Note:

All prices mentioned are based on the accuracy of my memory at the time...which may fluctuate depending on amount and type of beverage consumed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Goode's Q & Bayou Grill

I finally got my chance to try it out! Not only had my boss eaten there for dinner the night before, but he brought me there for lunch the very next day! (And no, he had no idea that I have a food review blog or that one of you suggested it.) That enthusiasm alone let me know that I better not refuse this offer.

NEGATIVES
  1. small, confusing parking lot on a one-way
  2. small, confusing dining room layout with a one person wide funnel to enter or exit which is directly next to the cash register, resulting in a huge traffic jam of bodies trying to leave, find a table, or pay
  3. short ceilings and slanted floor (or maybe slanted ceiling?) made even a person of limited stature (myself) feel like a giant and also slightly dizzy
  4. the water that I ordered for my drink was not refilled at any time during or after my meal (although I was in desperate need from the spices and salt content in my dish)
  5. I ordered the Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee which was slightly spendy at 10.50 for the amount of food given. I had planned on taking half of it home for leftovers as I usually do, but it was only the size of a large bowl of soup so I left with nothing but a full belly (which is OK too I suppose) It was definitely different than anything I had ever eaten, mustard colored soupy rice dish with a slight film on the top, but once I dug in it was rich and delicious!
  6. florescent lights down the center of the room...I know I talk about lighting a lot which is important to me for a dining experience but there was plenty of light let in from the large windows and some soft sconce lighting on the log paneled logs, so a new light fixture instead of the cafeteria style lights would improve the aesthetics greatly.
POSITIVES
  1. small, homey diner type feel with a 40 person max capacity, red tablecloths, chairs, and drink glasses, syrupy sweet waitress dressed in shortalls who looked fitting of a Southern accent but didn't have one at all!
  2. the flavor of the food, right amount of spice, right amount of seafood (about 15 small shrimp which allowed for one in every other bite), different than your normal Montana diner options of burgers and fries ALTHOUGH they do offer that on their menu as well, which one pusillanimous person from my party opted for (the bacon cheeseburger to be exact) who labeled it 'pretty good'
  3. The owner himself was working the till and asking folks on the way out the door how their dish was and thanking them for coming with a big, toothy, genuine grin
  4. I was told by a coworker that he and his family had a long wait for their food once and were comped their entire meal!
CONCLUSION
I enjoyed the fact that it was different from my average meal or average establishment. The only major downfall I encountered was the disposition of the building inside and out. Food was on par, the owner's personable aura is refreshing....but I do hope one day he adds a catering option! If you haven't tried it yet, I would highly suggest it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sting and Ryan's Station Revisited

Hi all, thanks everybody for your comments on my young and first blog...whether you're a lover or a hater, it's nice to see that at least someone is out there reading my POV. I've had a busy week with Rockin the Rivers and the Weird Al concerts (which were equally thoroughly amusing), so I haven't had much time to formulate an official review as of yet.

Last week I did revisit Ryan's Station which provided more of their same speedy, friendly service and delivered some tasty Fish Tacos (although slightly greasy) and Shredded Beef Tacos. Each dish came with two tacos each with a plate full of multicolored tortilla chips and some too chunky tomatoey salsa that I barely touched. What looked most appetizing however was the Hawaiian Delight Pizza which looked plump and cheesy and delicious, but was only 12" and came with a $14.95 price tag. The pineapple and ham tasted fresh but the yeast overpowered the taste of the crust. It was a so-so experience, prices still too high for the amount of food that you get, but it is a pleasant atmosphere with kind workers.

