandwich. Other than New York, more hot pastrami sandwiches have to be eaten in Las Vegas than any other place. But the reuben was all right, nothing special. It was a basic bar reuben that was neither extremely appealing or overly unappealing.
My dealer's burger was a big thick patty drenched in melted Swiss cheese between two toasted bun halves. He said it was pretty good. But once again, it was nothing special. His salesguy said his barbecue pork sandwich was pretty good, as well. All our sandwiches/burgers were just that - pretty good. Definitely not bad, but not something where I'd crave to go back and have. Like I said, it was bar food that was above average.
After we finished our lunch and paid the tab, we ended up walking around Lagasse's Stadium to take a look at the place. My dealer, who also does some sports promoting with mixed martial arts fighting, was completely amazed at the place. "Man, I'm glad you brought me here," he said as he snapped pictures of the place with his cellphone. "This place is amazing."
There's a little nicer dining area toward the back and on a lower level from where we were seated in the stadium part of the place. It appeared to be a little nicer than the dining area that was up front near the entrance where we came in. (There's also an entrance from Las Vegas Blvd. into Lagasse's Stadium.) This area was shut down for lunch, but they still had the big screen televisions on showing some soccer match from Europe.
There's also a couple three private rooms at Lagasse's Stadium that feature dining areas, pool tables and leather couches similar to the ones we sat on for lunch. All throughout the place was sports memorabilia that may or may not have been authentic. Interestingly, there were hybrid jerseys on display - 1/2 Peyton Manning's jersey and the other half his brother, Eli's, jersey. Things like that. I just sort of shrugged my shoulders when I saw stuff like that. I was interested in some of the old pictures that were on display, however.
In a city that never sleeps, Lagasse's Stadium only serves food up to 10 p.m. each day. I suppose once the sporting events are over, the place usually clears out. But they do open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays for college sports that begin at 8 a.m. Las Vegas time, and at 8:30 a.m. on Sundays for pro sports that begin at 10 a.m. in Vegas. The food is all right, but it's not necessarily the reason one goes to Lagasse's Stadium. It's definitely an upscale sports bar, one of the nicer ones that I've ever been in. But compared to other sports bars I've been to, the food is about on par with most of them. And that's all right - Lagasse's Stadium is a sports bar, for God's sake! And an interesting one, at that.