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Restaurants

China 88 Restaurant Is A Keeper!

Finally! For the last few years I’ve been looking for a Chinese restaurant in the Liverpool area that was at least passable. Now there’s one that I actually like a lot, and it appears I’m not the only one.

four seasonsIn the same space next to Aldi’s on Route 57 in Liverpool, a space previously held by first Kawa Japanese Restaurant and then Fu Wa Asian Restaurant now sits China 88 Restaurant… and it’s definitely a keeper! Read the rest of this entry »

Has Zebb’s Gotten Dated?

A long time favorite restaurant of mine has been Zebb’s in the Mattydale area. I’ve been going there off and on for about 35 years, and for the most part I’ve always enjoyed everything I’ve had there. When I went the last time it had been almost a year since I’d been there, and now I’m starting to wonder if it’s gotten a bit dated.

pulled pork

When a friend of mine from college came to town for a wedding, I decided to take her and my wife to Zebb’s because we’d been there together back in the day. I thought that it might remind her of how good the meals were, even if it had been decades for her.

We went on a Saturday night, and I have to admit that the first thing I noticed as we were being seated is that most of the people in the restaurant were older. That was never my experience, as I always remembered a pretty mixed crowd based on age. If there were any 20-somethings in our area, they looked pretty old… and I would know!

The second thing I noticed was the menu change. That’s to be expected at almost any restaurant, but some of my old favorites were gone and replaced by some pretty nice looking things. I decided on the pulled pork meal you see above, especially because it came with bacon. What I got… well, you see it. Not much pulled pork or bacon, and the bacon wasn’t cooked quite enough. I had to ask for extra sauce, but at least the pork was tender. I didn’t eat many of the fries because they seemed a bit dry, as if they’d sat around for a while.

key lime pie

After that, I decided to try what for me is a non-traditional dessert at Zebb’s. Usually I go for a box of the chocolate chip cookies, but I saw that they had key lime pie on the menu; I wonder if that’s always been there. As you see, it didn’t look all that bad, but it wasn’t the best tasting pie I’ve ever had. I still ate it though; dessert is dessert after all. 🙂

The servings my wife and my friend got were fairly small also. I started to wonder if, because they seemed to be catering to an older crowd, if they decided to start serving smaller meals, since we tend to eat less as we get older. They both also said they thought the meals were just okay, nothing to write home about.

A big part of me hopes it was just an off night for them, but I haven’t felt the urge to go back, not even for the cookies, and that’s a shame. I don’t even know anyone else who’s been in a while to ask them what they think. I’m sure at some point I’ll give it another try and hope for a return to the type of meals I know they used to serve. For now, I think I’ll be staying closer to home.  

Two Great Restaurant Stories In Liverpool

I eat out a lot; some of you can probably tell that by my numerous posts about restaurants. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had some outstanding customer service occur, neither time where I was expecting anything to happen but the staff and management was so nice and took great initiative that I felt overwhelmed with how nice people can really be.

chicken wings Twin Trees

The first story involves Twin Trees on Route 57, which is kind of just across the street from where I live. Around 4 years ago I wrote an article about them saying that it wasn’t a bad restaurant but that it would never become my favorite. For once I have to eat my words because, indeed, it has become my favorite restaurant in the area. I love the people working there, and I love how well they take care of me… and I obviously love the food.

With that said, a couple of weeks ago I was there with my wife for an early dinner. I ordered a 7″ mini pizza and 6 wings, which she ordered the buffet. I got my pizza first, which they know I like, and was halfway through it when the wings came. I always order them the same way, honey barbecue but not overcooked, as I like them meaty instead of crunchy. This time around they came crunchy.

Someone else delivered the wings instead of the waitress. When she saw them, knowing me, she said that she’d order me new ones. However, I was actually feeling pretty good after eating the pizza, so I said I was good, and my wife said she’d take the wings we had home to eat later.

At that point I thought it was over, but within a few minutes she’s not only brought me a dozen wings the way I like them to take home, but she’d gotten permission from management to give me a credit for the wings. I was stunned, my wife was impressed, and I left a big tip, knowing that I’d just had one of the best customer service experiences I’d ever had. That’s the power of going to a place you love often, because the people there will take care of you and go the extra mile to keep you happy.

