Feb 082008

Oh man, this place is pretty damn good. I was really, really, really surprised because from the road it looks like pure suburban douchebaggery.

It’s in a pretty nondescript strip mall on Quivira south of Shawnee Mission parkway. Now, whenever I see BBQ in the KC area, I go. And to be frank, I had not heard of Bates City BBQ before, though i think there is a Bates City, Missouri out east of here somewhere.

This place has tremendous character. Yes, they try kinda hard, but they succeed. The first thing I noticed driving up was a sign advertising gennesee beer. You just don;t see Genny in these parts, and it was a legendary quaff among me and my associates in college. Of course, so were a dozen other cheap ass beers. Anyhow, the sign was cool, and the outside of the restaurant featured enormous stacks of wood piled high next to the entrance. I knew that they were doing some serious smoking in this place.

Inside, the service counter was basically a testament to the homespun wisdom of some guy named Tom. Probably the owner of the establishment. Anyhow, the walls and columns around the counter line are riddled with sayings written on torn pieces of brown paper bag. There were so many it’s hard to remember, but here are a couple:

“If at first you don’t succeed,
You’re average” — Tom

Bates City BBQ
“Remember that half the people you know are below average” –Tom

I recall these particular sayings because I was enamored with Tom’s obsession with putting people in their place. Tom is saying ‘get over it people, you’re not so great, you’re just friggin’ average! Deal with it!’ This resonates with me because it’s one of the unofficial themes of my life. Not that I’m average, just every one else is.

Anyway, I got a real kick out of these sayings although many of them flirted with redneckery (“The smartest thing a man ever said: ‘Yes Dear'”). The places just oozes with a sense of humor. The styrofoam cups picture a steer and a pig, arm-in-arm around a fire, smiling like sonabitches.

The places smells delicious and is quite affordable. I purchased a nice sized sandwich, fries and soft srink for 7 bucks and change. The beef was very well flavored, featuring a mighty impressive smoke ring. I could have done without the sesame roll it came on. Where’s the white bread, Tom? They are very liberal with the sauce on the sandwich, so be sure to ask for it dry if that’s the way you roll.

Pulled pork

Shawnee Southern sandwich

The fries were short little crunchy nuggets, kind of like the ass-end of the fryolator. But they were surprisingly delicious and I think this is deliberate. They are a pain to eat w/o a fork though.

Bates City

The sauce was pretty solid. Typical KC stuff here: sweet, thick, tangy, well-flavored. Not in the pantheon of sauces, but very pleasant. The place really advertises its ribs a lot, they must be a favorite. The guy next to me in line got them, and they looked a little overcooked, and again, definitely oversauced. Contrary to popular belief, rib meat should not fall off the bone. That usually means it was finished in tin foil or (*shudder*) par-boiled before smoking. But I’ll reserve ultimate judgment until I actually eat the damn things. And I will, because I’ll be back.

The clientele is kind of what you’d expect for a Shawnee, Kansas BBQ joint. I think my nondescript Toyota was having serious inadequacy issues parked in between two cocktacular pickup trucks the size of humpbacked whales. There were no women to be found in the place, just middle aged guys with mustaches. Let’s just say that Bates City is not a place where I’m inclined to talk politics.

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Feb 012008

In the review below I display an apparently astonishing ignorance of Mexican cuisine when I complain about tacos al pastor having pineapple in it. Well, it turns out that tacos al pastor is supposed to have pineapple. I just didn’t realize/notice/remember when I’ve had it in the past. So I’ve left the post intact as testimony to my unreliability as a food reviewer. Enjoy!

In my continuing effort to leave no suburban strip mall cuisine unexplored, I paid an unanticipated visit to Fronteras, a tasteful little lunch spot in a thoroughly unremarkable part of Lenexa. As opposed to the truly remarkable parts.

God there is a hell of a lot of Mexican food in Johnson County, I don;t know what’s going on. Fronteras is across the street from another Mexican place, and down the street from yet another. Are they really all that different? One of them has to be good right?

