CombatCritic’s Reviews

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CombatCritic's Recent Reviews

posted 
    • 1.5
  • Meal price: $20 - $29

I forgot my phone in the car, so please excuse the lack of photos. I have been wanting to try Port Fonda since they opened, but, to be honest, the menu never did do much for me. I like traditional Mexican food and am not enamored with the many Mexican-fusion menus and ingredients that have become so cliche lately. However, before I leave Lawrence and the Midwest for the Left Coast later this year, I thought I should give them a try.

 

I met a friend downtown and we walked over, entering a large, but mostly empty, dining room that looks more like a sports bar than a Mexican restaurant. I despise paying for chips and salsa, but we ordered it anyway ($5), coming in a small tin bucket accompanied by choice of two salsas (we got the corn and roasted tomatillo). The chips were a bit skimpy, but fresh and obviously homemade, and the salsas good. but not great. I was a bit disappointed for $5.


The "special" sounded good, a deep fried chimichanga filled with chicken, rice, pork belly and some other stuff topped with a poblano (or was it serano?) chile cheese sauce ($14). The chimichanga was quite tasty, but very greasy, feeling my arteries clogging with every mouthful. It was about half the size of your average chimichanga and came with zilch, zippo, nada, making it the equivalent of a $28 chimichanga, ale carte, no rice, no beans, at your run of the mill Mexican place. Not a great value by any stretch.

 

Because my ratings are based on value, bang-for-the-buck, and not on just the quality of the food, I cannot in good conscience give Port Fonda even an average rating (5 Bombs Out Of 10). Let's face it, their ala carte chimichanga belongs in the $6 to $8 range max, not $14, particularly at lunch. Additionally, I detest restaurants that charge for chips and salsa and $5 is ridiculous for what we were served. The highlight of our lunch was the server, who was very friendly and attentive, but then she should be as we were two of the few customers in the place at noon on a Thursday.

 

Now I know why the place is empty and why they have received such mediocre ratings. I doubt that this place will be around much longer and am surprised they have remained open for over a year.

 

CombatCritic Gives Port Fonda 3 Bombs Out Of 10 (Lucky For Them That I Round Up To 2 Stars On A 5 Point Scale) ... More Bombs Are Better!

posted 
Merchants Pub & PlateMerchants Pub & Plate
American (New) / Gastropubs / Bars
    • 3.0
  • Food: 2.5
  • Decor: 3.0
  • Service: 3.5
  • Meal price: $30 - $49

I have been wanting to try Merchants since they opened over three years ago, but every time I checked their menu online, it just did not inspire me. Local hipsters and metrosexuals gave them high marks, raving about their food and beer options, but these are the same people that gives 5-stars (10 Bombs in my book, a rating reserved for only the very Best in Value) to some of the many mediocre restaurants in Lawrence. As a matter of fact, links on Merchants' website list them among "The Best Restaurants In Lawrence, Kansas" (KCUR Radio) and "Lawrence is a great day trip for foodies" (Kansas City Star), along with several less than stellar Lawrence restaurants, according to Kansas City media outlets.

Merchants Pub & Plate

We arrived at around 5:30 for our Valentine's Day reservation, having been called the day before to confirm our reservation and asked if I was "disabled", a rather odd question. I said no, even though I am an 80% disabled veteran, because it's basically none of their business, and was told "good", we'll put you upstairs then". Rather than make an issue of it, I painfully made my way up the stairs to not the first balcony, but to the very top floor, two stories above the "prime" dining room. I survived, but felt like a second (or is it third because of the floor we were on?) class citizen.

Merchants Pub & Plate

Merchants advertises "Happy Hour", but fails to mention anywhere on their website or menu what time Happy Hour actually is. It turns out, after asking our server, that it is from 5pm to 6pm, so I ordered an IPA ($3.50 vice $7) and a porter ($3.25 vice $6.50) before the clock struck six. Both were quite good and a great value at half of their regular price.

For our appetizer, we decided on the burrata. It was actually quite good, but there was too much of the creamy spread for the six very small slices of baguette. At $10, it was a fair value, but would have been better had it come with a couple more slices of baguette to spread the sweet and savory concoction on. The menu should also mention the fact that "burrata" is a type of mozzarella cheese because even a Southern Italian (my wife) had not realized that mozzarella was the main ingredient.

For entrees, my wife had the Housemade Fettucine ($16), a rather skimpy and dry plate of reddish pasta, apparently in a white wine butter garlic sauce with spinach, almond, onion confit, dates, and breadcrumbs. Beside being quite a small portion for the price, it was very dry and tasted mostly of onion. Not a very good dish and my wife, who is not a big eater, was still hungry when she finished it.

Merchants Pub & Plate

I had the Grilled Ribeye ($32), the most expensive thing on the menu, a 12 ounce steak in a peppercorn, red wine-shallot butter and Worcestershire onion jam sauce (incorrectly spelled "worchestershire" by the way, uncapitalized - Worcestershire is a county in England - and with an "h' where there should notbe one). I ordered it medium/medium-well, telling our server that I do not like bloody meat and that a "little pink in the middle" would be great. The steak came out more medium rare than medium well, but even though the server offered to have it cooked some more (meaning "thrown in the microwave"), I declined and ate the "bloody" thing. Even though it was much rarer than I prefer, it was actually quite tender and the sauce extraordinary, making up for unappetizing color of the meat. It came with horseradish roasted potatoes, which were decent, and creamed greens (kale perhaps), which were extremely good.