That’s not bad, right? Luckily, it turned out I had another happy adventure, which happened this past Saturday night.

img_20160730_200308

I’d had dinner at Twin Trees Friday night, and I don’t usually go to the same restaurant 2 days in a row unless I’m going with someone else. I was in the mood for prime rib, and the only place in town that I know serves it well is Longhorn Steakhouse, up on Route 31. They slow cook it throughout the day so that it’s very tender, and it’s the only place in the area where I know I can ask for a well done piece and not get something as hard as charcoal.

I got my meal and started eating it. I thought it looked a little small but I also know that sometimes meat shrinks. It was still very tasty, and with the garlic mashed potatoes I enjoyed it immensely.

Just as I was finishing the steak, the waitress came by with another 12 oz prime rib and said “The manager didn’t like the size of the first prime rib I brought out so he wants you to have another one.” Wow! This means I ate the equivalent of 24oz of prime rib, which I didn’t even know I could put away (not counting the fat of course) and it didn’t cost me anything extra.

Can you imagine how well treated I felt? That was twice in about a week and a half that I’d had a great experience, one at a native restaurant and one from a chain. Oh yeah; I tipped very well once again.

We really do have some of the nicest people in the country here in central New York. I’ll admit that when I moved to the area 41 years ago it felt like one of the most reserved places I’d ever lived in. I’m glad to call this area my home, and I’m glad to call out great customer service I received at two local restaurants.

Thanks y’all! 🙂  

Shrimp And Grits At Muddy Waters

If you read my previous post about my quest for finding a good meal of shrimp and grits in the Syracuse NY area, then this post won’t surprise anyone. Once again I decided to give another restaurant that purported to make this spectacular dish that I originally had in Memphis, TN the chance to impress me.

muddy-waters-wall

Muddy Waters is located on Oswego St in Baldwinsville, and truthfully I’d never heard of it until I decided I wanted to try something different and did a search on Google for restaurants in the area. I saw that they claimed to have a menu steeped in New Orleans cuisine, and even though I felt burned by a previous restaurant making that same claim, once I saw shrimp and grits on their menu I knew I had to go there.

The picture above is the first thing you see when you’re walking towards the restaurant, which is on the lower level of a building that houses a bar on the upper level. It has a pretty big space inside and also seating outside, and it’s possible that they have entertainment on the weekend. In the middle is a big bar with TV’s set on sports channels, but I always come equipped with my own entertainment. lol

When the waitress came over and asked me what I wanted to drink, I asked for sweet tea… and of course they didn’t have it. Folks, you can’t call yourself a Louisiana, southern or soul food restaurant if you’re not going to serve sweet tea! I ordered something else to drink, then decided to have the red beans and rice soup and of course the shrimp and grits meal.

red-beans-and-rice-soupred beans & rice soup

As you can see, the presentation of the soup was pretty special; I wasn’t expecting it to look like this. I took my first spoonful with just a bit of the rice and soup so I could see what I might be in for, since sometimes these places serve spicy hot food. Instead, this was very flavorful, although the soup wasn’t very hot. I mention that for people who like their soup steaming hot; personally, I like a soup that I can immediately eat and not only could I do that with this soup, but I immediately mixed the rest of the rice into the soup so I’d have a mixture of both with each spoonful.

If you liked the presentation of the soup, then I’m betting you love the presentation of the shrimp and grits as much as I did. This looked spectacular, and I have to say it’s the most shrimp I’ve ever had with any version of this particular meal.

shrimp-and-grits-muddy-watersshrimp & grits

Being me, I first wanted to see how the grits tasted on their own, as I’d never seen it presented in a square before… they tasted just right. Then I had a bite of one of the shrimp on its own and once again it was flavored perfectly, with just a minor kick of heat. Although I happen to like andouille sausage in my shrimp & grits, the flavor was such that it really wasn’t needed. Since the shrimp came on wooden skewers I pulled them off both skewers and cut them up so I could remove the tails and mix the shrimp and grits together; yes, that’s a pattern of mine. 🙂

I don’t think I can tell you how much I enjoyed eating this meal. Unlike the sampling I had at Laci’s (see the other article), this was a full meal and I wasn’t left hungry after eating it. That turned out to be a good thing because there wasn’t a single dessert on the menu that was calling my name… I’m picky about dessert.