Well Fronteras started out in very promising fashion. I was seated hurriedly, the place was moderately busy, orders were taken quickly and efficiently. They have a lunch menu which I kind of like. Basically you get one thing (taco, enchilada, tamale, etc) with rice and beans for like 6 bucks. Doesn’t seem like a lot but it is the perfect portion size for lunch. I don;t understand people who need to eat an entire plate of cheesy, beany, meaty-ness before heading back to a brisque afternoon in the cubicle. Get a grip, people.

I went for the taco al pastor which is basically a seasoned pork, either roasted or braised slowly. The plate arrived very quickly, which was a good thing, since my neck hurt from watching two unknown soccer teams playing on the TV in the corner. Note: It’s usually a good sign when mexican restaurants have soccer games going on two televisions. It means there might be real live Mexican people working there. It doesn;t matter if you like the sport or not. I don;t want to walk into a Thai restaurant and hear “eye of the tiger” over the stero system.

Anyhow i was excited for my taco, but it was so damn hot I couldn;t eat it for like 10 minutes. I swear, it was unreal, but fine with me since I can;t stand cold food. Finally I was able to take a bite, and…well…what is that flavor I detect?


yes there is friggin’ pineapple in the pork at this place. Now, I can understand that complementary nature of certain fruits and the deliciousness of pork-ity in all its forms. I can understand the impulse or even the need to experiment, and come up with a special recipe that will distinguish you from the glut of Mexican-ity in JoCo. But please do not put pineapple in my tacos al pastor! I’m sure there are people who like this, they find it unusual, intriguing, or even classy. Those people are wrong.

No it wasn’t disgusting, just wrong. I ate it all, ate my refried beans (excellent by the way!) and rice (boil in bag?). So, more Mexican disappointment in the JoCo hinterlands. I know that there are good places in the metro, I’ve tried them and just haven’t blogged about it yet. But not everyone can get to the boulevard or wherever when they want. I keep thinking that with so many Mexican restaurants, there should be a few that stand out. La Paloma is one, but there are a few things that bug me about it. No refried beans is a big one, the offer only black beans. Mi Ranchito is OK, but i prefer a more authentic cuisine and there’s hardly a corn tortilla to be found in the place. And their use of cheese is really beyond the pale. So I’ll keep trucking and keep complaining. happy (or unhappy) eating!

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Maui Express: 8750 Santa Fe

 Posted by at 4:17 pm
Jan 182008

From the outside, this place has the aura of a failed attempt at chain fast food written all over it. And the name is confusing. All I know about hawaiian cuisine is that they bury whole pigs in firepits where they cook for hours on end. That sounds like a whole lotta delicious to me, but Maui Express is a storefront in an ugly strip mall next to a Mr. Goodcents.

Moreover, when you walk in the place, there is a white dude in a mall-bought Hawaiian shirt behind the counter. Now, this gentleman was very friendly and efficient, I really appreciate that. But he had that cult-like way of staring through you found among fundamentalist christians and nerdy white guys who only date quiet asian girls. I’m pegging this guy for both.

The menu at Maui Express is really small, and is definitively Japanese in orientation. That makes sense, given the history and ethnic composition of Hawaii. Foremost among the menu items are “bowls.” Basically these are Rice, steamed vegetable and the meat of your choice with a teriyaki sauce. Instead of white rice you can get noodles or brown rice. The prices are also exceedingly cheap –less than four bucks for the small bowl and under five for the large. Unless you get steak which increases the cost by 1.50 or so. Their motto is “eat healthy” so don’t get the friggin steak because they won;t know what the hell they are doing.

Anyway i ordered a large chicken bowl with brown rice. Everything was well cooked, including the rice. The vegetables, as promised were indeed steamed, but disappointing. You see, they really weren’t the best veggies for the job–carrots, zucchini, and a few broccoli florets. Carrots and zucchini? Really? What is this 1994? Perhaps this is some sort of traditional Japano-Hawaiian preparation that I’m not familiar with, but personally I don;t get real worked up over steamed carrots and zucchini. They also aren’t the best vegetables for you, compared to most others. At least there was no green pepper which would have made me puke.