Merchants Pub & PlateMerchants Pub & Plate

Because my wife was still hungry, and she has a massive sweet tooth, she could not resist the Persian Love Cake ($7), a cardamom sponge cake with "spiced pistachios, rosewater and saffron scented cream, and candied rose petal dust". It sounded quite bizzare on the menu, but was actually quite exotic and tasty, a nice finish to a decent meal.

Merchants Pub & Plate

First of all, our server, Devin, was very good, quite attentive, and the highlight of the meal. The atmosphere is also warm and inviting, even if we were in the nosebleed section. However, I got the impression that the chef in particular or the establishment in general are trying a bit too hard to be trendy and "gourmet", pulling it off on some occasions (the steak sauce and the dessert) and not on others (the pasta and undercooked steak). The prices are not exorbitant, but when you drop a C-note for dinner, it should be closer to flawless than we experienced at Merchants (e.g. my raw steak).

 

CombatCritic Gives Merchants Pub And Plate 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For The Measly Portion Of Pasta (1 Bomb), Bloody Meat (2 Bombs), And "Nosebleed Section" Table (1 Bomb) ... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
Noodles & CompanyNoodles & Company
Pasta / Noodle Shops / Fast Food
    • 2.0
  • Food: 1.5
  • Decor: 2.5
  • Service: 2.0
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

Noodless to say, our experience on this evening was less than stellar. OK, we are talking about Noodles & Company, a chain, so this review will not be as detailed as usual, but I need to comment.

Noodles & CompanyNoodles & Company

The place is clean, standard Noodles & Company layout, lots of poor KU students eating big bowls of noodles. You get the idea. The staff we are friendly and helpful and the food decent, with one major exception. More on that soon.

Noodles & CompanyNoodles & Company

We ordered the Korean BBQ Meatballs ($5 for 10) as a starter, I the Spicy Korean Beef Noodles ($9.25), and my better half the Steak, and I use that term loosely, Stroganoff ($9.25). The meatballs were pretty good and a decent value. My Korean Beef Noodles had barely a trace of beef, so I tossed in some of the meatballs, but otherwise it was pretty good although lacking enough broth (and meat).

Noodles & Company

The BIG problem came when my wife started eating the beef stroganoff. There was more beef than in my Korean noodles, but she chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed. You get the picture. The beef was "cartilagine" (literally "cartilage"), she said in Italian. I said: "Huh?", not being familiar with this word. Oh, you mean gristly! Yes, that was what she meant. I tasted a piece and it had the texture of a large, thick rubber band.

Noodles & Company

A very nice young lady came by and asked how our meal was. I told her "gristly", so she offered to exchange the stroganoff for something else. Well enough, so my wife asked for the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese ($6.25), a $3 difference. The mac & cheese came quickly and tasted very much like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, a big bowl of it. The main problem was that nobody apologized, nobody offered a refund for the difference, to comp the meal, or even offer a free dessert. When I asked for the manager to leave my card as we left, three people pointed at each other (must have been Larry, Moe and Curly), so at that point I gave up. We left with a sour taste in our mouths ... or was that just gristle in our teeth?

Noodles & Company

Considering the fact that you can get a much better, quality sit down Asian fusion (Thai, Chinese, Nepalese) meal at ZZ's just up Mass Street for about the same price, Noodles & Company is not such a great value either.


CombatCritic Gives Noodles & Company 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
    • 3.5
  • Food: 4.0
  • Decor: 4.0
  • Service: 2.0
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

I love a good, hearty breakfast, but because bacon, eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy are not as healthy as they are tasty, we normally only indulge on special occasions. I reviewed Wheatfields, a bakery and restaurant one block West of Mass Street in downtown Lawrence, on my birthday last year after going there for breakfast. Coincidentally, my wife and I returned for breakfast yesterday on my 60th birthday, enjoying ourselves and allowing me to reassess the rating I gave them last year (6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!).

WheatFields Bakery Café

My wife and I have been buying Wheatfields wonderful breads since we moved to Lawrence a little over three years ago. My favorite is the raisin and pecan sourdough ($4.50), a robust torpedo-shaped loaf with a thick crispy crust outside and plenty of raisins and pecan pieces inside. It toasts marvelously and is delicious alone, with butter, or coated in my favorite toppings, peanut butter and bananas.

 

They have numerous varieties, including sourdough, semolina with sesame and poppy seeds, baguette, ciabatta, Kalamata olive, sourdough, and 100% whole wheat among others. Breads range in price from $4 to nearly $9 for their holiday specials, but the whole wheat with walnuts and raisins is just HALF the price of a similar loaf at a new East Lawrence bakery on Barker, being quite a good value.

WheatFields Bakery Café

You order at the counter immediately in front of you as you enter, pay, and are given a small sign to place on your table so the servers can bring your order to the correct table. Drinks are help-yourself with three varieties of coffee (two regular and one decaf) and a small selection of teas and fountain drinks.

 

Always keeping it simple, I went with the Classic Breakfast (#1 - $6.95), coming with two eggs, hash browns, toast, and sausage links or bacon (I went with the bacon of course). They raised their price a buck since last year, but it is still the cheapest breakfast in Lawrence. Adding a half order of biscuits and gravy (#5 - $4.25, up 50¢) brought my very hearty and delicious breakfast to a little over $11, very reasonable compared to other downtown breakfast spots. Not a big egg or meat eater, my wife had a scone and coffee. She loves their scones and was quite happy with this cheese and herb variety.

