Archive for Restaurant Reviews

Persimmon Cafe

I had the pleasure of getting lunch with some of my old work colleagues, Lauren and Laura this week. I’d been wanting to try Persimmon for a while now, and this seemed like a golden opportunity. The space is kind of off-beat–I mean, who would think to put a cafe inside of a laundromat? But for some reason, it works. It really does.

It would never really work the other way around, though.

Although, it would never really work the other way around.

The menu is simple and contains just the right number of choices so as not to leave you overwhelmed. That being said, I still debated what I was going to get for a good 5 minutes before finally opting for the Adult Grilled Cheese (smoke Gouda, green apple, prosciutto & cheddar, $6.75). When you pulled the sandwich apart it was nice and melty and cheesy. I really liked the apple in the sandwich, it added a level of freshness that I never would’ve thought of. My only complaint was that the Gouda could have been melted a little more. But other than that, it was perfect.

Melted cheese is my kryptonite.

Melted cheese is my kryptonite.

For $2.25 extra, you can get a side item and a drink with your sandwich. So obviously I did that.  There were only three choices for a side–carrot ginger coleslaw, pasta salad, or chips. Even though I don’t usually like pasta salad I decided to go with that just to see how it was. And I’m so glad I did, because it was outstanding. I don’t think it was mayo based like some pasta salads, and it had (what I’m pretty sure was) fresh feta cheese. So yummy.

Not-melted cheese is also my kryptonite.

Not-melted cheese is also my kryptonite.

They have a really interesting selection of homemade drinks, like vanilla lemonade, basil limeade, and rosemary lemon tea. I went with the tea, which was surprisingly delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I wish I knew how to make it at home. It was so good.

I like it when you put stuff into tea to make it taste less like tea.

I like it when you put stuff into tea to make it taste less like tea.

Lauren got the Summertime Ham and Cheese sandwich (peach-ginger marmalade, dijon, ham, and havarti cheese, $6.75). She let me have a bite (how nice!), and I really liked it, which surprised me because ham isn’t usually my favorite. But something about that marmalade just made that sandwich. She also got the combo with the pasta salad, but she got the basil limeade. It was super sweet, but also super delicious.

Ham-a-lam-a-ding-dong

Ham-a-lam-a-ding-dong

Laura’s sandwich was my favorite of the three, I think. She got the curry chicken sandwich (red onions, curry chicken salad, and golden raisins, $7.50). I’m a sucker for curry chicken, so that’s probably why I liked this one the best. I’d probably get that again if I went back.

Mo' curry, mo' better.

Mo’ curry, mo’ better.

I can’t wait to go back. I really want to try the vanilla lemonade and their selection of custards (burnt marshmallow and Nutella, anyone??). I highly recommend you check this place out if you haven’t already.

It almost makes me want to start going to the laundromat... almost.

It almost makes me want to start going to the laundromat… almost.

Persimmon Cafe
226 Calhoun Street
Charleston, SC
843.937.5399

Persimmon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cru Cafe

Cru is in a little historic house off of Market Street downtown Charleston. The house is really cute, but when you come in the front door, they only have one room for seating, so they have as many tables and chairs shoved in there as possible. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to eat when crammed into a tiny space with a bunch of strangers, sitting so close that you can’t help but overhear everything that everyone is saying in the whole restaurant, then Cru is definitely the place for you.

Basically this.

Basically this. Minus the dog.

But enough about the atmosphere, let’s move on to the food. We got some bread before our appetizers, which was very good. I would’ve liked it a if they’d toasted it a bit, but it was still good.

Yup. Looks like bread.

Yup. Looks like bread.

We started with the fried green tomatoes with smoked pork belly and feta cheese ($10.50). Phenomenal. Seriously, probably the best FGT I’ve ever had. And the smoked pork belly was out of this world. Seriously, I’d go back just for these puppies.

That smoked pork belly might actually be ambrosia.

That smoked pork belly might actually be ambrosia.

