Did You Say Steak?

Sullivan’s. The Angus Barn. The Peddler. Fleming’s. Ruth’s Chris. Vinnie’s. You get the idea. There are plenty of options for you in the greater Raleigh area if you want to go out for a nice steak dinner and never call her again. Little Anchorman reference there sorry, I digress. I mean what’s not to like about a great steakhouse? There is just something about the appeal of going out for a steak dinner. The ambiance of a dimly lit bar with dark wood, servers in ties, red meat, a loaded baked potato, and copious red wine. Maybe a little shrimp cocktail? Best steak I ever had? Peter Luger’s in New York. Better bring cash, they don’t take cards. Best steakhouse memories? Going to Vinnie’s as a kid and seeing our family picture on the wall with the rest of the regulars. However, the one drawback? They ain’t cheap. Want a steak? 50 bucks. A salad? 10 bucks. Taters? Another 10 bucks. I’m not that much of a baller that I can afford to eat out at a high-end steakhouse that often unless someone else is picking up the tab. Outback I can afford. But don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather cook a steak at home. Back when I was in culinary school, we asked one of our chefs where his favorite place to eat in town was. Like the cocky asshole chefs can be, he said his house. At the time I thought he was just being funny. But now after working in restaurants for years, sometimes you don’t want to go out on your day off, you want to be lazy and cook your own food, especially a steak. You know it’s going to be good, plus it’s going to be seasoned well. Probably one of my biggest gear grinders is under seasoned food. Enough about that, I’ll save that for another post.  So I get to choose the exact cut I want, char it over my own grill outside in shorts with a beverage in hand, and know it’s going to be medium rare. I find it relaxing to cook on my day off. Weird right? Plus I don’t have to pay 10 bucks per side. Hasselbacken potatoes? Creamed spinach? Obviously a wedge salad with blue cheese with extra crumbles. So recently I have been on a steakhouse kick. In the last few weeks I have been to Sullivan’s, The Capital Grille, and Outback. No rules, just right. You know I had to sneak a chain in there somewhere. Hey, I wasn’t going to Logan’s Roadhouse or Lone Star. The results? Hands down the best blue cheese wedge salad was from Sullivan’s. Their dressing was super crumbly and creamy. Delicious. At Outback, I ordered a blue cheese wedge salad and the server came back 5 minutes later and asked what dressing I wanted. Um, blue cheese? Duh. So when I get the wedge it had blue cheese dressing, but also balsamic reduction! No! Why would you do that and ruin a perfectly good salad? Despite this, Outback was as tasty as it always is. A Blooming Onion, a 10 oz ribeye (skinniest ‘lil ribeye ever), baked potato with the trimmings and a shareable Mason jar cocktail? What’s not to like. So much food. And it was so much cheaper than Sullivan’s and The Capital Grille. Considerably. Best steak? Probably Sullivan’s. Bone-in Cowboy steak was charred well and cooked correctly. Best overall experience? The Capital Grille. Service and cocktails were great, plus the sides were better than Sullivan’s and Outback. Plus you get an iPad for the wine list. Pretty cool. Kinda reminded me of the tablets  at Applebee’s and Olive Garden, but actually practical. You could sort the wines by price (obviously cheaper to more expensive for me), scroll through all the cocktails, and see what wines paired with certain foods. Foodie nerds will love it. One misstep of The Capital Grille was the steak tartare. Terrible. Like totes not good. Under seasoned, served on top of hard boiled eggs and capers, with a shitty deviled egg on the side. Ugh. Bad news bears. Outside of that, it was awesome. Great night. Plus we had gift cards so we were playing with house money. So what did I learn from my mi-steaks? Sometimes you gotta pay up for your steak just for the ambiance and Outback hits the spot when you need some red meat and a deep fried onion. Cheers foodies!