WheatFields Bakery Café

Our meals arrived very quickly, even before I was done pouring coffee and toasting my bread. The Classic Breakfast was excellent with the eggs cooked perfectly over-medium, the bacon crispy and not burnt, but the hash browns were not as crunchy as I like them. The half order of biscuits and gravy was plenty for me with a very large biscuit smothered in a thick, savory country gravy with loads of sausage. The coffee was hot, obviously fresh, and delicious.

WheatFields Bakery Café
As breakfast goes, I have had better, but we enjoyed our meal and I have to say that you will not find a better breakfast value in Lawrence. Wheatfields is a very popular meeting place with great bread, excellent coffees, and tasty breakfasts. They seem to do very well because the place is almost always full.

WheatFields Bakery Café

My only gripe is with the staff who seem to have an "attitude". There is no "Hi, welcome to WheatFields" when you come in, it is more like "Yea, what do you want". Employees are routinely impersonal and abrupt, not warm and inviting. A smile and occasional "thank you" from staff would be much appreciated.

 

CombatCritic Upgrades Wheatfields Bakery Cafe To 7 Bombs Out Of 10 With A 2 Bomb Deduction For Arrogant Staff ... MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!

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posted 
    • 2.5
  • Food: 2.5
  • Decor: 2.0
  • Service: 3.5
  • Meal price: $10 - $19
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posted 
    • 2.5
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

Our realtor told us that this is his favorite Mexican restaurant despite the outward appearance. You would think it is an abandoned building as you drive by except for the lights of the sign and inside the restaurant.

La Carreta

A group of Latinas celebrating a birthday occupied the table next to us, always a good sign when people indigenous to the cuisine frequent a place. The food was decent by Left Coast standards, exceptional by Midwest standards, and reasonably priced.

La CarretaLa Carreta

We tried the chili con queso ($5.95) and guacamole ($3.50) for starters. The queso has an odd consistency, similar to ricotta cheese, but was good with big chunks of green chili. The guacamole was cut with something because it neither had the texture of mashed avocado nor the taste.

La Carreta

My wife had the quesadilla and taquitos appetizer (Menu price = $9.95, we paid $10.95) as an entree and it was disappointing. Coming with guacamole, pico de gallo , and sour cream, the quesadilla had hardly any cheese and the taquitos were a bit burnt and dry inside. I went with the chile relleno, taco, and enchilada combo ($11.95) with, as my dad used to say, "refired" beans. I asked for a cheese and onion enchilada and shredded beef taco, but got a shredded beef enchilada instead. The taco was good, but came in a pre-fab shell (deal breaker). The enchilada was also good, but not what I ordered. When I told the waiter that I got the wrong enchilada, he scurried off before I could tell him to forget it. He brought a cheese and onion enchilada a few minutes later, but I barely touched it because I was stuffed by that time. What I did eat was very good though. I could not even see the relleno because it was covered with shredded lettuce and tomato. I think it was pretty good, but the taste was masked by the unusual toppings.

La Carreta

The "Cadillac Margarita" ($5.95) was rather tasteless and weak, so I did not bother ordering a second. In conclusion, the service was excellent and the decor cheesy, just as it should be.

La Carreta

CombatCritic Gives La Carreta 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
Chez MachinChez Machin
French / Breakfast & Brunch / Salad
    • 4.5
  • Food: 5.0
  • Decor: 4.0
  • Service: 4.5
  • Meal price: $20 - $29

Chez MachinChez Machin

Chez Machin is a small place in the Hawthorne neighborhood of Portland I found with two friends last July, so when I brought my wife to Portland with me this time, we had to return.

Chez Machin

Happy Hour runs from 3 to 6pm with a $3 cup of French Onion Soup, $6 Escargots, $5 crepes, and wine for $5/glass or $5 off bottles. We ordered an escargot, a cup of soup, a ham and cheese crepe, and the Baguette with Cheese and Fruit ($3).

Chez MachinChez MachinChez MachinChez Machin

The escargots were again tender and full of buttery, garlicky goodness and the onion soup was much better this time than last with plenty of melted cheese atop a big crouton. The baguette and cheese came with half of a sliced apple and a few red grapes, simple, but a nice tapas for the price. The crepe was also well done, appearing to be made from whole wheat, light on the ham and cheese, and topped with swirls of crème fraîche.

Chez Machin

We also ordered a the entree "special", pork loin stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon atop a homemade basil pesto ($17.95) with buttered potatoes and green beans. The two large slices of loin were decadent, sumptuous, and superbly done with just the right mix of three varieties of pork ... loin, chorizo, and bacon. The pesto sauce finished the dish precisely and the potatoes, butternut squash and green beans were cooked to perfection - magnifique!

Chez Machin

Our server, Heather, was efficient, friendly, charming and professional. My wife and I ate and drank extremely well for $46, plus tip, a virtual bargain considering how well we ate. Once again, we were not disappointed, but elated by the quality and value of this quaint little French bistro on Hawthorne.

