Sunday, November 20, 2016

Restaurant Review – Miss Portland Diner, Portland, Maine


The Miss Portland Diner is a 1949 Worcester Lunch Car Company railroad dining car. It was originally located on Forest Avenue, but moved to 49 Marginal Way in 1964. Besides the original dining car there is an addition which provides additional kitchen, storage, bathroom, and dining space.

Coffee Mug
Miss Portland Diner - Est. 1949
A “seat yourself” sign let us know to wonder a bit.  The upstairs was fairly full, although there were some spaces at a long lunch counter area, so we decided on a booth in the addition. Our server took our coffee orders quickly and was back in a flash.  The coffee was served in absolutely beautiful, old fashioned cups.  The cup was the kind that would make a great souvenir. I later learned you can purchase one for $10.00. A great addition to my cups at home.  

Corned Beef Scramble
Our server was really helpful and attentive.  When I asked if the hash was locally made or Mary Kitchen™ out of the can she indicated it was locally made. She also showed me the items on the menu where the has was used – A scramble, an omelet, and as a side to eggs and toast. I ordered the scramble. 

My wife, in search of the world’s perfect eggs Benedict, ordered them. She also ordered an extra side of Hollandaise sauce for her potatoes.

Eggs Benedict
The order arrived and looked great. The scramble clearly used in-house hash.  The portion was acceptable, the home fries were excellent and the English muffin was toasted perfectly. There was a lot of corned beef in the hash and not too many potatoes, so it was an excellent mix. 

Yoke a bit overcooked.
My wife’s eggs Benedict looked really good upon arrival, but upon cutting into it she found the eggs were overcooked. No explosion of yoke when cut into. However, the Hollandaise sauce was the best she has had in years. She loved the sauce and said she could forgive the slightly overcooked egg to for that sauce any time.   

Ratings

  • Ambiance: 4 (Not sure what the dining car is like but the addition as clean and open, good for conversations.)
  • Food: 4 (Poached egg was a bit overcooked.) 
  • Service: 5 (I don’t think I could have asked for anything more.)
  • Price: 4 (Breakfast was about $10 each, not including drinks.)
  • Value: 4 (Very good food at a good price with really great service.)


We will definitely be back to Miss Portland Diner whenever we are in the area and looking to eat.  I’m guessing their lunches are great too. We need to give that a try sometime soon.

Location:

Miss Portland Diner
140 Marginal Way
Portland, Maine 04101


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Restaurant Review – Lucky Loggers, Saco Maine

As you know by now, I really like breakfasts. A great breakfast is hard to beat, and a poor breakfast is inexcusable. As the saying goes, it's hard to mess up eggs. I was out and about recently and had a chance to stop in at Lucky Loggers in Saco. It had that look of a breakfast kind of place. It is next door to Reny’s in Saco, where I was going to pick a couple winter shirts and maybe a new fall jacket so I figured it was a perfect time to give it a try.

Kitchen area from my booth.
Lucky Loggers, Saco, ME
I arrived about a quarter after 10 and the breakfast crowd had clearly started dwindling down. I was quickly greeted and brought to a seat. A server stopped by with a menu and the offer of coffee. I ordered the coffee and started looking at the menu.

The coffee arrived and I was asked if I were ready to order. I asked if the hash were made in the kitchen or if it was Mary Kitchen™ out of the can. The waitress told me they make everything locally. I also asked if they had sourdough toast. I wanted my eggs over hard and my home fries. After a few minutes the waitress came back to let me know they didn’t have any sourdough toast, but they could substitute muffin. I said that would be fine.

A few minutes later my meal arrived. I was surprised. It was definitely Mary Kitchen™ out of the can; the eggs were cooked in a pan that was clearly too hot. I’ll admit, the hash was presented in a way that I hadn’t seen before, some kind of a pressed patty. But it was definitely not locally made hash. The home fries were awful. They looked good, but they tasted like they had been cooked sometime before and then microwaved hot a couple times – Chewy. It is rare that I don't eat potatoes, but I only ate about half of them because they were so bad.

The muffin was actually quite good (not pictured). It had been cut top to bottom and then grill toasted. The downside of the muffin was the waitress failed to mention there was an upcharge for muffin instead of toast. I would have probably still gotten the muffin, but it would have been nice to have been told about the upcharge.

Ratings


Ambiance: 3 (Clean and open – probably noisy during peak times.)
Food: 2 (Home Fries were horrible, Eggs were crackeley.
Service: 2 (Server was friendly and attentive, but didn’t know about the hash and failed to mention the upcharge for the muffin.)
Price: 5 (Breakfast was under $10 each, including coffee)
Value: 3 (Potato portion was considerably smaller than other venues recently.)