Chicken teriyaki bowl

Overall the food was very good, particularly the chicken which had been grilled, unlike the rest of the bowl. This provided a nice contrast of textures and flavors. The portion was very good as well. I didn’t finish it all and even struggled to polish off all the chicken in light of my lack of zucchini enthusiasm.

The best part of the whole restaurant, however, was the music. yes the lush strains of Hawaiian music filled the air for my entire stay and I imagine all the live long day. This was a great touch, but unkind to employees. That would drive me insane–try listening to Hawaiian slide guitar for 8 hours straight. I could maybe make it through 4 hours and only if I was drinking.

So in summary, Maui Express is weird. Certainly not a “destination” lunch spot. But if you are hungry and passing through the OP, or if you work nearby and tire of Arby’s bacon and cheddar melts, go for it.

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Jan 142008

This place is easy to miss if you don’t know about it. Despite its high traffic location on 75th just east of Metcalf, Fritz’s is located in a strip mall fairly far back from the street next to an auto parts store. It has a truly charming exterior, complete with a neon sign and big windows. This is charm in the old school sense, not in the tin-ceiling, brick, and exposed ductwork sense. I could just tell this was going to be something special before I got within 100 feet of the place.

Holy cow this place is old school. There is a nice, low lunch counter with chrome stools attached to the floor, reminding us of simpler days when apparently people did not have knees. There is a fair sized “dining room” but it’s a very casual affair–no booths or anything cuddly like that. Each table holds a dispenser of impossibly flimsy napkins, a squirt bottle of vinegar, another bottle of vinegar infused with a healthy handful of hot peppers, and a shaker of chili powder.

Apart from myself, the clientele ranged in age from 75 to 95. This is not a bad thing. Anyhow, as solo diner, i ventured to the lunch counter next to a woman reading the pitch and eating a curious concoction of what must have been “chili.” From a plate. The waitress took one look at me and asked “you ever had our chili before?” Admitting I had not, she grabbed an 81/2” x 11″ laminated sheet and set it on front of me. She told me that this item explained what their version of chili was, and how to order it! This place doesn’t even have a real menu, it’s just posted on a few aging letter boards up on the wall. But they have about 500 words telling you how to order your lunch. I love curmudgeonliness in all its forms.

You see, Fritz’s chili is basically just ground meat and spices. It is not cooked with beans and probably not tomatoes either. But you can order beans with it, along with cheese, onions, and other stuff including “bean sauce” which reminds me of the juice from a can of beans, but is probably not. You see, Fritz doesn’t roll like that. The bean juice serves to moisten the whole affair and is really quite nice. I ordered a hot tamale covered with chili and beans, and a cup of shredded yellow cheese on the side. The waitress called it out to a dude in a white hat and apron who plated it up in about 10 seconds. The food is dished out right behind the counter–most of the prep and heavy duty cooking seems to happen in a large kitchen in the back. I think the kitchen is bigger than the dining room. The waitress, sensing my naivete, brought me some bean sauce in case I found it too dry. And I did, thank you very much. The best part is that the bean sauce came in a ceramic coffee mug. I thought that was very cute.

Anyhow Fritz’s offers their various permutation on chili, as well as chili burgers, and of course, chili dogs. You can get chili in three different sizes, and the plates are carefully hung behind the counter so everyone knows how much they are getting. I have the feeling that this measure, along with the explanatory laminated page, were taken to prevent people from expressing displeasure. They tell you up front what to expect. As my favorite sentence explained “if you just order ‘chili’ you are going to get a plate of ground beef.” This is a very oddball kind of place and I loved it.

Not that the chili was all that great. It just didn’t have a lot of kick or spice or pizazz. I think that you kind of have to find what suits you–the relative blandness lends itself well to multiple toppings and side items. Jalapenos, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce, would all be good. I did like the vinegar a lot, and overall the meal benefited greatly from a modest sprinkling of salt. But it’s not someplace I’m going to visit often. It’s a great slice of what people annoyingly call “Americana”–some dude named Fritz knew how to make chili, never redecorated, and managed to survive the onslaught of suburbanization. Seriously this place is a rarity and is worth a visit for the experience alone. It’s very friendly, extremely quiet, and generally a nice old diner atmosphere. It’s worth a visit once in a while just to keep it in business.