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KO at OT

Bucket list. Finally made it to The Office Tavern with AB and McGuzzles. (You know who you are). And what a sight it was. I definitely felt like I was in Carolina Beach at Loretta’s, or the Surfside Bar as it’s also called. You know it’s going to be a good day when you walk into a dive bar on a Sunday and the entire staff, as well as every bar fly, know the people you are accompanying. Not sure what it says about me. Or the company I keep. Anyway, the OT is priceless. Neon signs. Elvis lamps. Pool tables. Fish tank. Cash only. No liquor. Cheap beer. Friendly bartenders. $2 Bud Light aluminum cans on a Sunday. Half way through the day, and quite a few aluminum cans later, a fight happened to break out in the parking lot. A fist fight fight between two older gentlemen, who were also brothers. And one of them happened to be carrying a crutch. And well, he used that crutch to his advantage. It was like the Jerry Springer show broke out on Glenwood South. We had a front row seat to two rednecks beating each other up with fists and crutches flailing. Highly entertaining. Bloody faces ensued. Good thing I was 5 or 6 deep in the metal cans. Cue the jukebox. Anything to calm the situation. Red Solo Cup? Yes. Alabama? Yes. Drive By Truckers? Totally. Even after all the tomfoolery, it still felt like your neighborhood dive bar, just add the assault. I’ll be back to the OT, with their cheap beer (they have the Champagne for 2 dollaz) and for their scenery. The bartenders were salt of the earth, as well as all the regulars. Definitely welcomed with open arms. Great hardworking people who need a place to relax, blow off some steam, and talk about golf and politics. All within dark confines and comfortable bar stools. Don’t we all need that?

I gave Mash and Lauter (and Busy Bee) a second? third? chance. What a mistake that was. How can you be out of half of your entire menu? No mussels? Check. No charcuterie? Check. No bread plate? Check. The tiniest cheese plate ever? Check. Terrible. It’s not like it was late either. It’s half your menu bro.  Last time we went to Busy Bee we walked out after 10 minutes. Why you ask? Service. Always service. We’re here to spend money. Please pay attention to me. Your loss. Gave you plenty of chances. Enough ranting for one night. On a side note, congrats to Gallo Pelón. Best bar in downtown. Check it out. Britt and Marshall are amazing. Cheers foodies!

 

 

 

 

 

Mexi-can’t

I’m always looking for late night food options besides the usual suspects Player’s Retreat, Calavela, Mo Joe’s, etc. So when I found out Virgil’s Original Taqueria was opening and would serve until 2 am seven days I week I got excited. Plus who doesn’t like tacos and Tecate? However, after hearing about some of my fellow service industry friends experiences at Virgil’s I was a little leary and apprehensive; but I figured we would give it a shot anyhow. On Sunday around 10 pm we arrived to a pretty empty restaurant, maybe a handful of other people. We opted to sit at a high-top table rather than the bar. Maybe a mistake. We ordered a couple of cocktails and waited. And waited. And waited. I could see them completed and just glistening on the bar, staring at me, practically calling my name, “please drink me.” I was about to get them myself but eventually the bartender grabbed them, not our server,  and walked around the bar and dropped them off. It’s not like she was busy, there was practically no one in there. Strike one. The “flash fried” tortilla chips, as well as the salsa and guacamole,  are all a la carte on the menu, so if you want all three it’s 10 bucks. No thanks. I’d rather go eat bottomless chips and salsa at El Rodeo. Plus, the same”flash fried” tortilla chips  were just basking under the warmth of the heat lamp the entire time we were there. Plus the guys in the kitchen were ultra-hipster. I’m at a taco place, not The Stanbury ya know? Grinds my gears. So to start we got the Mexican fries, hand-cut and topped with mole, onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and queso fresco. Well they arrived minus the queso fresco. The bits with the mole were tasty, but without the cheese they were really no bueno. In my best Gordon Ramsay voice, they were dry and bland. Next we opted to sample the tacos, so we decided on the fried avocado, chorizo con papas, and carnitas. Of the three, the fried avocado was the best. Slices of creamy fried avocado with cabbage, cilantro, onions and lime crema were really good. The carnitas were okay, just needed a lot of salt and hot sauce. The chorizo tasted as if it has been charred or burnt.  Oh well. I’ll overlook service sometimes if the food is great, but in this case neither was outstanding. Just middle of the road. For my money, I’d much rather go to Chubby’s Tacos for the relleno, spicy chicken tinga, and the barbacoa. I’ll give Virgil’s another shot because they are open so late,  plus they have Pacifico tall boys; but I’m in no rush to get back. If only Raleigh had better late night food options. Maybe Guy Fieri can open up a dive on Glenwood South. Cheers foodies!

