Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hy-Vee Market Grill - Restaurant Review

Hy-Vee Market Grill

I often say, “I love good food that is reasonably priced and great service which makes a meal truly enjoyable. With that in mind, I may have a new favorite restaurant – Hy-Vee Market Grille. During a visit to Minnesota, a friend suggested eating at the restaurant associated with a Hy-Vee grocery store. I had never been to a Hy-Vee, as they came into Minnesota after I moved out of state.  I was skeptical, but I trusted my friend and said, “Sure. Let’s try it.”

I was immediately impressed when we arrived and saw they had a very nice bar area. The restaurant was clean and bright. We were immediately greeted and taken to a booth. Although we didn’t have drinks, my friend said they make great drinks, and I believe him.


We ordered two coffees plus one water with lemon and one plain water and reviewed the menu.  


When the drinks we ordered arrived we placed our food order. My friend decided on two eggs, hash browns, sausage, and toast. I decided on the “Corned Beef Skillet” – Two eggs, corned beef, breakfast potatoes, Swiss cheese, and onions.


My friend indicated that his potatoes were cooked perfectly – right at his preferred level of crispness. He stated his sausage was delicious.

My skillet was excellent.  The corned beef was just a little greasy, but for the most part, the fat was cooked off, and the corned beef had no large fatty chunks. And there was a lot of the corned beef, and it was clearly cut from a brisket, not from something rolled and pressed. The hash browns in the skillet were done perfectly, and the eggs on top were done nicely, not overly crackly or burned. It may have been one of the best Corned Beef Skillets I’ve ever had. Loved it.

Service was excellent, Courtney O. was very pleasant, she checked back often, and kept our coffee fresh.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 5 (Our two breakfasts with coffee averaged less than $11.00 each)
Value: 5 (For breakfast I don’t know of many places nicer, more civilized, with better prices.)


I will definitely go back to a Hy-Vee Market Grill whenever I am in an area that has one. The food and service were awesome.


Hy-Vee Market Grill
9409 Zane Ave N
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443

Monday, September 3, 2018

Muddy Rudder – Yarmouth Maine - August 2018

Restaurant Review

It has been quite a while since I’ve been to the Muddy Rudder in Yarmouth, and even longer, nearly four years since I’ve reviewed the restaurant. My wife and I were recently returning from Bangor and stopped at the Muddy Rudder for lunch.


We arrived, quite intentionally, right after opening and were the first customers of the day.  We were immediately greeted and taken to a table by the windows with a picturesque view of the marsh and the Cousins River (tidal river).  


We decided to order an appetizer, the Rudder Chips, “House-fried potato chips topped with Parmesan cream, crumbled bacon, scallions, and your choice of shrimp or chicken.” We decided upon the chicken.

I decided on the Rudder Burger, “An 8oz Angus beef, blue cheese, onion rings, and house demi-glace.” I asked for medium and opted for a side of Onion Rings instead of French fries.

My wife chose the Steak Tips, “House bourbon marinade, mashed potatoes, and green beans” and asked for medium-rare.


Rudder Chips with Chicken - Excellent!
After a few minutes, the Rudder Chips arrived. They were like a meal themselves. I could have done without the chicken. The crumbled bacon was great; next time, instead of getting chicken or shrimp, maybe I’ll try to get them with extra bacon instead. I think that would be better. Knowing we still had food to come, we ate less than half of the order, then boxed it up to heat up at home.  It was excellent the next day as leftovers.   


The steak tips were very good, although more like the medium well side of medium. The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious. Instead of green beans, the plate had asparagus. The meat was a bit chewier then she expected. 

My burger was presented nicely with plenty of lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and meat. The demi-glace tasted more like a barbeque sauce than a traditional demi-glace. The burger itself was fine and the blue cheese component was delicious and added zest to an otherwise bland burger and plane bun. The onion rings were unremarkable. 

The service was excellent. As we ate our appetizer, the place filled up and our server was quite busy, but she, Molly, was attentive and efficient.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, great for conversations.)
Food: 4 (A few minor hiccups, but excellent overall.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 4 (Lunch was under $15 each, not including drinks or appetizer)
Value: 4 (Excellent place for lunch, classy yet casual..)


The Muddy Rudder is an excellent place for lunch. It dropped off the list of my favorite 3 restaurants in Maine but it certainly remains in my top 10. We both liked it and we will return.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hops House 99 (Hollywood Casino Bangor)

Restaurant Review

We went up to Bangor to see the Pentatonix Concert in Bangor and stayed at the Hollywood Casino Hotel, which is just up the street a few blocks from Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion where the concert was held.  We thought, it is close and casinos typically have great buffets, so why not?