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Jan 102008


I imagine this place is better for a nice dinner than it is for lunch. But rich people gotta go somewhere right?

Welcome to 40 Sardines a truly beautiful restaurant right in the heart of JoCo’s ridiculousness known as Town Center Plaza. Actually is at the edge of TCP but you know what I mean.

40 Sardines is the kind of place you take a client out for lunch. If only I had clients in my line of work. Or perhaps a birthday lunch for a co-worker, if only I worked close to there. Or perhaps someplace to have a nice bite and a glass of wine after a hard morning having your nails done, shopping for the kids at Vera Bradley, and purchasing a $100 cheese grater for the maid at Williams-Sonoma. That’s the lunchtime vibe here.

Not that the food isn’t delicious.

The lunch menu is pretty small for a typical lunch place, but not for a fancy restaurant. If you are up for a nice lunch, there is plenty to be excited about, like wood-fired burger, crispy short rib sandwich, and the Gala apple, maytag blue cheese, confit chicken & bibb lettuce concoction. A few things, like the ‘Olive oil poached ahi tuna melt panini’ make it seem like they are trying too hard. It’s like they are combining three trendy preparations in the hopes that ones of them sticks. The menu changes periodically–sometimes they have a delicious seared scallop dish that is not to be missed and a decent lettuce wrap plate with vietnamese dipping sauce.

The style of the restaurant gets a little lost, but it seems to lean toward the pan-asian classification. I tend to be suspicious of places that don’t have “specialties,” but generally this chef is good enough to pull it off. You won;t have a bad meal here, but it won;t blow you away. The prices are very good for what you get, everything runs between 8 and 13 bucks, but the portions are not huge. But you’ll live.

The service is the usual 20-something kiss your ass bullshit that you get at nice restaurants. They are clearly trained to make small talk, suggest dishes, wines and so-forth which may appeal to some douche bags but not this one. I have had great service there once, and perfectly efficient but semi-annoying service the other few times.

Though I’m not a big wine-drinker, it’s easy to see why folks are impressed with the wine selection. They offer a number of items by the glass and the bottle, including the unbeatable “20 wines for 20 dollars!” Usually places will have maybe one $20 bottle, but this is pretty sweet. But for lunch? not the biggest draw.

JoCo folks love this place because they feel that finally they have a really good locally owned restaurant to be proud of. No, Applebee’s doesn’t count. For my money, Il Trullo beats the pants off 40 Sardines, but it’s kind of apples and oranges. Anyhow, check it out for a pompous good time and some decent eats. If you are the meat and potatoes kind of person, it’s best to skip it.

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Jan 012008

Believe me, I really want to dislike this place. I really do. No it’s not the best sandwich you will ever eat, but it’s a really solid lunch spot with super friendly staff and a casual coffee shop atmosphere. In the summer they have a great little patio and proximity to the park. The lunch menu is small but covers all your bases: deli sandwiches, a selection of salads, a couple of homemade soups, desserts, a full run of espresso drinks and so forth.

Sometimes you just want a sandwich. No bullshit like paninis or subs or foccacia bread. And never, ever “wraps.” Talk about the worst trend in the world. I don’t think KC has received the message that wraps went out in 1999. Anyway I want some good meat, some good bread, some good cheese, lettuce, tomato and the condiment of your choice. Somehow Subway can’t manage to create bread without it being full of air or overly seasoned or just plain wrong. And I’m sure they put artificial aromas in the stuff to fill the failing mall food court with the fictitious odor of baking bread a la Cinnabon or whatever that place is that sells cinnamon rolls the size of basketballs. And people wonder why we’re fat. Well personally my weight is the result of absolutely zero excercise, but I’ve made peace with that.