We also got the pecan fried brie with fig compote and local honey ($10.25). I managed to get one bite of it before he demolished it all. That one bite was quite tasty, and judging from the way he “forgot” to share, he really enjoyed it as well.

Ben ate it so fast I didn't get a picture. Picture courtesy of Loo on Urbanspoon.

He ate it so fast I didn’t get a picture. Picture courtesy of Loo on Urbanspoon.

For my entree, I got the center cut Tuna steak, medium rare ($28). I thought it was good (not great), but that was probably my own fault. Everyone says you should get it rare, but I’m one of those weird people who like it more on the “well-done” side. I got it medium rare because the waiter insisted that any higher is blasphemy. I think I would’ve loved it had I gotten it cooked the way I wanted it to. The lady at the table next to us loved hers though, so I guess it’s just a matter of personal preference.

It looks so good, though.

It looks so good, though.

The person I was with got the BBQ Berkshire Pork Osso Bucco with Mepkin Oyster Mushrooms and Haricot Vert, Mash Potato, Smoked Tomato Demi ($23.95). It was really delicious. The pork literally fell off the bone and the mashed potato tasted homemade. He loved it and he had enough to take home extras.

Pork shoulder never looked so good.

Pork shoulder never looked so good.

We also ordered some sides to split. The first was Cru’s famous four cheese macaroni ($8.50). Made with orecchiette, cheddar, pepper jack, fontina, and mozzarella. It was killer. Really, really good.

Cheesy goodness.

Cheesy goodness.

The only thing we were disappointed with during the whole meal was the truffle parmesan fries ($6). Shoestring fries with truffle and parmesan were just not on par with the rest of the meal. Something about the shoestring fries felt cheap, definitely not worth $6.

They neglect to tell you that they bring you a mountain-sized portion of fries.

They neglect to tell you that they bring you a mountain-sized portion of fries.

If you haven’t been to Cru Cafe yet, I highly recommend you go. I for one, can’t wait to go back.

Photo courtesy of dilwyne designs

Photo courtesy of Dilwyne Designs

Cru Cafe
18 Pinckney St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 534-2434

Cru Cafe on Urbanspoon

Happy Dog, Cleveland, OH

While staying in Cleveland in July, we were sitting in our hotel room watching Food Network (because we’re a bunch of lardo’s) when a commercial came on for “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” We were about to turn off the tv and walk out the door, when Michael Symon came on and said the best thing he ever ate was a hot dog from Happy Dog in Cleveland. Sean and I immediately looked at each other as a plan quickly formed in our brains.

We have lots of ideas. Not a lot of "good" ideas, though.

We have lots of ideas. Not a lot of “good” ideas, though.

The space is very divey. You can tell this is more of a place to go at night (they have a stage setup for live music), so it looked kind of empty in the daylight. When you sit down, there are long, thin sheets of paper with all the toppings and sauces you can get on your hot dog. Their housemade quarter pound hot dog costs $5, but you get unlimited toppings, so I think that totally makes up for it. When you flip the paper over, you have a choice between fries and tater tots, and the list of all the toppings you can get on those. Basically it was my dream restaurant.

So. Many. Delicious. Choices.

So. Many. Delicious. Choices.

I was a little overwhelmed at first, because there are so many choices. I ended up ordering my hot dog with pimento mac and cheese (of course), bleu cheese coleslaw, caramelized onions, bacon, and roasted garlic aioli. I was a little worried that it was going to be too many flavors for one hot dog, but the chef managed to balance the distribution of everything really well. I loved it.

There's macaroni and cheese on my hot dog. Did I mention that this is my dream restaurant??

There’s macaroni and cheese on my hot dog. Did I mention that this is my dream restaurant??

I stayed pretty basic with my tater tots (because you know I love me some tater tots) and just got them with nacho cheese sauce and bacon.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was trying to eat and take pictures at the same time.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was trying to eat and take pictures at the same time.

Ben was brave and ordered the Michael Symon “Best Thing I Ever Ate” dog which has alien relish, chunky peanut butter, and sriracha hot sauce. As weird as it sounds, it was actually delicious. The peanut butter was not sweet at all, so it really complemented the other flavors of the dog.