Upon check-in, we learned that the Epic Buffet only operates Friday and Saturday nights plus a Sunday morning Brunch.  We were spending Thursday night there, so we had to go to their “Hops House 99,” which has “Pub Food” cuisine.

Seating was open and seat yourself when we arrived in the late afternoon. There were plenty of tables to choose from.


The waiter quickly brought us waters with lemon while we reviewed the menu.


I asked the waiter between the Fried Fish Tacos and the California Burger, which would he recommend. He made sure I like spicy and then recommended the Fried Fish Tacos. “Sam Adams Beer Battered Fresh Haddock Served Open-faced on Tortillas with Chipotle Ranch, Shaved Lettuce. House-made salsa & Red Onions.” My wife decided on the Grilled Steak, “Grilled Flat Iron Steak served on a Toasted Baguette with Chopped Caramelized Onions & Peppers, Provolone Cheese & Horseradish Mayonnaise.” She asked for medium rare with tater tots.  She also asked for a dinner salad, to use Romaine lettuce rather than iceberg lettuce.
My wife ordered a martini, Bombay Sapphire, extra dry, with a twist.  They didn’t carry Corona Premier, which has become my latest favorite beer, so I decided to skip a drink for now. When her martini arrived, it was extra dry, however, it came with a lemon wedge rather than a twist. It is amazing how much some lemon juice affects the taste of a martini where the oil of a lemon twist is an entirely different flavor.

My wife’s salad arrived and was perfect. It came on a chilled plate and with a chilled fork. A very nice touch you don’t see many places.  


I could see the fish on the fish tacos from across the room when he came with the food. Amazing. There were big beautiful pieces of fish that smothered the tortillas, salsa, and lettuce. The haddock was thick and cooked perfectly. I think it was better tasking and considerably larger than the dinner portion I had the night before (at another restaurant). I was a bit disappointed that the tater tots looked like plain-old Or-Ida. I was hoping for something “made in-house.” They were good though.

My wife’s sandwich was beautiful. The steak was cooked to perfection, a nicely done medium-rare steak. Receiving overcooked steak tips and steak slices are common at restaurants, but not here.  The steak was cooked to perfection and the tater tots were beautifully golden brown. The horseradish mayonnaise was tangy and not overpowering.

The service was excellent throughout the meal; water glasses were replaced with fresh glasses (and lemon) when appropriate.  The server, Samuel, was friendly and attentive.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 3 (Lunch was over $15 each, not including drinks)
Value: 4 (Excellent service, very good food.)


I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to visit Hops House 99, however, I was happy with the food and service. If I ever stay at the Hollywood Casino and Hotel again, I would happily eat there again.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Chef George’s Auto Mile Diner, Saco Maine

Restaurant Review – Chef George’s Auto Mile Diner, Saco Maine

I’ve found a great little breakfast place in Saco, the Auto Mile Diner. It is small, but the food is excellent, and the staff is always friendly. I’ve been there several times for breakfast and have always found the breakfasts great.

I was getting my Jeep serviced across the street and walked over for breakfast. I there are only eight tables, but I was able to find a good seat. Moments after arriving the Owner asked if I’d like coffee. After hearing my reply, a nice cup of coffee was placed in front of me. There is a menu on the table as well as posters on the wall suggesting other items. After several visits, I’ve found the Mexican Omelet is one of my favorites—peppers, onions, cheese, jalapenos, and tomatoes, wrapped in eggs with salsa and sour cream on the side. There are several choices for accompanying sides, I picked hash browns and a grilled English muffin.

The food arrived quickly and was delicious. The omelet was tasty; spicy hot and cooled by the sour cream. The hash browns were cooked nicely and the grilled muffin was crispy and soft all at the same time. It was an excellent meal.

As I mentioned, there isn’t a lot of seating and the other tables are a bit close, but that adds to the charm and character. If you are looking for a place to get a great, homey, breakfast, the Auto Mile Diner is an excellent choice.

Ambiance: 3 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Very homey and friendly.)
Price: 4 (Most breakfasts are under $10 each, not including coffee.)
Value: 5 (Good portions and excellent food.)

The Auto Mile Diner is open for breakfast and lunch 5AM-2PM Tuesday through Saturday and 7AM-2PM on Sunday. They are closed Mondays.  Be sure to check out their wall menu and their "Today's Specials menu.

I will definitely return.