I also returned to The Sting (to much merriment) for their outdoor concert Thursday (disappointing turnout for a Food Bank fundraiser) and was perplexed, yet delighted at the Bud booth which had 16 oz aluminum bottles of Bud or Bud Light for $2!! Any of you beer drinkers who partake in their consumption at any type of outdoor event knows that's about half off the usual price, so it definitely made my day! We purchased so many (we had a big group of around 10-12, thanks to my word of mouth) that they gave us the Bud Light bottle opener to take back with us. Two of us in the group (including me) were also 2 out of 20 finalists in the running for a Bud Party cruise to the Caribbean! There were Bud reps handing out tickets and they just so happened to pull mine, but not for the cruise or any of the door prizes :( I had no knowledge of this giveaway previously and the only reason I knew about this shindig was that I found it on the Sting's homepage when I was looking up their email address to send my first ever Eat/Drink GF review to (which I never did BTW). Big Mouth BBQ was catering and I was eagerly looking forward to trying it, but they were shut down by the time I arrived one hour into the show (my guess is from lack of customers since there were so few people there.)

Anyways, the plug got pulled (literally) on the stage around 9pm and I convinced my beer munchie ravished party to head inside to try the Chicken Breast Sandwiches (we got 4 total) and of course the other half of the table couldn't go without ordering a Sting pizza. I was pleasantly surprised and amazed at the quick, friendly service and the improvements in the food. The pizza looked 180 degrees different than it normally does, with half the grease, and perfectly placed chunks of meat. The chicken breast and salads came out quickly and were hits with my crowd also. When ordering our beers, we inquired about pitchers and the waitress advised us that ordering the big mugs were a better deal. How absolutely refreshing to not be upsold! (Although, I like to figure out better deals by doing the math anyways, so it would've been found out eventually!)

And the owner even thanked us for coming to the show as we were walking out. :) It's the little things that count and that make customers return...

One request, dim the lights just a touch. I am glad I was wearing a visor, but the rest of our weary eyed group had to squint from the bright overhead lights. All in all, I just felt the urge to write about my positive experience (although this same place has now been reviewed 3 times!) to prove to everyone that I do give credit where credit is due and that my M.O. is not what some people think it is...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And the point is...

David at GreaterFalls.com has hit the nail on the head with his comment about my Pita Pit post.
From the blogs: Our newest blogger, Epicuria, has posted a “no-holds barred” review of the Pita Pit. Yes, it’s harsh, but if I was the manager of the Pita Pit - and read local blogs so that I knew about stuff like this - I would take this as an “opportunity to excel.” Call the staff together, read the review, re-commit to high standards, implement new procedures, etc, and then invite Epicuria back for a free meal to show off the improvements. My two cents.

The whole point of Eat/Drink GF is not to delight in being a huge, insane bitch, but to spread the word of the state of our bars and restaurants (according to me) and get the people running these places to take some notice!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pita Pit

If you have high standards for quality food, customer service, and hygiene...keep driving. Before we even walked in the door we had to walk through cigarette butts and trash, and it didn't get much better once inside. The cashier was on the phone, acting like she was taking an order (but it seemed more like a personal call) and expected us to give her our orders while she was taking another one. We had to repeat ourselves more than once, and after it was said and done...$12.58 later, we had a Chicken Breast and Buffalo Chicken Pita on order.

Although it was 8:30pm there were 4 people in front of us, and upon moving closer to the glass window of toppings the outlook was pretty bleak. Brown, gummy sprouts....beige, translucent, wilted lettuce....5 lone pineapple slices floating in a murky bed of liquid with multicolored, misshapen flecks (I had to examine closely to ensure they weren't dead gnats but I never was able to confirm or deny)...and that was all I noticed upon first glance.

I was asked what bread I wanted 'wheat' and the jaded pita-maker removed it from its package 'last one' and continued finishing the teen's pitas who were in line in front of me. During this process I noticed a fly buzzing around and landing on all of the fruits and vegetables displayed, but its food of choice was my lonely, empty pita bread. After I watched the fly do the cha-cha, waltz, and tango all over my pita the woman standing behind me LOUDLY stated "ECH, I WOULDN'T EAT THAT...EVERY TIME A FLY LANDS IT TAKES A S#@%!"

After her bold statement (I normally am non-confrontational and will eat anything that doesn't move off my plate), the pita boy shoo'ed the fly off my pita, peered over his brow at me, and remarked, "What do you want on it?" I responded meekily, "Umm, that fly just danced all over it." After a long sigh, pita boy remarked sarcastically with furrowed brow, "Do you want a new one?"