 

Once Again, CombatCritic Gives Chez Machin 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
    • 2.5
  • Food: 3.0
  • Decor: 2.5
  • Service: 2.0
  • Meal price: $20 - $29
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posted 
    • 2.5
Portland has dozens, if not hundreds, of wonderful restaurants, but trying to find a family-style, mom and pop, down-home Italian restaurant without the foo foo plates, faux gourmet tiny portions, and absurd prices is like trying to find a liberal at a Trump rally. Then I saw Denicolas menu, photos and reviews online, and briefly, very briefly, had some hope. The smell was right when we walked in, but the place looks more like a Denny's than an Italian restaurant, bright lights, vinyl booth seats, and all. It took our server ten minutes to greet us and we rarely saw her after that. She took our order and brought us our bill, but other staff members did everything else. My wife ordered the Special of the Day, cheese ravioli in a creamy mushroom and Marsala sauce ($14.95) and I, the Veal Parmigiana ($21.50), both adding a side salad and the antipasto at $2.79 a pop. I had a glass of wine, the Dolcetto di Dogliani (2005), an Italian red ($6.25) that was decent for the price. The salads were small and simple, but fresh with romaine, grape tomatoes, and dressing on the side. The antipasto consisted of a few carrot slices, three small cubes of mozzarella, pepperoni and salami, and some peperoncini for two of us to share, accompanied by four slices of Italian bread and four small squares of focaccia topped with herbs and tomatoes. So far, so good. My wife's ravioli looked mass produced and frozen, but were plentiful and not that bad, and the mushroom Marsala sauce was actually very good. When my wife, who was born and raised in Italy, thinks American-Italian food is good, that is not a bad sign. She liked the sauce, but thought there was too much Marsala, but I had to disagree because there can never be too much Marsala ... Bravo! The veal was plentiful, but, like many places, a bit too thick, not pounded as thin as it should be before being breaded and pan fried. The veal was topped with ample sauce and mozzarella, then put under the broiler a tad too long. It was not bad, not the worst, but far from the best ... "così così" ("so-so" in Italian and pronounced like the word "cozy") as my grandfather would have said. The accompanying pasta with "meat sauce" had very little meat (or as the Wendy's lady used to say: "Where's the beef?") and was a bit on the skimpy side with barely enough sauce to coat the pasta. Once I did combine the two, adding a ton of parmesan for flavor, I saw that the pasta had not been drained well and there was water pooling underneath, one of the ten deadly sins of pasta serving (second photo below). The prices were not that bad, the food not that great, and the service only adequate. Denicolas would definitely be the best Italian restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas (not a high bar), one of the worst in Brooklyn, New York, and in Portland "così così" if that tells you anything. CombatCritic Gives Denicolas 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
posted 
    • 2.5
  • Food: 3.0
  • Decor: 3.0
  • Service: 2.0
  • Meal price: $20 - $29

I have spent a fair amount of time in Germany during my military career and since, and Rheinlander reminds me a little, very little, of a traditional gasthaus with good beer in big steins, scrummy schnitzel, and other German gastronomic classics. Knowing German food well, I will warn you up-front that I am a bit picky when it comes to stateside imitations so here goes ...

There was a short wait when we arrived even though there were numerous empty tables, so I went to the bar after a long day on the road to order a cold German stein of beer. I must have stood there for at least five minutes while the bartender frantically bounced around right in front of me, ensuring to take care of the servers at their station at the end of the bar, but ignoring me completely. Not even so much as a "hello", some eye contact, or "I'll be with you in a minute", so I went back to the waiting area empty handed.

It took our server a good ten minutes to greet us once we were seated and she seemed so rushed that she ran off to order our Pretzel Fondue ($13.25) before I had the chance to finish inquiring about the menu and telling her what I wanted to order. I did get the chance to order a stein of Spaten Optimator ($8.95), a dark, robust German "bier" (7.2%), which took another 10-15 minutes to arrive.

My wife and I decided to share the fondue and because they are closing for good on December 31st, I wanted to sample a few different menu items before they cease to exist, so I ordered the Munich Feast ($24.25) to share as well. The server had "the feast" split into two plates, each with half portions of the weinerschnitzel and creamy paprika mushroom sauce, pork cutlet cordon bleu, a wurst of some sort, spätzle, red cabbage, sauerkraut, and a Bavarian pretzel.

The fondue came in a soup cup with two pretzels, not in a pot heated by flame. The cheese was tasty enough, but lukewarm, especially after 10-15 minutes. The pretzels were big, salty, warm and soft, just as they should be. Not a bad effort for a German restaurant doing a Swiss dish.

The Munich feast would have been too much food for one person, but the portions were most likely far smaller than the standard orders because the cordon bleu was tiny and the weinerschnitzel not a whole lot bigger. The biggest thing on the plate was the unidentified sausage, a rather cheap and benign variety looking like a big hot dog, only tastier. The spätzel was OK and the red cabbage/sauerkraut decent, but everything was, like the fondue, lukewarm and unimpressive.

Based on the speed in which both the fondue and feast arrived, very quickly, it seemed obvious that everything was pre-made, maybe nuked or stored in a warming tray, then thrown on a plate. Maybe that is why they are closing or it could be because they are closing, they just do not care any more because that was the impression I got from the staff and the food.

They will apparently be demolishing the beautiful building in early 2017, so make sure you visit during the last 5 weeks of 2016 and this Portland institution's existence if you are in the mood for fair, lukewarm German food and mediocre, apathetic service ... auf wiedersehen Rheinlander!

CombatCritic Gives Rheinlander A Parting 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
    • 3.0
  • Food: 3.0
  • Decor: 3.5
  • Service: 2.5
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

Ladybird Diner

"Ladybird", by the way, is the British term for what we know as a "ladybug", the cute little red dome shaped things, and member of the beetle family, with black dots that will crawl up your finger and onto your hand, tagging along until they get bored and fly away to find another unsuspecting human being or facsimile thereof.