Anyway Farm to Market is known for their bread which appears in grocery stores all over the metro. While not the best bread around, it is generally the best bread you can get at the local store rather than visiting a bakery itself. They offer the option to grill any sandwich which is great, but generally I pass because the bread is good in its original state.

The staff is quite friendly and helpful, almost to a creepy degree. They have this smiley, almost cultish kind of service ethic. Generally I respect gruffness and efficiency more, but far be it from me to complain. All was explained when I noticed some books for sale in the front window, written by a co-owner of the business. Basically these books look like religious psycho-babble about how running a business brings you closer to God. The author is trying to establish herself as some kind of expert in “faith formation” whatever that is. It seems like a term developed to keep well-educated people interested in church.

Normally out of principle I shirk businesses that espouse overly religious and/or right wing ideals, such as Hobby Lobby, Coors brewing or Chick Fil-A, Forgive my rant here, but we need to realize that decisions we make — like eating lunch — have implications beyond our taste buds. If I go into a restaurant and see a photo of the owner with his arm around Ronald Reagan, I’m gonna think twice about going back. You do what you want. Farm to Market is an exception for the time being. As far as I can tell, my occasional sandwich isn’t supporting an agenda of gay-bashing, religious intolerance or woman-hating. Plus it’s a local business with limited ability to support offending organizations with oversized political contributions.

So I’ll continue to revisit F to M cafe, mostly because I had a cup of sweet potato bisque that was really damn good and I want more. Prices are relatively good–soup and half sandwich for 7.95. With a drink you’ll easily spend 10 bucks which is sort of my unofficial cutoff for a reasonable lunch these days.

It’s downtown Overland Park location is pretty charming. I really like downtown OP as a physical environs and was surprised to see as many empty storefronts as there are. I suppose most of the money and development has moved to the southern end of the county, leaving some of these first suburbs to struggle a little more. A taste of their own historical medicine I suppose. The business that are on that stretch of Santa Fe seem to be doing well, however, and the street is far from deserted in the midday. Mostly retirees and joco homemakers, from the looks of it, but I have seen the occasional lunch break dude eating at F to M. Anyhow, even a heathen like me gives this place a thumbs-up. Until I can find a good reason to actually hate it. Happy eating!

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Dec 202007

It’s never a good sign when you walk into a BBQ restaurant and the first thing you see is a sign: “this is a non-smoking establishment.” I’ll say.


Zarda’s clearly does good business and even satisfies enough people to do a nice catering trade on the side. But for real, people, you know what the sliced meats reminded me of?


We’re talking really thinly-sliced meat. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself but it really takes the texture element out of eating BBQ. And like that other place, Zarda’s meat has very little smoke flavor. I have eaten both the pork and beef brisket, and was not impressed. The food is not poor quality, it’s just not great BBQ. The texture of a soft hoagie bun (blasphemy) and a pile of shaved meat is pleasant, but you might as well be eating a sandwich from Hy-Vee with barbecue sauce on it. Mediocre sauce.

Here is the key to enjoying your meal at Zarda: don’t order the sliced meats, rather opt for pulled pork or burnt ends. I ordered the pork on a whim one time and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent texture and quite a bit of hickory smoke flavor. So next time I went I ordered the burnt ends and they too were smoky though a little lacking in that definitive fatty, crunchy texture you want in burnt ends.

Burnt ends

Pulled pork

The fries are not good: cheap, frozen steak fries. Opt for the lightly battered potato wedges which are fine, but I don’t like to get fancy with fries. The beans are average but the fried pickle chips are pretty tasty (wish I had snapped a photo). Speaking of pickles, be sure to ask for a dill spear when you order; they don’t come automatically with your food.

The decor is woodsy in a fairly convincing manner, except for the light-up menu signs behind the counter which make it look a little like McDonald’s. At lunch, they get really busy, but the service is quick as hell, and I got my food in less than 5 minutes. The restaurant is frequented almost entirely by 40-ish polo-shirt-wearing JoCo types taking a break from whatever irresponsible bullshit they sell to participate in a KC tradition without having to interact with black people. I think my gut reaction to the clientele is largely what accounts for this particularly un-sunny review. They are what I used to call yuppies, but they’re really not. Yuppies were people who lived in cities, made a lot of money in cutthroat fashion, wore suspenders and drank good coffee. The new breed are people who live in suburbs or ex-urbs and live their lives as if there were no consequences. The world’s problems pale in comparison to their own financial and familial ups and downs. Thank God they are too self-absorbed to vote.