HMMMMM, no Pita Boy, I just like to make random statements about insects crawling on food I am about to put into my mouth in about 60 seconds because it's fun and FEELS GOOD!

So after said thought left my head I replied, "Yes." He then had to throw away the empty bag where he grabbed aforementioned fly bread, walk three steps ALL the way across the floor, and grab a new bag of wheat pitas. After lettuce (I opted for the fresher looking iceberg rather than the wilted Romaine), tomato, feta cheese, onions, green peppers, avocado, pineapple, olives (I had noticed by then that he was grabbing the pineapple and olives from the other, fuller, fresher station so I took my chances) and mustard (don't ask me why I thought mustard would be good with feta but by then I was just ready to get the heck out of there) my pita lay behind the wall of glass unfolded, while Pita Boy had for some reason been beckoned to run into the back to grab more dijon mustard for the people in line behind me.

The cook, upon noticing this, decided to take it upon his blessed, little heart to take his aqua-colored, meat bit covered, latex, medical gloves and attempt to fold our pitas. During the process he managed to tear no less than 12 gaping holes in my innocent pita bread. Have you ever seen the game in the arcade where you try to roll a silver marble up a ramp without letting it fall through any holes or off the edge? Replace the ramp with my pita bread and the silver ball with any of the vegetables contained within. That's what I saw in my pita consuming future.

After the cook put the finishing touches on wrapping our pitas, former Pita Boy returned with the mustard but took no notice to the fact that he left our pitas stranded for Bob the Butcher to ...butcher.

After Bob handed us our soggy pitas complete with wet chicken and turkey bits stuck to the outside wrapper, I asked politely for a bag to put them in (I had my keys in hand the whole time, yet was never asked if it was to stay or go...) and once that sack was in my hand I was out of there like...hmm there aren't really any politically correct analogies I can say here.

CONCLUSION: If I were the owner of this place I would be royally embarrassed and quite upset at the state my shop was kept and at the way my employees treated the customers. It was a complete disappointment and a sandwich joint that I will be wholly reluctant to ever return to.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Halftime Sports Bar

POSITIVES
  1. Dark atmosphere with (usually) enough seating to accommodate the crowd.
  2. Mixture of clientèle ranging from older regulars to the younger, just turned 21 set.
  3. 60+ flat screen TVs including those in the bathroom.
  4. Classic rock playing on the speakers at a non eardrum-pulsing level.
  5. Playmakers (electronic devices that let you play multiple choice trivia against other bar patrons and tracks your points for you indefinitely, as long as you sign up for a username.)
  6. A complaint about the price of my vodka/liquid ice energy drink ($6.75?) nets me a free one instead of a suggestion to contact the owner (I'm talking about thou mentioned in a prior post...if you thank your customers for their loyalty they won't have the desire to start blogs about crappy service.)
  7. Cheap beer ($2 pints, $1.50 during happy hour) Michelob Ultra and Belgian White are 2 of my faves and always arrive ice cold, frothy, in a chilled glass, and frequently!
  8. Buffalo Chicken Salad or Halftime Nachos (well portioned, plated nicely, and satisfying, definitely enough to split between 2 people which is a great deal for around $8.)
  9. Grilled Turkey and Swiss is a favorite of mine, carved turkey and swiss cheese melted between two slices of heated bread. It's a warming, comfort meal that could be easily made at home but somehow never matches the Halftime's version. Often featured as a lunch special for 6.95 with soup or fries (add 1.50 if you substitute a garden salad, I wish they wouldn't charge extra for a few pieces of lettuce, grated cheese, one carrot, one beet, and one celery stick on a plate but they do.)
  10. Speedy waitresses who memorize your drink orders if you are a regular and backorder your drinks when the end of happy hour is near. They are neither overly oppressive nor inattentive and have lighthearted personalities which deal well with the abrasive folks that I normally share my dining and drinking experience with...ALL of which is the perfect formula for primo wait service and part of the reason which makes me a repeat customer.
NEGATIVES
  1. Smoke! Typically not too bad as long as there are no smoking patrons around you due to the ceiling fans, but if there are smokers at your table you will likely need to play musical chairs in order to sit downwind.
  2. One pool table, definitely not the place to be if billiards is your thing. On special event nights they remove it completely to make room for more seating and on normal nights if it is busy you may find yourself having to adjust your placement (or the offending patron) in order to shoot.
  3. Menu prices seem to rise a few times per year, but that seems to be the norm nowadays.
  4. Sure I have had a few unpleasant experiences in the past (gnats stuck to my hard boiled egg, undercooked chicken, onions when asked for none and scraped off instead of a new sandwich made, salads brought with no accompanying silverware) but the multitude of positive experiences outweighs the above, and for the record I did get the gnatty eggs deducted from my bill.
CONCLUSION:
Good drinks, great eats, friendly/quick waitresses, TV/Playmaker entertainment, diverse crowd, plenty of places to move (did I mention there is a casino and restaurant section), but be prepared to inhale smoke or (although rare) have a less than positive dining experience.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Location Suggestions?