Overall: 3 

Conclusion:


There are many offerings for breakfast in the Scarborough, Saco, Biddeford area. I’ll pass on Lucky Loggers in the future and try some of the many other locations.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Restaurant Review – Pappy’s Café aka Pappy’s Tavern

Review by Don Taylor


Pappy's Tavern - Andover, Minnesota
It is rare that I go to the same restaurant two times in a row; however, I during my recent visit to Minnesota I went twice with friends to Pappy’s Café (The sign outside says Pappy’s Tavern while the menu says Pappy’s Café. People who know me know I really love a good breakfast, so two sets of friends on two separate days took me to Pappy’s.

Frist, I went with friends from Blaine, MN, who live about 10 miles from Pappy’s. When we arrived, the place was very busy. We threaded our way to the back to a table next to the pull tab sales booth. It was busy, but it made buying pull tabs easy for my friend who only needed to turn around to purchase them.

We ordered Bloody Marys while we reviewed the menu.

The waitress, Sidra, brought the Bloody Marys with a snit. It had been a long time since I had a Bloody Mary in the Midwest that I had forgotten the tradition of having a small beer chaser (called a snit) with your Bloody Mary. We clinked glasses, toasted our friendship, and then ordered.

I ordered a “Western Skillet,” two country fresh eggs, sausage, green peppers, onions & cheese. A hearty breakfast to be sure. One friend ordered hash and eggs; the other ordered a mushroom and cheese omelet.

We bought some pull tabs while we waited for our food. I always lose with those things, and this was no different. I’m not sure what the pull tabs there benefit, but I’m sure it must be a good cause.

Western Skillet at Pappy's Tavern
Andover, MN
When the food arrived, I could see my skillet was a perfect mix of diced ham, onions, peppers mixed into hash browns with eggs over-hard on top. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I don’t care for mushrooms. However, my friend’s mushroom omelet looked nicely folded. The accompanying hash browns were a beautiful square of brown goodness, and the marble toast looked properly toasted. The hash and eggs of my other friend order looked suspiciously like Mary Kitchen. We were all pleased with our breakfasts. Another Bloody Mary to go with breakfast, coffee, some water and I was hydrated.

The omelet and hash browns
on the second visit.
The beautiful, crispy, hash browns
on the first visit
That day I was visiting friends in Oak Grove, about nine miles north of Pappy’s. After an evening and a night of catching up in Oak Grove, my hosts suggested going out for breakfast before I headed to visit my mother in Buffalo. She suggested we go to a place she and many of her guests go to often. Had she said we were going to “Pappy’s” I would have known exactly where we were going.

We arrived about a half-hour earlier than I had arrived the day before. It was busy, but there were still a few vacant tables. We had the same waitress as I did the day before. She remembered me, and we joked about how I seem to know many of their regular customers. We ordered Bloody Marys all around and reviewed the menu.

Across the room, I saw a specials board and saw they had chicken fried steak. I thought, wow, I wonder how Pappy’s compares with Travis Restaurant. I had eaten chicken fried steak there just a few days earlier when I was in Detroit (See Review: Travis Restaurant).

Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs
Pappy's Tavern - Andover, MN
My chicken fried steak was considerably smaller at Pappy’s than it had been at Travis. It also had a couple small bits of gristle that I didn’t experience at Travis, but it was okay. The gravy was also good, but I would have liked more of it. The hash browns needed a bit more cooking time.

It must have been a different cook. All-in-all the food wasn’t nearly as good the second day. The omelets weren't as nicely folded; the hash browns were not as nice and brown. (See comparison photos above. Half of the toast was missing on one plate. Don’t know if it was the cook’s fault or the server’s fault. Don’t get me wrong, it not that it was bad, it just that it wasn’t quite as good as the day before. However, the Bloody Marys were just as good as the day before.

Rating: 3.8


Ambiance: 2 (Typical strip-mall diner but more crowded (tables were close together) then most.)
Food: 4 (Every item was cooked perfectly the first day (5), not quite as good the second day.(3)
Service: 4 (Server was friendly and attentive although very busy.)
Price: 5 (Breakfast: Western Skillet was $8.29.)
Value: 4 (Good hearty breakfast at an excellent price..)

Conclusion


Would I go back -- Absolutely? It was good food at a good price.


Location


Pappy’s Café is at
13827 Round Lake Blvd.
Andover MN 55304



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Travis Restaurant - Clinton Township, Michigan


Review by Don Taylor


My sister and I were about during Memorial Day. After an early start and a long day of paying our respects at various cemeteries in the Detroit area, we decided we were finally done and it was time to eat. We were both famished and stopped at a place for a late lunch, early dinner. We stopped someplace, (I forget where) and learned that the place closed at 3:00 PM because of the holiday. She then suggested we go to Travis Restaurant in Clinton Township. She said they have good food at a great price. She couldn't have been more right on.