Ben is slightly better at eating and taking pictures at the same time.

Ben is slightly better at eating and taking pictures at the same time.

Ben, longing for his homeland, also got the “poutine” fries, which are fries topped with bacon, feta cheese, and beef gravy. Though it wasn’t authentic Canadian poutine, it was still pretty darn good, so no complaints here.

I could eat like 3 of those right now.

I could eat like 3 of those right now.

Sean built his own dog and topped it with bourbon baked beens, pimento mac and cheese, and bacon spiked southern style greens. It was very much a southern hot dog. The bite I had was delish. He also got fries, but kept them pretty basic with cheese and bacon.

Bourbon baked beans are my friend.

I promise there’s a hot dog under all that macaroni

Christine got a very Christine hot dog, topped with cucumbers, caramelized onions, and brazilian chimichurri.

Christine is kind of strange. But I love her anyway. Or maybe because of that. I'm not sure.

Christine is kind of strange. But I love her anyway. Or maybe because of that. I’m not sure.

The one thing I thought was kind of weird was that instead of putting the sauces onto your hot dog, they brought them all out at once on a tray, so you can put it on yourself depending on how much you want. So we ended up getting 4 people’s worth of sauces brought out at once, without any idea which sauce belonged to which person (especially since we all had short term memory loss and forgot which sauces we all ordered once they took our papers away).

Saucepacalypse!

Saucepacalypse!

They also have a ton of beers on tap, including a few that they brew in-house. We got a pint of the chocolate peanut butter cup porter, and it was really yummy.

Mac and cheese hot dogs?Peanut butter cup beer? This place is heaven.

Mac and cheese hot dogs?Peanut butter cup beer? This place is heaven.

All in all I really enjoyed this place and would totally go back again next time I’m in Cleveland. Thanks for the recommendation, Mr. Symon!

I definitely left happy.

I definitely left happy.

Happy Dog
5801 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 651-9474

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

Lucky’s Cafe, Cleveland, OH

In honor of my cousin Dalton’s graduation, I drove up to Cleveland with Ben, Sean, and Christine (a relationship hasn’t been truly tested until you spend 11 hours in a car with them). Before we left, I did a lot of research on what restaurants in the Cleveland area Guy Fieri has been to on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and found Lucky’s Cafe. After watching a clip from the episode where Guy tries their biscuits and gravy, I was set on going.

Just call me "Queen Fieri"

Just call me “Queen Fieri”

The space is really cute. It’s a little cafe in a house in Tremont, and our waitress informed us that all of their food is locally sourced. I got coffee, which was served in this big, colorful mug. It was all very homey feeling. To start, I also got a bowl of curry cauliflower soup, which was very yummy. My only complaint was that it came out lukewarm, when I was hoping for it to be hot.

It's still yummy though.

It’s still yummy though.

For my entree, I chose to go with the Baked Mac-n-Cheese (cheddar, brie, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses baked with pasta and cream topped with brioche bread crumbs served with house-made applesauce, $11.25). I added bacon for an extra $1.50, bringing the total for this dish to $12.75, which is kind of crazy. But the portion was big, and I ended up eating it for 2 meals, so I guess that makes it less bad. The waiter recommended mixing the applesauce with the macaroni, and at first I was hesitant, but let me tell you it was amazing. I highly recommend you try it.

Definitely the best Applesauce Mac and Cheese I've ever had.

Definitely the best Applesauce Mac and Cheese I’ve ever had.

The rest of the group ordered the Biscuits (cheddar scallion biscuits topped with soft scrambled eggs and sausage gravy served with hash brown potatoes and grapes). Thanks to Lost Dog Cafe, I hold all biscuits and gravy to a very high standard, and although these weren’t better than Lost Dog, they were really good. I liked that the biscuits were cheddar and scallion, which was a nice twist on the usual buttermilk style. The sausage gravy was outstanding, and the eggs were perfectly cooked. The hash browns were definitely more like home fries, but they were delicious, especially with the gravy.

