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Burger Digs

July 24, 2013

On the heels of my jaunt over to Burger-Fi yesterday, I wanted to post some brief ratings of other burger joints I have visited over the past couple years.  Here are the highs and lows:

Fuddrucker’s – In my opinion, possibly the most consistently good burger out there.  Yes, it’s a chain, which takes some of the luster off, but the beef is amazing, and the grilled buttered bun is like heaven.  Add the toppings bar, with copious amounts of pickles, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, and it’s tough to beat.  Plus, the “secret” ingredient (IMO) to making it that much better is putting a little (or a lot of) honey mustard on top. You can now get buffalo, elk, and wild boar burgers, if you are adventurous. A

Five Guys – Also a chain, I have never had a bad burger there.  My main issue with Five Guys is that it’s just plain messy all the way around.  They don’t give you plates, and the napkins are tissue-paper thin.  If we were basing it solely on taste, I’d give it a thumbs-up, no doubt.  But, I have to factor in the messiness, as well as the presentation of the restaurant itself.  Fries are good, especially with some Cajun seasoning.  But, the portions are crazy huge.  A “small” is enough to easily feed a family of four.  A large feeds a family reunion.  B

Cheeseburger Bobby’s – OK, I know…another chain.  In my opinion, the burgers are nowhere near as good as either of these first two places, and they tried to rip off the “condiment bar” concept of Fuddrucker’s, but fell short.  Prices aren’t awful, but not low enough to justify going there before several other burger places.  B-

Smashburger – I first had Smashburger in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and loved it.  The location where we ate was surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, and we had a nice outdoor seating area with a fountain, which added to the experience.  But, the food was truly good!  There’s now a Smashburger on Barrett Pkwy near Town Center Mall, and that is where I have dined a few times.  The burgers are a tad pricey, but the beef is fresh, and the way they make the burgers is different than other burger joints.  They claim to “smash, sear, and season” their burgers to their customers’ content – and so far, that is exactly what I have found to be the case.  I also love their “smash sauce,” which is sort of a hybrid of honey mustard, mayo, and dill relish. A

Red-Eyed Mule – OK, NOW we’re talking!  A non-chain burger dive!  I discovered this place a couple years ago, and really need to get back over there.  My favorite burger is Jake’s Sloppy Slaw Burger (my mouth is watering now thinking about it).  It is Black Angus ground chuck topped with chirizo, Cole slaw, & American cheese (you can add tomato, onion, and other condiments if you like), and served on grilled Texas toast.  It has been featured on the Food Network, where Alton Brown included it among the “best things I ever ate.” This is a small dive of a place located on Church St. Extension in Marietta.  They serve the beef fresh daily, and when they are out of beef that day, they don’t make any more burgers…so get there early!  Fries and rings are OK, but the burgers and pulled pork sandwiches (Redneck Reubens on Fridays) are the main attraction here. A+

Canyons Burger Co. – Located in historic Woodstock near the tracks, this place has been pleasing guests for a few years now.  I almost always get the Southern Slaw Burger, which is topped with chopped slaw, onion, pickle, and cheese.  You can also get turkey burgers or chicken sandwiches here, if you don’t want beef.  Add a side of crinkle fries or sweet potato fries (or half & half), and you will enjoy the meal.  This is a busy place, and the line can really back up.  But, be patient…seats will open up for you.  A

The Counter – We went to The Counter after a baseball game in Roswell earlier this spring.  I had heard and read good things, and was eager to try it out.  But, I can say I will not be back.  The prices are OUTRAGEOUS.  I should have known better when the online menu didn’t show prices.  Our family of four paid nearly $60 for our meals, and the service was extremely slow (even at an off-peak time).  The burger was decent, but not even close to being worth the price. The concept is rather interesting, as you get to “build your own burger,” and you fill out a card with a pencil, indicating the type of meat, the toppings, and the bread.  But, as you know, doing it this way can add up quickly, as few additions are “free.”  I added fries, but the portion was small, especially for the $3+ I paid for a serving. Avoid, unless you are just made of money.  C

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Burger-“Why”?

July 23, 2013

I can hear the boos already.  Especially after at least a half-dozen people in the past two weeks had told me how good it is.  But, I have to be honest and give my complete feedback to my die-hard Vittles & Vaca readers.20130723_121002

I finally took the plunge today and ate at the highly-touted Burger-Fi, located right along the railroad tracks in downtown Kennesaw, next door to Trackside Grill. It was busy when we walked in, but not crazy.  I strolled up to the counter to order, and began to study the menu board up on the wall above the kitchen.  Essentially, your options are to order a couple variations of hot dogs, a couple variations of burgers, or a “build your own” of either of those.  You can also order fresh-cut fries or onion rings, and pay extra to add toppings such as parmesan cheese, salt & vinegar, melted cheese, chili & the like.