Thank you to David at GreaterFalls.com for the welcoming post into the GF Blogosphere! He happened to spark an excellent idea by suggesting a review of Taco Treat, so now I would like to hear your other suggestions. Bars, grills, restaurants, events...anywhere that offers food, drinks, or both! Coming up soon I will have reviews on the Halftime Sports Bar and the Lobby Bar...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Montana State Fair Food - Part 2

After my foiled attempt at eating outside the box earlier, I had to return to my fair food roots, the familiar, reliable standby:

GIANT... JUICY... FOOTLONG... CORNDOG

What I realized after scouring every menu placard on the strip was that footlong corndogs have saturated the market, but only one has raised their price to $6, while the rest came in at $5.50. I chose the generic stand which had no line and one lone corn dog basking under a heat lamp that had my name written all over it.

12 inches of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey remnants wrapped in a synthetic cellulose casing, deep fried in batter, slathered in ketchup and mustard, and laid in bed of thin, crinkly paper. I knew exactly what to expect and I wasn't disappointed. Ahh, how I missed you old friend...

With a lump of above mentioned food wallowing in my throat and clinging to my esophagus, I had no other option than to go in search of another fair standby:

FRESH SQUEEZED LEMONADE

Luckily for the sake of my digestive system it was in the same spot it always is, right inside the Mercantile Building's East doors. Be prepared to fork over $3.50 for this medium sized drink which is 99% ice and provides about 3 syrupy slurps before it's gone. Nobody said this liquid gold comes cheap!

CONCLUSION: My $20 bill plus an extra buck fed two of us which is much less damage than I had planned for. It would have been closer to $30 had the kind ticket lady not let us through free of charge. My other comrades each had a $6 Viking which is a skewered, battered (surprise!), fried (shock!), baseball-sized meatball which they can't go one year without and which I can look forward to attempting next year because I haven't yet learned my lesson from diverting from my typical fair staples. You only live once right?

Other Top Fair Foods I've had (and enjoyed) in years past:
  1. Pink lemonade shaved ice with a waterfall (dollop of half and half in the center of the ice)
  2. Deep-fried jalapeños (tip: bite just the top piece of breading off and let some steam escape, otherwise you will end up with a lap full of hot cheese and less skin on the roof of your mouth along with the inability to taste anything for the next few days)
  3. Smoked turkey legs
  4. Fried rice and chicken teriyaki
  5. Fried cheese curds (think mozzarella sticks but in ball form and variously sized)
  6. Cinnamon and sugar fried donuts
That about covers it...The Montana State Fair website has a pretty extensive concessionaire menu list (natch, no prices) along with a handy map to assist if you find yourself wandering aimlessly in food heaven (or hell).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Montana State Fair Food

Next to the the impossible traffic on the NW Bypass that I swear one day will cause a fatal collision, the food is the most feared and fretful fair-week accompaniment.