Ladybird Diner

Anyway, Ladybird Diner is a busy place and got great reviews from respected colleagues, but was underwhelming in my eyes. I somehow expected more and have yet to find a great breakfast place (or lunch and dinner for that matter) in LFK. Big sigh. We stopped by about a month ago on a Sunday around 1pm and they were packed with a 15-20 minute wait, so we went up the street and ate.

Ladybird Diner

My spouse had a medical procedure and had not eaten for 33 hours, and I fasted along with her for moral support. So by the time we arrived at 9:30 this morning, we were FAMISHED, STARVING, HUNGRY AS A HORSE if you catch my drift.

Ladybird Diner

My wife loves their pancakes and hashbrowns, but went for a couple of doughnuts (and one to take home for tomorrow - $2.09/ea) and a side of hashbrowns ($2.49). She was happy as a lark, indulging her sweet tooth and getting a massive sugar and carb rush all for just $6.67. Such a deal!

Ladybird Diner

I, on the other hand, went the more traditional route. I rarely eat a big breakfast, opting instead for a cup or two of joe and some wheat bread with natural peanut butter and sliced bananas. However, 4-6 times a year a get a hankerin' for a full-on breakfast with eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and biscuits and gravy (B&G), so that was what I did.

Ladybird Diner

I ordered the Diner Breakfast ($9.99) and a half order of B&G ($5.49). The Diner was decent, nothing special, coming with wheat toast, and the eggs were cooked over-medium as I had asked. The three slices of bacon were lukewarm and petrified, obviously pre-cooked and sitting in a warming tray or nuked because they were difficult to cut with a knife and very chewy if you know what I mean. The hashbrowns were somewhat sparse, but crispy and savory just the way I like them. The biscuits and gravy were another story altogether.

Ladybird Diner

A buttermilk biscuit and a ladle of country gravy cost no more than a $1 max to produce, so I have difficulty understanding a 549% markup. Ladybird is not the only culprit, all the breakfast places on Mass Street do it as do many others around the nation. $2.99, even $3.49, would be a fair price for a single biscuit and gravy for a $2 to $2.50 profit on less than a buck's worth of flour and fat. Enough about price.

 

The order of B&G looked appetizing enough, but there was an odd taste to the gravy I could not quite put my finger on. Did they add honey mustard to the gravy? It sure tasted like it, so I asked to cook as I came back from the loo and was told that it was not honey mustard, but nutmeg. I was wrong, but the taste of the gravy was even wronger (look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls). Why can't I get some good ol' fashioned overpriced biscuits and gravy on Mass Street? This place adds nutmeg, another tops it with watery green chili sauce ... give me a damn biscuit and some freakin' normal salty and peppery country gravy for cryin' out loud! Sorry, the country gravy has me talkin' like a country boy, so let me digress y'all.

Ladybird Diner

The service was "OK", not bad, but not very good. Maybe they were shorthanded because I only saw two servers running around to the 15 or so tables, but I sat and waited for a coffee refill for a good 10 minutes while our server ran back and forth avoiding eye contact the entire time. I know servers somehow expect that they deserve a 20% tip nowadays (there I go again, dammit!) no matter how well they perform, but I put myself through college waiting tables and am a bit picky when it comes to service. This young lady got a 15% tip, generous in my eyes, but I am sure she cursed me as we walked out the door.

 

Sidenote: I rarely give less than 15% because I know these folks work mostly for tips to pay their bills and routinely give 20%+ for very good, friendly service. This service was neither, but not bad enough to warrant 10% or less as sometimes has to be the case. If I do tip less than 15%, I normally inform them of their shortfalls or leave a note if they are very busy in order to, hopefully make it a learning experience. In this case, I left my card and she can read the review (or not). If she does read this review, I hope she smiles more in the future, makes eye contact and ensures coffee mugs are full, and maybe makes a little idle chit chat so customers feel like we are appreciated, human, sentient beings.

Ladybird Diner

 

Ladybird Diner

CombatCritic Gives Ladybird Diner 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For Exotic and Overpriced B&G, Cold and Chewy Bacon, And So-So Service... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
    • 2.0
  • Food: 2.5
  • Decor: 1.5
  • Service: 2.0
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

Order at the counter when you go in, pay, and take a seat quickly if a table is open because they do not have many. Not particularly friendly, the folks behind the counter are all business, but they are efficient. Your food arrives at your table shortly thereafter and you may get your appetizer(s) before your entree(s), but don't count on it.

 

Their eggrolls are not bad, but they are small for Vietnamese eggrolls and have been burnt both times we tried them. You have to ask for lettuce, grated carrots, and cilantro to wrap them in and Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, but they do not have mint leaves which round out the appetizer.

 

They do pho well. Fresh veggies, aromatic herbs, flavorful broth and tasty noodles, but the two main entrees I have had, a beef curry with egg (?) and noodles and the most recent bulgogi, left much to be desired. Five ounces of stir fried beef, and onion, on a pile of rice with no seasoning and zero taste ... if you love bulgogi, DO NOT order this 'cause it ain't bulgogi girlfriend!

 

Bottom Line: Good pho, but everything else is not up to par with most other Vietnamese restaurants I have eaten at.

 

CombatCritic Gives Little Saigon Cafe 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

posted 
Brothers Bar & GrillBrothers Bar & Grill
American / American (Traditional) / Chicken Wings / Bars / Dive Bars
    • 3.0
Bare bones college bar chain with cheap drinks and a lot of noise. I went to watch the last few innings of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series after Fuzzy's, just a few doors down, closed at 10pm. A decent selection of drafts in 12-14 ounce glasses for $4 ain't a bad deal and they had a Captain and Coke special for just $3, so I was quite happy for just $10 plus tip. The service was decent, not overly friendly, but reasonably efficient. CombatCritic Gives Brothers Bar & Grill 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
posted 
    • 4.5
  • Food: 5.0
  • Decor: 3.5
  • Service: 5.0
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

As you know, I love Thai food and I love Thai Diner ... OOH-RAH!