Chef George's
Auto Mile Diner
819 Portland Rd
Saco, ME 04072 

(207) 284-0200

Auto Mile Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Two of "Maine's 30 Greatest Burgers"

Pleasantly Surprised and Very Disappointed

Last fall I saw an article in DownEast magazine that touched my spirit. “Maine’s 30 Greatest Burgers.” I love a good burger. Many places have frozen, preformed, 1.800-ounce burgers or they serve a 3.5-ounce “hockey puck” where all the flavor has been smashed out of it. So, trying the 30 greatest burgers in Maine sounded like my kind of challenge. Sadly, many of the 30 best were in faraway places like Lubec, Caribou, and Bar Harbor. A bit far to drive for a burger. But many places were in the Greater Portland Area. Two of them I noticed right away as being near places I often go. One is a chain that I often see, sometimes on my way to or from my dentist or when I’m shopping at Stapes or Burlington on Western Avenue. The other I drive by often when I pass through Saco on my way to or from Biddeford. 

D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches

With shops in South Portland, Biddeford, Portland, Lewiston, and Auburn, it is easy to stop by a D’Angelo and have a sandwich. I have eaten their sub sandwiches for years. Typically, I’ve ordered the Steak & Cheese and the Steak Bomb (without mushrooms) on occasion. Frankly, I barely noticed hamburgers were on their menu. But, being on DownEast’s “30 Greatest Burgers” enticed me to order their suggestion—A “Steak Number 9 Burger.”

Seating & Ordering

D’Angelo’s is an order & wait type of fast food restaurant. Ordering is done at the counter. They let you know when the food is done. When we ordered, the counter person mentioned that a burger takes a little longer than most of their sandwiches and asked if that were okay. I said yes. The Steak Number 9 Burger comes in two sizes. A 1/3 pound and a double patty 2/3 pound burger. The magazine article suggested a 2/3 pound burger but I thought that might be too much food, so I ordered the 1/3 pound without mushrooms.

D’Angelo’s is the type of place where if you remain at the counter, you can see your food being cooked and prepared. As I watched my burger being prepared, never once did I see the cook mash the burger down to speed its cooking (and reduce its flavor).  It was cooked the way I would prepare it.


The burger was amazing. The extra fat, seasoning, and flavor from the grilled steak, with the mixture of grilled onions and peppers, made for my kind of burger—flavorful. The 1/3-pound variety was more than enough food. I liked it very much; I’ll be back. My wife had the steak and cheese sandwich and, as usual, she loved it.


Ambiance: 3 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 4 (They took the time to cook the burger properly.) 
Service: 3 (The counter staff was friendly, but there is no table service .)
Price: 5 (A reasonable lunch cost under $10.00 plus tax.)
Value: 5 ($7 for a great burger is a great buy, add a drink and a bag of chips for $2.79 more, and you receive great value.)


I was pleasantly surprised that a restaurant that I’ve gone to on occasion has a great burger that I didn’t know about. 

Rapid Ray’s

When we first stopped at Rapid Ray’s, we didn’t understand the place. The atmosphere is more like an order window at a sports arena than even a fast food restaurant. We thought we’d drop in for a burger, but learned there are no tables. You might be able to stand along the ledge by the windows and eat but, we weren't in the mood for that. We left and decided to come back when we wanted to take out.

We returned and decided on a double hamburger, a “Big One” (a double cheeseburger), and a large order of onion rings. After a couple minutes, one of the guys asked how I wanted them.  Following the recommendation of the “30 Greatest Burgers” article, I said “loaded.” A minute or so later, they were ready, and I took them home. I have never been more disappointed in a burger. I’ve never seen tomatoes sliced that thin before. The single piece of lettuce was entirely hidden by the utterly unremarkable bun. The onion rings were awful. Many of them were stringy, the first layer under the onion skin, can’t bite through them, choke you when you swallow them onion rings. They were also greasy, leaving puddles of grease at the bottom of the box.
I couldn't figure out why it was identified as one of the “30 Greatest Burgers in Maine.” From their website, I learned that Rapid Ray’s is “Maine’s original fast food takeout,” that they stay open to 1:30 in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights (12:30 AM Monday thru Thursday), and that they opened in 1953. I guess that earns them a place as an iconic Maine eatery. But, the only claim to greatness I can think of is they probably taste great at 1:00 in the morning when you have the munchies and nothing else is open.


Ambiance: 1 (No place to sit and eat.)
Food: 2 (Ultra-thin tomato & lettuce, on a mushed bun.)
Service: 3 (The counter staff was friendly.)
Price: 4 (A double burger & fries is about $6.00)
Value: 3 


I was very disappointed that the “Maine’s 30 Greatest Burgers” article led me astray. I’ll never go back to Rapid Ray’s. Wendy’s, Burger King, and McDonald’s all have better burgers at about the same price—Oh, the Saco McDonald’s is open 24 hours.