Although it took us two gate entrance attempts to finally allow us group of four to feed during our lunch hour for free, we finally succeeded and embarked upon the world of the Midway which was music to four hungry IT tech's ears, or would that be perfume to our olfactory senses? (only if your fragrance of choice comes deep, fat fried with a hint of stale beer, vomit, horse manure, and sweat, of course)

Choices abounded on the short walk down the strip and NONE looked palatable or conducive to allowing me to return to work for another 4 hours without feeling a constant urge for emergency liposuction. So then I decided...

"If I wasn't going to go big, then I better go home!" (but then I remembered I didn't drive in the first place so going home wasn't really an option)

And so begins the story of....DEEP...FRIED....HAMBURGERS...

ohhh, was I excited...nothing says overindulgence like taking a burger (or Twinkie, or Oreo, or Pepsi?) and sticking it in a vat of oil until it's crispy fried and dripping from every seam. I was going to burst my virgin deep fried fair food palate on none other than one of these monstrous delights.
So I forked over the $6, chose the Hawaiian burger with pineapple, mozzarella, and marinara sauce and waited....and then it appeared. A tea saucer sized puck inside what looked like the doggy bags that Prime Cut gives out to take home your leftovers. But presentation isn't everything right? "It's the fair, not fine dining", I told myself.
As I took my first bite, immediately my mouth felt the fire. "Great, burnt the roof of my mouth so how am I supposed to taste the damn thing now!" I let the steam escape for a minute and tried again...
"Mmmm, mouthful of onion ring breading, tasty"...I had to bore through a few bites before I even hit the meat. Gristly, pink, cheap burger is all it looked like or tasted like to me (but I do have to say I am not the expert on this subject having been a fan of ground turkey not ground beef my entire life. )I kept biting, looking longingly for a pineapple I had pined for or some mozzarella or marinara, ANYTHING to divert my attention away from the fact that I am consuming massive nutritional disgust with no reward! I made it halfway through before I finally hit something other than burger or bread.
At that point I realized I had worked hard enough and it frankly wasn't worth any more effort. So my half eaten mess got graciously devoured by my co-worker who had just finished his first burger and I went in search of something more fat-free and fulfilling.

CONCLUSION: I was looking for something that packed a tasty and satisfying punch but instead got a caloric round-house kick to the face with neither taste nor satisfaction.

STAY TUNED AS MY SEARCH CONTINUES IN PART 2...

Ryan's Station

Positives
  1. clean, relaxing, inviting atmosphere
  2. being greeted and sat to our table by the owner who also took our drink orders (it's nice to see an owner or manager get his 'hands dirty' and be a part of the wait staff, something I rarely see anymore)
  3. stiff drinks (only if you order a tall! it is the same price as a regular and comes in a slightly larger glass than a regular which was roughly the size of a double shot glass, we learned our lesson!)
  4. The Pulled Pork Sandwich with Tillamook cheese that two of my co-workers SWEAR by and refuse to divert from each time we eat there. I will have to try it and review it someday since I have been underwhelmed with the other food I have had so far. But as of yet I will take their word for it and place it in the 'Positives'

Negatives
  1. does 'too cold' qualify in the summertime? We were fine but beware of being sat underneath the air conditioning vent. I witnessed a couple who requested to be moved before they froze to death.
  2. small portions...everything I've eaten there has just baaaaarely squeezed by filling me up. Now to some people eating enough just to that point of satisfaction without gorging is their cup of tea...well it's mine too (except on Thanksgiving) however I enjoy meals that I can take my leftovers home and use as another meal for lunch and dinner. Don't plan on that if you eat here.
  3. The Grilled Walleye sandwich set me back $8.25 and for the amount of advertising they do for this sandwich...HUGE disappointment. My tiny piece of mushy, bland fish only covered half the piece of whole wheat toast that it rested on. I didn't even use the other slice or else I wouldve been eating a toast sandwich. The jalapeno mayo tasted just like the regular kind, tomatoes were mushy, and I didn't even notice the lettuce. Did I eat all 5 bites of it? Yes, I did. Will I order it again? a Resounding NO!