Thai Diner

My friend Cimmy told me about this place with a nondescript storefront in a stripmall behind Panera at 23rd and Louisiana. The first time I saw it, they had a hand painted sign out front, now replaced with a much nicer blue neon sign.

Thai Diner

The inside is modern, not my thing, but tastefully decorated. There are no four-top tables, only two-tops pushed together to form whatever size table they need I assume, so you have to deal with the crevice between you and your neighbor. No biggy.

Thai Diner

They have an extensive chalkboard full of monthly specials (can't call them "blackboards" anymore I recently found out ... aren't we becoming a bit excessively PC? ... they still call whiteboards "whiteboards" and I am not offended) as well as a nice selection of appetizers, curries, stir fries, noodle/rice dishes and more on the menu.

Thai Diner

We started with two of our favorite Thai appetizers, Crispy Spring Rolls ($4.25) and Grilled Chicken Skewers (chicken satay - $6.25). The spring rolls were three, filled with minced chicken, noodles, vegetables - cut into six halves - and served with a sweet and sour sauce. They were crispy and tasty, not too greasy, and of reasonable size for the price. The chicken satay, marinated in a garlic, cilantro, and sweet chili sauce were four and large, grilled on wooden skewers and served with a savory brown sauce as well as the traditional peanut sauce (upon request). They were tender, well seasoned, and delicious as were the accompanying sauces, peanut being my favorite. I would have to say that they were a tad overpriced compared to the other three items we ordered, likely being a better value in the $4.95 to $5.25 range.

Soup 95¢

Crispy Spring Rolls $4.95

Chicken Satay $6.25

For main courses, my lovely wife had the Dark Soy Noodles with tofu ($8.25) and I the Massaman Curry Bowl with beef ($9.95), both accompanied by the "appetizer of the day", a crispy egg roll in our case. They call it "dark soy noodles", but the menu said that they were actually "flat rice noodles" with broccoli, green onion, and egg stir fried in a mildly sweet, dark soy and garlic sauce. The serving was decent in size, not too much nor too little, and my wife absolutely loved it. I had a taste and agreed, it was much better than the Pad Thai she normally orders. I ordered the curry "medium" hot (spicy), coming with chunks of white potato, carrots, and roasted peanuts in a massaman curry sauce cooked with coconut milk. The curry was accompanied by a large serving of white rice, the bowl of curry was plentiful, and the curry sauce exquisite. It was one of the best Massaman curries i have had and I have had quite a few at many different Thai restaurants all over the country.

Dark Soy Noodles $8.25

Massaman Beef Curry $9.95

The bill came to a little over $31 including tax, an extremely reasonable price for two appetizers and two entrees, particularly considering the quality of the food. The service was friendly and outstanding, efficient and timely. All in all, we enjoyed our meal very much and will return again soon as it is one of the best restaurants and best values in Lawrence or Kansas for that matter.

 

CombatCritic Gives Thai Diner A Near Perfect 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

  • Soup 95¢ 747880
  • Crispy Spring Rolls $4.95 747881
  • Chicken Satay $6.25 747882
  • Dark Soy Noodles $8.25 747883
  • Massaman Beef Curry $9.95 747884
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posted 
Global CafeGlobal Cafe
American / Breakfast & Brunch
    • 2.0
  • Food: 1.5
  • Decor: 2.0
  • Service: 1.5
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

I have to agree with my fellow Elite and friend Scott T in his less than stellar impression of Global Cafe. We also sat for nearly 10 minutes while the two servers walked to and fro, ignoring us to clean tables rather than greet us and give us menus.

 

Once the server arrived, turns out she is one of the owners, we got a lukewarm greeting, menus, and an inquiry about what we wanted to drink. I said: "I'll have a coffee please", but she said, "let me get you a drink menu". I just ordered a coffee! Once the drink menu arrived, the $2.50 price tag for a cup of drip coffee seemed excessive, so I opted for ice water.

Global Cafe

My wife ordered a short stack of pancakes, two large pancakes for $3.75 and an extra $1.50 for a tiny pitcher of "real maple syrup". I guess you get Aunt Jemima syrup and a high fructose corn syrup buzz if you opt out of the "real" thing. Anyway, the pancakes were pancakes, nothing special.

Global Cafe

I had the Carnivore Omelet ($8.75) and a half order of biscuits and gravy, which were not on the menu, but advertised on a sign out front (with no price). The carnivore omelet came with ham, bacon, sausage, caramelized onions and sharp cheddar cheese, but very little of each and what was there was cooked into the omelet rather than folded on the inside. It came with "two sides" (toast, breakfast potatoes, cottage cheese, or sliced tomato), but the only enticing side was the potatoes, so I asked for a double order. I would hate to see a single side order of potatoes because the "double" side was extremely sparse and void of much taste. The biscuit and gravy came with green chili, an odd topping for biscuits and gravy (apparently a "New Mexico specialty"), so I asked for it on the side. The biscuit was small, the gravy thick, but rather tasteless (no sausage or bacon in sight), and the green chili thin (not thick as true green chili should be) and watery, but very spicy.