 

Uncommon Commonality

Stephen King once wrote, “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant.” Not sure he ever saw the horror of working as a server or a cook though. There is something to be said about the friends you make while working in restaurants. Add in the small world we call Raleigh and you have a recipe for constantly seeing familiar faces wherever you may work or play. So the other night we finally decided to check out The Blind Barbour since it’s practically a stone’s throw from my house. Plus I had to name drop that I knew someone who works there; restaurant protocol. So a cocktail later, we figured why not venture to Taste since it is literally across the parking lot. It was like a mini Dixie Trail bar crawl if you will, minus the recently closed The Medlin. Thank God. Anyway, lo and behold, good ‘ol Leslie and Dean from my 18 Seaboard days were working at Taste. I can’t go anywhere without knowing someone. Born and raised in Raleigh tends to do that. A familiar face with who you can tell war stories from the good old days goes a long way though. You know, did you hear about so and so got knocked up? Can you believe so and so are still working there? Remember that one time? You get the point. It’s like the fellowship of the black apron or the white chef coat. The fraternity of shift meals, side work, and can I get a runner? The same people, who have seen you at your very best, have seen you at the very worst. It’s a kind of college reunion of sorts, just add more alcohol and shit talking. There are only so many good restaurants in our town that everyone eventually makes the rounds. And if you work in the service industry long enough here you are bound to run into the same people, and probably work with them again. It’s a close knit community that shares a common bond of customer service, being in the weeds, and the grind of a booked Mother’s Day brunch. One minute you might want to kill a server for ringing in their entire section at once, but a few hours later you are drinking beers together at The PR. What is said behind closed doors during the rush isn’t to be taken personally anyway. Lord knows I’ve said and done things I’m not proud of. However, the post-work camaraderie of finally sitting down on a bar stool and the steady flow of Fireball shots definitely make up for it. Only those who have worked in restaurants fully understand what I’m talking about. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I decided to apply to culinary school 10 plus years ago, but it’s been the best decision I have made. It may have not always been pretty, but it has been a hilarious, stressful, and rewarding ride so far. Cheers foodies!

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Bittersweet

So yesterday was my last shift at Poole’s Diner. Two years have come and gone. I still don’t think it has set in yet. Not sure when it will.  Leaving was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The kitchen really is a second family for those of us in the service industry. We spend a majority of our week inside a confined space with a handful of the same faces. They see you at your very best and your very worst. It’s sad however that it takes people leaving for everyone to spend time together outside of work. Last night as we were reminiscing and having a few beverages, hearing a simple “we’re really going to miss you” truly does make all the difference. Thanks for putting up with all my Zantrums everyone. I’ll miss you all.  So I decided to compose a list of all my lasting memories over the past two years. I’m sure I missed a few though. I hope they bring y’all a smirk or an eye roll or two. Enjoy!

Obviously

You owe me a shot of bourbon

Four quart

Two quart

Heard!

Inside you

Don’t touch me

The sound of pouring heavy cream

As it comes

10-4

God Bless America

It’s Sunday Martin

Dick Songs

Using the squeegee backwards

Plancha!

Quit throwing shit

The Darkside

My neck, my back

We eat ribs with this dude

Time to clean

Ca ca ca ca ca- macs up

Add it

I need to move my car

I got a bibb up

Can I get a coke-cola?

Butters, biscuits, buttercup, butternuts

What does the fox say?

Reading Rainbow

Route 60 dicks

Kumbucha, Kumchi

Do you understand me better when I talk like this?

Staff’s up

What’s for staff meal?

Salad???

Waiting on a call from a stripper

Dracula Italiano

Tourette’s

Matt spitting out mac n cheese

Junebug go home

Drop a bomb on me

The Gambler

Gingers do have souls

What does a duck say?