The Sting Sports Bar - Part 2

Ok, so last night's rant may have come from a slightly disgruntled, Jager-fueled mindset but I awoke at 5 this morning (2.5 hours earlier than my normal weekday time) realizing I'M NOT DONE.

So I wrote down some actual food reviews.

"The Sting" Pizza (mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, and some other stuff)
  1. Have you ever seen the episode of The Simpsons where Homer wipes a piece of fried chicken on the wall of a restaurant and its grease creates a window to the outside world? THE STING PIZZA!
  2. It takes me no less than 14.7 napkins to successfully remove roughly 25% of the oil from one tiny piece. (Yes, I am a pizza dabber) It's the kind of pizza that once you finish and the waitress takes your empty dishes the oil has penetrated not only the wax paper it sat on but also the metal tray beneath it, the concrete table, and quite possibly the Earth's crust.
  3. The mushrooms have the consistency of a rubber drain stopper. (I must have some repressed culinary experience from my early childhood.)
  4. Regardless I have coworkers who are shamelessly addicted to this pizza and are willing to fork over the $17.50 on a regular basis to enjoy all of its greasy goodness.
Boneless Hot Wings
  1. Ahh, Wing Wednesday...the bain of my existence. You promise me a discount and mouth watering hot wings, but only deliver me overpowering, tangy, vinegar-laded hot sauce and an extra 25 cents in my pocket. I have kept returning to you week after week hoping the recipe would improve, tricking myself into believing it was just an accidental miscalculation of ingredients, yet I get proven wrong every time.
  2. For $7.50 and 10 wings, its certainly a moderately priced, shareable appetizer, but don't say I didn't warn you about the sauce that has me strangely addicted.
  3. The extra plates, napkins, and wet wipes brought out in advance are welcomed, useful, necessary, and appreciated!
Chicken Breast Sandwich
  1. Probably the most nutritious item you will find on the menu, this sandwich is an old standby that I have disappointingly wavered from with unsatisfying results. When ordered with a side salad (which is included) it is enough to split with a partner and still feel satisfied while also allowing me a much less bloated, guilty, grease-laden conscience, which typically plagues me after devouring aforementioned food.
  2. The tender, juicy chicken is usually twice the size of the large, toasted bun it lies on and does require some surgical techniques to split the sandwich into 2 equal portions, but no complaints there!
  3. The mayo comes in a handy single serving packet which provides enough coverage for my tastes, but some people may be left desiring more.
  4. Only complaint, The Sting, do you really have to charge an extra 50 cents for lettuce and tomato? Shouldn't these sandwich staples be provided on the side...(deep breath, cover your ears for these forbidden words) FREE OF CHARGE? I know it's a novel idea that your menu-pricing mastermind represses, but can't you do ANYTHING nice for your loyal customer's pocketbooks?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Sting Sports Bar

Positives
  1. non-smoking atmosphere
  2. watching the Thrillbillies perform classic songs (especially when the fiddle player joins)
  3. family friendly approach (where else can I as a child-free adult hear the screaming sounds of children while drinking beer at 10pm?)
  4. waitresses who are friendly yet complain about how DEAD it is at every beck and call but once we pay our tabs refuse to acknowledge our existence even though another friend has showed up and we want to order more drinks, and it's NOT because of a cheap tip unless 20-30% qualifies as cheap
  5. ok, so maybe there are only two positives and one is a crapshoot...

Negatives
  1. High prices ($8.25 for 6 lemon size potato skins?)
  2. The fact that my friend has been a 3x week patron for 8 years yet has NEVER been offered a free drink and is even refused one, the first time he asks?
  3. The premise that I am told by the bartender that the reason is 'the owner' likes to be paid for his alcohol and to contact him about it...yet I ask for his a. email address, b. mailing address, c. phone number...and am greeted with a. im not sure, b. the sting, c. 727-7972
  4. call the one bit of information i have...only to be answered as 'the sting, how can i help you' OK so I made the 'how can i help you' part up
  5. the fact that we (my boyfriend, I, and coworkers) have spent thousands of dollars at this place over the past year alone and are provided with what incentive to entice ourselves or others to be repeat customers?