Global CafeGlobal Cafe

When the check arrived, it was not itemized, coming to a total of $19.08, so I assume that the single biscuit topped with mediocre country gravy and watery green chili ran around $4 ($19 - $3.75 - $1.50 - $8.75 - tax = about $4). At $23, including tip, I was not impressed considering that my wife had two pancakes, I had a mediocre breakfast, and neither of us ordered a drink other than ice water.

Global Cafe

I have had much better breakfasts in town, so I doubt we will be returning here anytime soon. The interior is nothing special, the ceiling covered in flags of the world (hence the name I guess), and the service not very attentive, but semi-friendly. Therefore, ...

Global Cafe

CombatCritic Gives Global Cafe 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

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posted 
Keltic Star Public HouseKeltic Star Public House
Fish & Chips / British / Pubs
    • 3.0
  • Food: 3.0
  • Decor: 3.0
  • Service: 3.0
  • Meal price: $0 - $9

Claiming to be a Welsh pub, Keltic Star offers traditional pub food (Cornish pasties, shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, curry, fish and chips, and lamb stew) as well as appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, and an assortment of drinks from the bar.

 Keltic Star Public House

Located in Aggieville, an area of bars and restaurants near the Kansas State campus, it was "Funday Sunday" the night we were there, so tap beers were $2.50 for what they refer to as a "pint". A true Imperial (British) pint is a little over 19 ounces and, as we all know, a U.S. pint is 16 ounces. These were neither, being closer to 12 ounces than 16 or even 19, but for $2.50, who is to complain?

 Welsh rarebit - $6

We started with a Welsh Rarebit ($6) which has nothing to do with rabbit as many people falsely assume. Coming on five small slices of baguette, the seasoned cheddar cheese was broiled then topped with a few slices of green onion. It was pretty good, but at $1.20 per piece, a tad overpriced, likely costing less than $1 to make (all five).

 Pasty - $8.50

My wife ordered the Cornish Pasty ($8.50) which is not Welsh at all, but as the name implies it is a specialty of Cornwall, an area in the southwest of England. A pasty has a savory filling, in this case ground beef, potato, carrots, onion, and rutabaga. The dish came with choice of one side dish, so she chose mashed potatoes and gravy. There was also a small cup of brown gravy for dipping the pasty in. The pastry was flaky and the filling tasty, and having had pasties in the UK, I have to say fairly well done.

 Keltic Star Public House

I decided on the Pub Platter ($14.95), a combination of small servings of shepherd's pie, pasty, banger and mash, and fish and chips. The shepherd's pie was very small but good, obviously made with traditional minced lamb, carrots, peas and topped with a dollop of mashed potatoes. The pasty, as I said before was flaky and good, as was the banger (sausage) and mash, coming with sautèed red cabbage and covered with brown gravy. Everything was good, except for the fish and chips which were very greasy, likely pre-fried, stored, then tossed in the deep fryer a second time right before serving. The fish was flaky and the batter crisp, but both the fish and the chips (fries) were soaked in oil as you can see in the photo.

 Keltic Star Public House

Otherwise, everything was good and portions were just right as to be not too filling, but not leaving me hungry. The place has somewhat of a pub feel with an obligatory red British phone booth and other decor you might find in an English or Welsh pub. The service was efficient and friendly. In all, not a bad meal.

 

CombatCritic Gives Keltic Star Public House 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

  •  744842
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  • Pasty - $8.50 744845
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  • Welsh rarebit - $6 744847
posted 
    • 3.0
  • Food: 3.0
  • Decor: 3.0
  • Service: 3.0
  • Meal price: $10 - $19

First of all, if you are going to try to use Italian words on your menu, make sure they are the right words and are spelled correctly if you want to be credible. It is "Antipasti", plural of antipasto (Italian for appetizer), not "Aperitivo" (which is an alcoholic, pre-meal beverage intended to stimulate the appetite). Enough said.

 

We tried to make a reservation, but at first nobody answered the phone, then we were told they only take reservations for parties of five or more. Keith Urban was having a concert that night and parking was a nightmare, but we managed to find a handicapped spot right in front of the restaurant (I am 80% disabled by the VA if you are wondering).

 

Fairly empty at 5;15pm on a Saturday, the place quickly filled up. John, our server, was indifferent, yet friendly and efficient, but with poor timing. He seemed overeager to take our order, not giving us much time to peruse the menu. We ordered the Garlic Cheese Bread ($4.95) to start. He asked if we would like some marinara with the bread, not mentioning the $1 upcharge that I later found on the check, so I said "of course". The loaf of bread was hot, soft, and garlicky, but I found little if any cheese.

 

My wife ordered the Cavatappi Formaggio Al Forno ($13.95), spiral, tube shaped pasta and chicken (or shrimp) in a white cheddar cream sauce baked with breadcrumbs and Provel cheese. The breadcrumbs and Provel cheese were difficult to find and it barely appeared to be "al forno" (baked in the oven), but it was creamy, tasty, and rich. Not bad for Lincoln, Nebraska.

 

I wondered why the "veal parmigiana" ($12.95) was in a different section of the menu than the other veal dishes ($17.95), asking the server. He told me that the only difference was that it was "breaded" and "baked, not sautèed", so I decided to try the parmigiana. Well, I found out why there was a $5 difference. More soon.

 

We received our salads shortly after finishing the garlic no-cheese bread and they were decent. My wife had the house salad and I the Caesar ($1 extra), although they went a bit overboard with the anchovies in my opinion. Then came the classic server faux pas, my pet peeve, our entrees arrived before I was halfway done with my salad. Oh, John, get a grip. Normally, I would have sent the entrees back until I was done with my salad, but I let it slide.