After deliberating for a minute, I finally settled on the Burger-Fi Cheeseburger ($5.97 includes double patties with American cheese, Burger-Fi sauce, lettuce, and tomato) and added pickle and sliced onion. You can add two of the “free” toppings for free.  If you add more than two, it’s apparently not “free” anymore.  I also ordered a regular fry ($2.97), and added the salt & vinegar for an additional 77 cents (they are hooked on the number 7 there).  A tacked on a soft drink (another $2.47), and when it was all said and done, I had paid a whopping $12.91 for a burger, fries, and soft drink. Ouch.

They do have the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine with all the soft drink combinations you could fathom, as well as lemonade and sweet & un-sweet tea – with unlimited refills (for $2.47 per drink they should just hand you a 6-pack).

I took my first bite of the burger, and immediately was taken back to my youth.  I said to my friend Steve, “You know what this reminds me of?  A Wendy’s double-cheeseburger back in the day.”  He said, “You’re right!  That is EXACTLY what it tastes like.”  I will say that the burger was juicy, but in no way did it justify the $5.97 price tag.  As for the fries, I wasted 77 cents with the vinegar and salt.  Basically, they took a small basket of fries and doused them with vinegar, and maybe threw a couple pinches of sea salt on top.  The fries that had vinegar on them were soggy, and the vinegar wasn’t subtle – it was overpowering.

I had really hoped that I would love the experience.  But, it just fell flat.  Yes, they have a deck overlooking Main Street. And, they have rock music playing.  And, they have the new Freestyle machine.  But, those things just don’t add up enough for me to pay almost double what you’d pay at Wendy’s for the same exact thing.

You can also get milkshakes for $4.47 or a “Concrete” (a custard concoction with mix-ins) for $5.47 – again, too pricey if you ask me.

I know you will likely read this and say, “Well, I don’t care what C.A. says…I am going anyway.”  I understand completely.  It’s new, and you’ve heard lots of things about it, seen photos on Twitter and FourSquare, and you just feel an obligation to go.  But, I have a tough time believing that anyone would feel that the quality of the food is worth $13 per person.  I certainly don’t.

I think if the price was maybe $8.99 for a burger, fry, and drink, it would pack a lasting punch.  But, I think after the luster wears off in a couple months, people just won’t be willing to spend that kind of money for a Wendy’s-type burger with fries. Maybe I’ll be wrong. We’ll see.

I will be posting my ranks of burger joints in the coming week, so stay tuned.  There are a few better options out there for those looking for a great burger at a decent price.

See you soon.

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Catching Up…

July 8, 2013

I just wish I could stay on top of this Vittles & Vaca blog.  I’ll try to do better.  Since I have been gone a while, I am going to quickly catch you up on some eatin’ spots I have tried over these past few months.

The Front Porch – Downtown Kennesaw – Located in an old house, this quaint restaurant is a throwback to the old “meat & three,” but in my humble opinion much better food than what one might expect.  I went for lunch, and for around $8, I got a soft drink, corn bread, a choice of meat (fried chicken for me), three sides, and a dessert (peach cobbler). It was a deal!  The food was fantastic, and the portions were decent sizes.  The cornbread was probably the best I have ever had (moist and sweet).  A

Pisano’s – Downtown Kennesaw – formerly Country Kitchen, then briefly Brothers Pizza, the relatively new Pisano’s is actually pretty decent.  I used a BOGO coupon for lunch, and had a sausage roll, which was quite tasty.  Good location, fair prices, good grub.  A little small on the inside, but cozy.  B+

Your Pie – Roswell/ Crossville Road – Concept is pretty simple here: you “make your own pizza” – but not really. You select the dough and the toppings you want, and they dress it and cook it for you.  We went for my 9-year old’s birthday with a large group.  It was “OK.” Not great.  Probably wouldn’t go back.  They also serve gelato there, but it’s not that great either. Can’t give it more than a C.

Dogwood Terrace – Downtown Acworth – near Post Office – I have been to Dogwood Terrace probably five times now, and it’s always been outstanding.  I have eaten lunch a few times, and dinner once.  The food is always wonderful, and the service gracious.  It is true Southern hospitality, with the cuisine to match.  Salads, sandwiches, and soups are all great options.  Also consider the stuffed French Toast! Make sure it’s open before you venture out there.  They are closed a couple days of the week. A

Will see you soon(er) than last time!

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Sub(Par) City

November 20, 2012

Just decided to check out the new sub joint near work.  It’s called Sub City, and it occupies the same space as the Blimpie that went under earlier this year.

First: only two guys working – the owner/franchisee and one of his employees.  There was one lady placing an order in front of us in line, and it seemed to take forever.  Once we ordered, it took about 10 minutes for them to prepare the subs.  Too long to wait.