This was a wonderful and enjoyable meal, and the best thing for me is that, since I live in Liverpool, it’s closer than any of the other restaurants I’d been to before. This means I’ll be going often to have this when I want something different than the norm, and I might even try something else on the menu… we’ll see. 😉  

Shrimp And Grits In Syracuse

Some time ago I spent 18 months in Memphis. Although eating a lot of foods that weren’t indigenous to New York didn’t treat my system all that well, one that did was shrimp and grits. I mean, take two things I love, add andouille sausage to it; what can go wrong?

It turns out a lot can go wrong. Even in Memphis I only found a couple of places that made it perfectly. One place, which is part of a restaurant chain owned by the same people who own Red Lobster, made a very bland version of it. Another place that swore by its Louisiana roots made a meal that looked wonderful, but it was so salty that I ate less than half of it and my legs cramped up the rest of the day.

Still, the quest for shrimp and grits led me to see if there were any places in Syracuse purporting to make it, and I found two likely candidates. I’d never been to either of these places so I figured this would be a good opportunity to check each place out.

Laci's shrimp and gritsLaci’s shrimp and grits

The first place I tried was Laci’s Tapas Bar on Hawley Avenue. I went there for dinner and the place was pretty packed, so packed I actually sat at the bar to eat my dinner… if you know me you know that’s rare, and in normal circumstances I’d have walked out and maybe come back another day. This time I was on a quest so I decided to suck it up for the experience.

Based on my first observation I thought I was going to be eating cheesy grits, which isn’t what shrimp and grits is supposed to be, and I noticed bacon instead of andouille sausage. Then I tasted it… very nice indeed! The grits were cooked just right, which I don’t encounter all that often in central New York, and the use of small shrimp made it feel like I was getting more shrimp than I know I was. The bacon added a nice touch in flavor to the extent that I didn’t miss the sausage at all.

The only gripe I had was that it was a relatively small serving. However, since they tout themselves as more of a healthy option for meals that seemed to make sense, and for the price… I paid more for the same meal in Memphis and got more food so if I go back I’ll know to ask for two portions or indulge in an appetizer.

peanut butter surprise

Since I was still hungry I decided to order dessert, which was called Peanut Butter Surprise. It was a small chocolate cake the size of a cupcake and the surprise was peanut butter mousse. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste the mousse as it was fairly light and the cake was a bit soft and mushy, so I ate less than half of it before calling it a night.

Next on my quest was Creole Soul Cafe on East Jefferson St, where I went for lunch. It’s in the old Dey’s building just up the street from both Gannon’s and Cafe Kabul. It touts New Orleans style cuisine, which made me think of the one restaurant I went to in Memphis where my portion was too salty. Yet when I walked in the door, even though it was the peak of lunch time, I was surprised to see that I was the only client in the place.

The menu showed something called grits and gravy, which you could have with either shrimp, andouille sausage or alligator (?) or fish. I decided to have both shrimp and andouille, but worried about gravy in my grits, something I’ve never had in all my years of consuming grits. I also ordered a sweet tea, figuring a restaurant purporting to represent a Southern city must have good sweet tea.

grits and...shrimpCreole’s Shrimp & Grits

Let me say this; when I got home I couldn’t find a single example after doing a Google search of shrimp and grits looking anything like this. It didn’t look like it was going to be appealing… and it wasn’t. The grits were overcooked and the gravy was overwhelming, and neither had any flavor, to the extent that I had to keep adding salt to it. I usually don’t like this type of cheese on anything I eat and I didn’t like it here either.

Having the fried shrimp on the side instead of it being grilled and an actual part of the meal was very disappointing based on what I was hoping for. Even though it turned out to be tasty, it was way over-breaded so most of the flavor was in that. Those other things on the plate… that wasn’t sausage! lol It’s possible it was gator, and I bit into one, hated the texture and taste and didn’t try another one. Since I hadn’t eaten anything on the day I went ahead and ate it all, and its only saving graces were that it was a bit more food than I had at Laci’s and the sweet tea wasn’t bad… not great but not the worst tea I’ve had in town (at least it had some sweetness; thank goodness for McDonald’s sweet tea lol).

Obviously if I had to make a recommendation Laci’s wins hands down. I did mention to one of the proprietors of the joint as I was leaving that I enjoyed my meal, though I missed the sausage, but that the bacon added something that was a pretty nice extra. If I get the craving for it again I know where I’m heading.  

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