Travis Restaurant, Clinton Twp, MI
Photo from Google Maps
Travis Restaurant is what I call, a "hole in the mall" restaurant -- a small strip mall with several different businesses in it. We arrived about 3:45 in the afternoon and they still would serve breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. It has been my experience that if you want to judge a place on their breakfast there are two things to order. First, if they make their own hash, I like to try their hash and eggs.  If they use Mary Kitchen out of the can, that is a definite mark against them.  I'd rather they not serve hash than hash out of the can. The second best thing to try their country fried steak.  Not only can you tell the quality of the meat they use, you can also tell about their gravy.

So, I ordered the Country Fried Steak "smothered in homemade sausage gravy" along with two eggs and hashbrowns. 'Cause everything is better with bacon, I ordered a side of bacon to go with it. My sister ordered a club sandwich without tomato. If I was still hungry shame on me, 'cause I definitely ordered enough food.

Country Fried Steak, Hash Browns, two eggs, & toast
with an extra side of bacon and extra butter.
Travis Restaurant, Clinton Township, Michigan
Photo by Don Taylor
When the food arrived, I looked with awe upon my breakfast. I then began tasting it - Delicious. The country fried steak was most excellent. I found no gristle or tough places. It really was smothered in a thick, homemade sausage gravy that tasted superb - not bland nor over spiced either.  I don't know that I've ever had any better. The bacon was crispy and, to me, perfect.  The hash browns were cooked nicely. The sourdough toast didn't have enough butter for my liking so I asked for additional butter, which came quickly. The only detraction was that the eggs came over well instead of over hard, as I had ordered. (Over hard means the yoke is broken, over well means the yokes are cooked to have no runniness.) All in all, it was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time.

The atmosphere was such that my sister could have a nice conversation about our day.  It was an excellent experience.

Rating: 4.6

Ambiance: 3 (A typical neighborhood diner environment.)
Food: 5 (I probably couldn't have cooked it better.)
Service: 5 (Staff was friendly and extremely attentive.)
Price: 5 (Meals were under $10 each, not including drinks)
Value: 5 (For lunch I don’t know of many places better.)


Travis Restaurant is located at 34400 Harper Avenue in Clinton Twp, Michigan. I will happily stop again.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: Pine Point Grill - Sublime Dining

By Don Taylor


When we want a really great meal, we go to the Pine Point Grille in Scarborough. I think it is the best restaurant I've ever been to that doesn't have tablecloths. The food is elevated, I'd even say gourmet, and the service is impeccable.

We had two reasons for going to the Pine Point Grille. First, my wife's birthday was last March. She wanted to go there for her birthday, but they hadn't opened for the season yet. Our going kept getting put off and I needed to make good on my promise to her.  Second, we had an out of town guest that we wanted to take to dinner. The Pine Point Grille seemed to be the perfect place to do both.

We arrived early -- opening time, which is at 5 PM. and ordered drinks. We took our time with the menu. I'm a native of Minnesota, where "Tater Tot hot dish" is a staple. I was amazed reading about how the Pine Point Grill was elevating the humble Tater Tot ® to gourmet status with truffle ketchup, black garlic aioli, and Romano. It sounded so delicious -- I had to have it. I also ordered a Pine Point Burger with bacon and sautéed onions and French fries. My wife and our guest ordered the ribeye with black garlic mashed, succotash, and a demi-glaze.

Tater Tots at the Pine Point Grill
Photo by Don Taylor
In a few minutes, the Tater Tots arrived. They looked beautiful and tasted fantastic - perfect crunch on the outside and creamy potato inside. The truffle ketchup was excellent, not at all overpowering. The black garlic aioli was sublime. I learned from our wait person that the chef made the black garlic over the course of several weeks. Well, his or her efforts produce an amazing result. The gentle sweetness and rich flavor of the aioli is just what an elevated Tater Tot needs.  Wow.

My burger and my companion's ribeye's arrived. The burger was cooked exactly as I desired. It was flavorful and juicy without making a greasy mess.  The bacon was perfectly crisp. It was definitely the best burger I've had in quite a while. The accompanying French fries were excellent as well. Nice crispy outside and creamy inside.

Ribeye with black garlic mashed potatoes and
Succotash. Photo by Don Taylor
My wife's ribeye was cooked perfectly -- medium rare exactly as she asked. A great job with a great cut of meat. The use of the black garlic in the mashed potatoes made the potatoes unique and incredibly delicious. Finally, the succotash was apparently made from fresh ingredients and complemented the meal perfectly.

I'm looking forward to our next visit to the Pine Point Grill. I'm not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, but the order I saw go by to another table looked really delicious.

Rating: 4.6

  • Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
  • Food: 5 (Everything was amazingly delicious.)
  • Service: 5 (Staff was friendly and extremely attentive.)
  • Price: 4 (Dinner about $25, not including drinks. )
  • Value: 5 (I don’t know of many places better.)