There weren’t too maImageny selections on the menu, but my friend and I decided to each get a 12-inch sub and split them. He ordered the hot pastrami on white, and I ordered the cheese steak on wheat.  Both were decent, but not incredible.  The bread was soft and fresh.  But, for two 12-inch subs, two regular drinks, and one small bag of chips, it was almost $20.  Too expensive to not be an AMAZING sandwich.

I also got unsweetened ice tea.  I filled up my cup, and couldn’t find any Splenda or Sweet-n-Low. I asked the owner if he has sweetener, and he said he didn’t.  My friend got lemonade, and he said it was terrible.

I honestly don’t see this place making it.  I’d go to Firehouse Subs 100 times before going back.

Grade: C-

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More Hidden Gems

May 31, 2012

Man…I really need to update this more often.  I have people asking me all the time about the places I have gone, and I have just done a terrible job of keeping this blog updated.  So, here’s my feeble attempt to fill you in on some great spots I’ve been the past few months.

Barker’s Red HotsMarietta, GA – This place began back in the early 1980’s as a hot dog vendor in Atlanta, and has grown in popularity so much that they opened up a couple locations in the suburbs.  They cook their own brand of bun-length red hot hot dogs over charcoal, and have their own signature hot sauce that many of their fans prefer as the condiment of choice.  I ate mine “signature style” with hot sauce, onions, two pickles, and yellow mustard.  I also had a small side of slaw, which gave it that extra crunchiness.  Baked beans were also very good, with just the right amount of sweetness.  I’d definitely go back, especially for the $5.60 I spent. A

Nuevo Laredo – Atlanta, GA – Amy and I went here back when it was winter time on a Friday night.  We actually arrived right at 6 p.m. before going to a show downtown, and by 6:30 p.m., hundreds of people were waiting outside to be seated.  The restaurant is rather interesting, as it is located in what the owners call a “campy, off-the-beaten path” area off Chattahoochee Avenue.  It looks rather small from the outside, but actually has quite a bit of seating.  I ordered the Tampiqueña Steak and loved it.  The menu describes this dish as a famous lean, trimmed beef steak marinated, charbroiled and served with beans,cheese enchilada, hot tortillas y pico de gallo.  I cannot recall what Amy had, but it was outstanding as well. We also ordered their highly-recommended cheese dip, and loved it…but it’s enough for 6-8 people – way too much for 2 people! B+

Southern Soul BBQ – St. Simons Island, GA – This place was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives last year, and now I know why!  What a cool joint!  You order inside at the counter, and you have the choice to sit inside, or to dine at one of the large picnic tables outside. I ordered the items that Guy Fieri tasted when he came, and was not disappointed.  I got the Brunswick Stew and a half-slab of ribs.  It was heaven!  The ribs were the best I have ever had I believe.  The ribs are drizzled with honey several times in the cooking process, which makes them sweet and a tad crunchy on the outside. So yummy! The BBQ pork was also very good, but I’d give the edge to the ribs.  BBQ beans were also solid.  Gotta hit this place again!  A+

Swheat Market Deli – Cartersville, GA – Located in an old warehouse building just across the railroad tracks in downtown Cartersville, Swheat Market is a special treat.  It is family owned, and boasts some of the most amazing sandwiches you will ever find.  I have been twice, and eat time had the Chicken Salad Melt on sourdough, and topped with Havarti cheese.  Amy got the Cuban, and it was also fantastic.  They also serve homemade side items, such as cucumber salad, pasta salad, hand-cut sweet potato fries, and Asian Cole slaw. I wanted to order their famous Peppered Bacon BLT last time, but they had just run out of bacon.  I look forward to visiting again soon!  A

Willy’s Wee-Nee Wagon – Brunswick, GA – Located in the heart of Brunswick near the College of Coastal Georgia sits the quintessential dive.  It’s a rather dilapidated, yet colorful shack called Willy’s Wee-Nee Wagon.  It was a rainy and chilly April afternoon when we went to Willy’s, but it was still busy.  Willy’s has the “Internationally Acclaimed Pork Chop Sandwich,” and offers a $2,000 reward to anyone who can find one better.  So, Amy and I had to share one of those.  We also each had a hot dog.  Both were extremely tasty.  After we ate, we found out the “World Famous Willy Burger,” so we’ll have to try that next time.  This is truly an experience, and I had to buy the t-shirt to show the world I had been there.  The shirt has a picture of a hot dog with the moniker, “We relish your bun.” Classic.  A+

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Catching You Up on My Eatin’

January 31, 2012

So, it’s been more than four months since I posted last on this blog.  That’s a lot of meals. At least 240, I’d guess.  And, of course, many of those were in some dining establishments outside of my own kitchen.