 

As I was saying, I was curious why the parmigiana was $5 less than the other dishes and found out when it arrived. Coming in a casserole dish, the "veal" was obviously a processed patty, likely from Sisco or another restaurant supplier, smothered in marinara sauce, covered with cheese, and baked. For some reason, the sauce was somewhat watery at the bottom of the casserole, like pasta that has not been strained properly, but for $12.95 (including a side of pasta and salad) I could not complain too much or be surprised by the processed veal. It actually was not that bad, but was not the "veal parmigiana" that was listed on the menu. For Lincoln, Nebraska,

 

I would have to say that Vincenzo's was not great, but not bad. The decor was pleasant, the service good (except for the faux pas), and the prices very reasonable for an "upscale" restaurant (according to reviews - by Nebraska standards).

 

CombatCritic Gives Vincenzo's Ristorante 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

 

Six Bombs Equates To: G2G = "Good To Go"

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posted 
Jackson Street TavernJackson Street Tavern
American (New) / Bars
    • 1.5
  • Food: 1.5
  • Decor: 1.0
  • Service: 2.0
  • Meal price: $20 - $29

Located just south of Omaha's Old Market area, Jackson Street Tavern was selected for us by the coordinator of a conference we attended, otherwise we likely would not have chosen it ourselves.

 

No IPA on tap and no Wi-Fi? Unheard of, but that was the case. Off to a bad start, particularly because the Dodgers were playing in the first game of the NLDS against the Nationals and I wanted to see the rest of the game.

 

The draft beers they had were $7 or listed "Market Price", slang for "too expensive to list on our menu", so I went with a local bottle of Zipline IPA for $4.50, the least expensive beer on the menu. I also tried Zipline's Porter and both were cold and good.

 

Also cold were the fries that came with my "French Dip" ($16). The sandwich was about the size of half a Subway footlong with about as much meat (the real thing, not the ones they show you in their commercials). The sandwich was OK, but for $16 a few more ounces of beef and warm fries would have been nice.

 

My wife had the "Local Wagyu Burger", coming with caramelized onion, cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce, and "aioli" on a brioche bun as well as more cold fries. The burger was decent, but not worth $15. A similar burger at Dempsey's or The Burger Stand at The Casbah back in Lawrence would top out at $10 for example.

 

Long and narrow, the space has brick walls (in an old building) and tall ceilings, making the obnoxiously loud patrons even louder and impossible to carry on a conversation with the person next to you.

 

The short blonde hostess who failed to even greet us on arrival was impersonal and unfriendly, showing us to our table with barely a word. Our server was semi-friendly and fairly efficient, the highlight of the night and that is not saying much. Our server did manage to have the nearest TV changed to FS1 so I could watch the end of the Dodgers vs Nationals game, which the Dodgers won 4-3 by the way ... one down and ten to go to the 2016 World Championship ... HOOAH!

 

CombatCritic Gives Jackson Street Tavern A Measly 3 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

  • "Chloe" - Joe's Collectibles (Behind the Tavern) 743810
  • French Dip ($16) 743811
  • Burger ($15) 743812
  • Menu 743813
posted 
    • 3.5
  • Food: 4.1
  • Decor: 3.2
  • Service: 4.1
  • Meal price: $0 - $9

We stopped by on a whim after learning of the existence of this new Mexican eatery on the LFK for DUMMIES Facebook page.

 

Located in the VFW Post building across from the Dillons supermarket on Mass Street, the owners, Justin and Christi, opened this location after outgrowing their popular tamale delivery business.

 

The menu is limited for the time being, including pork and chicken tamale dishes as well as roasted, stuffed Poblano peppers that are TO DIE FOR. They offer rice and beans as well as daily specials (street tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and so on), but word has it that their menu will soon be expanding to include guacamole and more traditional Tex-Mex entrees. The adjacent VFW bar has a full assortment of drinks, beer, and wine to accompany your meal.

 

Their prices are extremely reasonable and I felt a bit guilty for paying so little for such an abundance of delicious, quality, well seasoned food. They could probably raise their prices a couple bucks per dish and still offer an exceptional value.

 

I will return soon to try their new menu and update my readers in more detail as they grow and flourish.

 

CombatCritic Gives Mighty Tamales An Initial And Very Solid 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

  • Stuffed Poblano Pepper - $6.49 742241
  • Chicken Tamales with Rice, Beans, and Pico de Gallo - $8.99 742242
  • Stuffed Poblano Pepper - $6.49 742243
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posted 
    • 3.0

Tres Mexicanos

 

We tried Tres Mexicanos shortly after moving to Lawrence and were not overly impressed. Because they are so close to our house, in a stirp mall on East 23rd Street, we decided to give them another try recently and I am glad we did.

 

Tres Mexicanos

 

Even though the service was spotty, the food was pretty darn good and the prices fair. They have Amercanized tacos with pre-fab shells, fried tacos (more traditional), and traditional, authentic soft tacos on corn tortillas with just meat, cilantro and onion as they should have. The tacos, except the pre-fab variety, are very good and their cheese and onion enchiladas tasty. Their guacamole is one of the best in town and one of the best values as well.

 

Tres Mexicanos

Tres Mexicanos

 

Tres Mexicanos

 

The atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired, but the food is good, the margaritas well done and strong, the service OK, and the prices very fair, so we will be returning again soon.

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