Whew. Sorry. It’s really not that bad.

Anyway, Zarda seems to have been around for a while, and is clearly well-liked. The prices are a little higher than normal. You will spend ten bucks on lunch easily–just another reason why it’s not going on the regular rotation, since there is better to be had elsewhere.

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Mr. Gyros: 83rd & Metcalf

 Posted by at 11:13 pm
Dec 052007

Mr. Gyros is hilarious in many respects. Firstly, its name brings a smile to my face because I picture a little talking gyro. Kind of like that Arby’s talking oven mitt, only not stupid and idiotic. Mr. Gyros also looks hilarious. I mean the faux-Greek temple thing is awesome–as if to shout “this is a temple of processed lamb goodness.” It’s actually easy to miss because it’s white and kind of clean cut in a way that most fast food joints aren’t. As someone pointed out to me recently, it looks like a bank.

Now, before I tried it, I had heard from several people (some of them actually reliable) that Mr. Gyros was awesome, not to be missed. So naturally I was prepared to hate it. Nothing raises more red flags with me than someone telling me that so-and-so’s has the best ______ in town. This is particularly true when you are talking about a fast food spot which Mr. Gyros, despite a few weird indications to the contrary, most definitely is. Among people who grew up in JoCo in particular, the place is the stuff of legend and well-revered. Which is also hilarious.

All that being said, Mr Gyros may have the best gyro I’ve ever eaten.

Mr. Gyros

And it’s a simple thing: pita, meat, tomato, onion, period. And a side of flawless tzatziki sauce. The pita is warm and soft. The meat is tender, well-seasoned, and lacking in undesirable mystery components that one occasionally finds in less reputable Greek establishments. My one complaint? It’s small, real small. You can’t get by on just a sandwich, you need something else like a salad or at least a piece of delicious homemade baklava. Or better yet, two gyros.

Mr. Gyros

So, now I have to go back–again and again, which is really too bad, because I was all prepared to hate it and continue to mock the Greek bank from afar.

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Nov 162007

This is probably the best bbq I’ve had in JoCo not counting the illustrious Oklahoma Joe’s. It rivals Joe’s in many ways, and surpasses it in atmosphere which is pure tavern. I know, I know, Oklahoma Joe’s is in a friggin gas station what the hell is my problem? Well, simply put, the gas station gimmick just doesn’t do it for me. Certainly it is an unusual situation and makes for a good story. But ultimately it gives old JoCo people the impression that they are slumming it when really it’s a very boring and family-friendly place. I mean, the seating area itself looks like a Hardee’s (don’t get me started on Gates). They also have a very self-satisfied attitude about the gas station aspect, even selling cheesy t-shirts about it. Indeed, their whole sense of marketing is very cartoonish, gimmicky and dated. Remember the Far Side? Their shirts and packaging is in that vein. Only less funny. “Night of the Living Barbeque sauce!” OMG that’s hilarious! Joe’s reliance on oversized kaiser rolls and “specialty sandwiches” doesn’t endear them to me either. I feel a BBQ place should have a simple, modestly sized menu. All that being said, OK Joe’s has excellent barbeque and everything on the menu is tasty, but in other ways it’s just not that interesting.

Admittedly RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack has a stupid name. But the place is about the size and shape of a double wide trailer-a shack, basically. It could easily turn into a drinking establishment in the evening. For all I know it does. The interior is super casual, quiet but not awkwardly so. Suprisingly they offer table service–and it’s excellent service at that. I had absolutely no complaints about that–they were friendly, attentive, efficient, and no bullshit–everything you want in servers.
RJ’s advertises $2 PBR bottles and cheap draws as prominently as the daily specials, which makes it my kind of place.