Yeah sure? Yeah sir

Meowwwwww

CMKY

Foodies

Glutard

Take a lap

Motorboating

Like a Wrecking Ball

Short shorts

Shuck corn in the walk-in

Bamboo shoot

You got Rotella’d

Reel long time

Cut butter, cut lemons

Prep for tomorrow

Ray Charles

Gray scoop

Panko in the dining room

Where’s the robo coupe??

Whatsal

.com, .org, .edu

Show me your genitals

The drawer is a drawer

Put it on top of the salamander

Milk

Such a good lawyer

Fuck the Diaz Brothers

Getting things wet

Saffron

Robot voice

I hate you guys

Fetus legs

Julian

Mac on the back

Not my fault

Runner please

Do that 10 more times

Order in a Blythe

Can I get Jason’s/Lauren’s shift beer?

Cheesay!!!!

Mayonnaise

Eating glass

Car ramrod

Wild Turkey

Sallllmon

I was told we could play music at a reasonable volume

Symphony is here

No bite

Everything is awesome

This song goes out to my main man Zan

Banana way

GFY

Chicken of the cave

They stank! Hate ‘em

This is what I do when I sit on you

You must plate something if you walk behind me

That is correct

Bird is the word

Bananas in pajamas

Real corny

Ty Cobb

Aw shucks

Ear-ritating

Pun-ish

Awesome!!

Cheers foodies! On to new adventures.

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Gearing Up

So we all know what grinds my gears, I’ve made it pretty clear through my blog; apparently everything does. So I thought it would be interesting to get the opinions of those whose gears I tend to grind all the time, the front of house. I couldn’t do what they do; I’d probably be fired within a week for rolling my eyes or talking back to the guest. My one experience with working with the general public was as a barista at Starbucks many moons ago, and that was bad enough. I’ll stick to the back of the house. So I asked some of my favorite bartenders and fellow service industry friends from my years of working in restaurants what really bothers them. Some were like how long do you have? I can’t help but think of the movie Waiting as I write this blog. Don’t worry, no names or places will be mentioned. I do think my favorite response was line cooks, or those specifically who have blogs. Hmm. Last time I checked I was the only person in the kitchen with a blog. Thanks you know who you are. Anyway, one thing I heard a few times was the snapping of fingers or the waving of arms to try to get their attention. They obviously see you, but the more you wave or snap, the less likely they will rush right over to get your order. Patience, or the next time they are going to your office and snap fingers all day in your face. And be ready with your order when the bartender does come over. They are busy; they don’t have time to wait around while you decide on a Jager bomb or an Incredible Hulk. Or the surprise me/what do you like to drink?/what’s your favorite shot? was also equally annoying. Their favorite shot is going to be something that will make you go away quickly. I may have been guilty of this in my younger days; it’s college, what do you expect? Also what kind of martinis do you have? Do you have a pomegranate martini? What about an appletini? Amateur hour. The asking for salt and pepper was something that hit home for me. Don’t coat everything on your plate with a layer of seasoning before you have even taken a bite. And then send it back because it’s too salty. Who knows, the chef might have actually prepared the food correctly. What a weird concept. Personally, I do like having S & P on the table at a restaurant. However, I do taste everything first. The placing of napkins also was a big gear grinder. Don’t ball your napkin up and put in on your dirty ass plate. Just more work for the server. Or don’t put your napkin on the table and then ask for dessert. The napkin on the table is a waving of the white flag; meaning I’m done, no mas. I will be sure and keep my napkin in my lap from now on. Foodies or those who claim to know everything because they watch Guy Fieri all day was something else I heard. We all know how I feel about them. Or is it worse when the guest has no clue about food? Hmm, I smell a new post. Have I mentioned that I couldn’t do what the FOH does? I may bitch and moan about them a lot, but I appreciate everything they do, especially when they bring me an ice cold Coca Cola when I hit the wall around 9. I guess what I learned from this whole experience was have some common sense when you are dining out and treat your server how you would like to be treated. They are not there for your every beck and call. Cheers foodies.

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