I cannot report on all the finds I have discovered in 120+ days, but here’s a start.  There’s some good, fair, and not-so-great in the mix. Enjoy!

Creekside Tavern – Kennesaw, GA – Lots of selections, and some unique items.  Large portions, and moderate prices.  For lunch, you can get a sandwich/burger plus a side item and drink for $6.99.  The mac & cheese is KILLER!  Jury is still out, but for now, I’d give it a solid B.

Dickey’s BBQ – Kennesaw, GA – This place just opened off Barrett Pwky near Ridenour.  The night we went inside, the kids ate free, and we had coupons, so all four of us at for only $13.  The BBQ was fair, but a little dry.  They have waffle fries, which the kids liked.  Free large dill pickles in a jar, as well as free ice cream (one of the soft serve machines).  Mac & cheese was terrible.  Probably won’t go back.  I can’t go higher than a C.

Nuevo Laredo Cantina – Atlanta, GA – Amy and I went before a concert recently, and had a good time.  It’s a small house that has been added to over the years.  We went in at 6:20 p.m. on a Friday, and sat down immediately.  By the time we left at 7:35 p.m., there were more than 50 people waiting outside.  Pretty interesting place.  Cheese dip was great, and both our meals were good.  Amy got steak quesadillas, and I got one of the house specialties, which is described on the menu in this way: Tampiqueña Steak Our famous lean, trimmed beef steak marinated, charbroiled and served with beans,cheese enchilada, hot tortillas y pico de gallo.  Amy also loved the premium margarita.  A bit off the beaten path, which can be a great thing!  I’d give it an A.

Baraonda – Atlanta, GA (nextdoor to Fox Theater) – It was highly rated on UrbanSpoon, and some claim they have the best brick-oven pizza in Atlanta.  Anyhoo, I will admit the place has a great vibe.  It’s a “happenin'” place, particularly before a show at the Fox.  Prices are reasonable, but a tad higher than a suburbanite might expect.  Portion sizes were modest, but entrees were fresh. Pizzas were nothing to write home about – reminded me of a Boboli pizza.  If you want AMAZING pizza, go to the next place on my list below.  I give Baraonda a B overall:  an “A” for the look/feel, and a B- for the food.

Antico Pizza Napoletana – Atlanta, GA (near Georgia Tech) – Without question the BEST pizza I have ever had!  I’ve had some of the finest in New York and Boston, and those pale in comparison to Antico.  I was a little surprised that a medium pizza would cost $21, but it was MORE than worth every penny! Amy and I ordered the San Gennaro (pictured), which had sweet red peppers, sweet sausage, Italian pearl onions, and dollops of buffalo mozzarella cheese.  Everything is imported from a specific region in Southern Italy.  They cook all the pizzas in one of three large ovens, which are made of Refractory Sorrento Stone, which heats up to 900 degrees!  You gotta experience this place.  Everything is legit – including the modest, but oh so perfect dining area, where you can watch them make the pizzas while you sit on massive picnic tables.  This gets an A+!

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This “Q” Earns a “C”

September 27, 2011

I truly enjoy trying out BBQ establishments. And, I have had my eye on a new one for the past several weeks. Right along Main Street in a red brick house nestled among some massive oak trees you will now find JD’s BBQ’s newest location (they have another location on Bells Ferry Road in Woodstock). I got word that it opened up a few days ago, and I just had to check it out.

I sat outside on the front deck, which overlooks Main Street, but still feels like you are at a family picnic. Acorns were dropping all around, and the feel of fall was in the air. Unfortunately, as soon as the food came out, so did the flies. By the end of the meal, there must have been 6-8 of them swarming around our plates.

I ordered the jumbo BBQ pork sandwich, with a fried ear of corn, and a cup of Brunswick Stew. As much as I really wanted to love the food, the best I can truly say is that it was “just OK.” The sandwich was huge – I couldn’t eat but about 2/3 of it. But, there was very little flavor (aside from the sauce on top of it). No smokiness. No saltiness. No vinegar or cayenne pepper. No hickory. Just plain.

The fried corn was pretty solid, and according to the server, is their most popular side item. The Brunswick stew was decent, but nothing special. Pretty standard fare.

For the sandwich, two sides, and a cute little Mason jar of sweet tea, the total was $10.43 (including tax). It’s a fair price, but just not sure the food was good enough for me to justify a return visit. We’ll see.

I also noted that parking is a major issue. Be prepared to fight for parking if you go at a busy time. And, there’s not a direct pull-in off of Main Street – which will likely lead to traffic jams in the lot. Just giving you fair warning.

The location is great, the porch is very nice (but the flies are brutal), and the food I had was just average. I give it a C.