Their sauce however is…unusual. I hesitate to say that I don’t like it because I do, but I think it may be a liability more than an asset to RJ’s great smoked meats. I just don’t like sauce to distract me and I fear that this one does. It is overly sweet, but also vinegary. It has a subtle flavor that I absolutely cannot identify. I’ll have to make a repeat visit or two to render absolute judgment on this one. Regardless, they offer regular and spicy versions which seem to have no discernable difference from one another. It bugs me when spicy is not spicy. Damn midwesterners.

The pulled pork here was great. Both the pork and french fries were every bit as good as Oklahoma Joe’s who I find overly salt their fries. The chicken however, is uninspired. I expected a kind of pulled chicken, but instead got thick slices of dry breast meat which did not fit comfortably on the bun. But that’s what I get for ordering a chicken sandwich at a bbq place. I really wanted brisket, but was feeling particularly cholesterol-laden.

It is interesting that I haven’t heard much about RJ’s before, perhaps it is a relatively new establishment? Regardless I will continue to make periodic visits to see if other visits measure up to the first one. Both times I have been there, the place was pretty dead–once I was the only customer at 1pm. Mr. Goodcents was hopping next door, though. What the hell is the matter with these people?

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Nov 152007

I stopped by Tienda Casa Paloma yesterday on a whim. It really looks more like a market (which is what “tienda” implies) from the outside, but they I noticed some signs on the window advertising tacos, burritos, lunch specials, etc. In the end, I’m very glad I stopped in, for I found a place with a huge menu, lots of seating, and good food.

The vibes in this place are super friendly and positive. I received an immediate greeting from the two people behind the counter, as well as some advice about what to order. I opted for green chili, the special of the day. I had heard about green chili before, but had never noticed it on Mexican menus. It always struck me as a southwest, ameri-mex kind of thing. Maybe it is, but I decided to give it a go on the brisk autumn afternoon.

Green chili is basically a soup or stew, made with a base of tomatillos, the main ingredient in salsa verde which you see at many Mexican restaurants. I understand the dish is also infused with some roasted green chilis and lime juice. The protein kick is provided by shredded bits of roasted pork and chicken. This is not a spicy dish at all, and really is rather simple, hearty and fresh tasting. The whole thing was topped with fried tortilla chips and finely shredded cheese. I really need to start bringing a camera around with me, but maybe life is to short to start taking pictures of my lunch in order to spice up blog posts.

The green chili was very good, but not the best thing I’ve ever had. I would have preferred more meat, but basically I’m not a soup guy, so it would have been hard to overwhelm me with this dish. However, the meal was rounded out with a fantastic bottle of coke imported from Mexico, which tastes so much better than the crap we get here due to the use of sugar instead of corn syrup as sweetener. Anyone who has not experienced a real coke, go out and spend 1.75 at your local Mexican market for one. I was also happy to see a wide assortment of Jarritos sodas which were a favorite of mine when i lived in Chicago. Mmmm, tamarindo.

This place has counter service as I mentioned, which makes the whole experience very quick. My food came out to my table before I had taken off my coat and bag to sit down. Super fast. Unlike the Chartroose Caboose, the place was populated entirely by women, who i imagined were stay at home housewives in the midst of a typical day of working out, running errands, and conspicuous consumption. Entertainment was provided by two small children, who were dancing spontaneously to the jaunty mexican music being piped in, while being ignored by their parents.

As the name implies, Tienda Casa Paloma features a small assortment of Mexican foodstuffs for sale, including an enviable selection of dried chilis. The whole room looks like it is in flux, they were doing some work at the front corner while I was there. I think in due time they will get their organizational scheme figured out, because the atmosphere is just a bit weird. I ate my lunch right next to a shelf full of styrofoam plates and boxes of plastic forks.

In conclusion, I am very happy to have found this place-it’s right next to Mr. Gyro, so next time you are in the area, opt for some good Mexican chow instead of greasy processed lamb meat. Mind you, I enjoy greasy processed lamb meat as much as the next guy.

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