I've never really met a plate of Biscuits I didn't like.

I’ve never really met a plate of Biscuits I didn’t like.

Despite the fact that my meal ended up being $27, I still really enjoyed this cafe and would definitely stop by again.

It's much prettier on the inside, I promise.

It’s much prettier on the inside, I promise.

Lucky’s Cafe
777 Starkweather Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 622-7773

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House

Last Wednesday, after a hilarious night of improv at Theater 99, we were struck by hunger pangs and looking for somewhere to eat. I consulted my handy dandy Yelp app to find a restaurant in Charleston that was still serving food at 10:30, and we were lucky enough to stumble upon Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House. Located on Cumberland Street in the old Johnson’s Bar spot, Craftsmen is a cool space featuring 2 bars and an outdoor beer garden area.

No, not that kind of beer garden. [Photo: Tilly's Nest]

No, not that kind of beer garden. [Photo: Tilly's Nest]

I started off with a beer from Frothy Beard, one of Charleston’s newest breweries. The  Photuris Pale Ale (apparently a photuris is a lightning bug. Who knew?) was good, but I think they still have some work to go on getting their technique right. Or maybe I just don’t like pale ales. I would like to try their Peppermint Porter (which hopefully I will be able to do this weekend at the brewery!) But, I digress. The beer menu is pretty cool, featuring 48 drafts on tap, which they rotate out regularly. I’d like to stop by during the day to take advantage of the outdoor space. The interior bars are also really well designed and have a very comfortable feel to them. Here are a couple of pictures of the two bar areas:

2 Bars, One cup

2 Bars, One cup [Photo: Eater]

The menu is divided into 2 parts. One one side, you have their “Bar Classics” which are available daily. On the other side, you have their “Daily Features,” which change out daily depending what they have in the kitchen. Laura and I both ordered the BBQ Pork sandwich (pulled pork, cole slaw, fried pickles on a sesame seed bun) from their daily features menu. It was delish. The bun was toasted ever so slightly and the fried pickles had just the lightest coating of batter and were delicious with the coleslaw. The sandwich was served with their “fries” which were more like fat potato chips.

I'm so glad I live in the south so I have access to good BBQ.

I’m so glad I live in the south so I have access to good BBQ.

John ordered the Delta Catfish and Chips with Comeback sauce ($10) from the Bar Classics menu. He said it was delicious with a “good fry on it, nice sized chunk of fish, and good catfishy flavor.” I love catfish, and just looking at it from across the table, I could tell it was delicious.

It kind of still looks like a fish. Like it's swimming across John's plate.

It kind of still looks like a fish. Like it’s swimming across John’s plate.

Ben ordered the Farmhouse Burger (beef, pork, idazabal, beer pickles, and bibb lettuce) from the Bar Classics menu. I took a bite of it, and let me tell you, it was outstanding. Not as good as a Husk burger, but still pretty darn good. The combination of beef and pork was very interesting and gave it an extra layer of depth. The idazabal cheese was good too, and added an almost smokey flavor to it. Really, really good.

You can't really see the meat because of the lettuce, but trust me, it's there (and it's delicious).

You can’t really see the meat because of the lettuce, but trust me, it’s there (and it’s delicious).

I’ve had like 4 people tell me that I should get the Crunchy Dame (BBQ Pork belly, butterkase, cherry jam, sunny egg, $9) from the Bar Classics menu. Apparently it’s “unreal” and it “may have brought tears to my eyes,” so when I go back I’ll have to give that a try.  All in all, I was very impressed and definitely recommend you try this place out.

I mean, the space is so freaking cool.

I mean, the space is so freaking cool.

Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House
12 Cumberland St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 577-9699
Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House on Urbanspoon

Taco Boy

I don’t know why, but I’ve been on a serious taco kick lately. I’ve been craving them like crazy. So as such, I’ve tried pretty much every taco place in Charleston. My favorite, by far, is Taco Boy downtown. Not only are their tacos spectacular, the atmosphere is really freaking cool. The inside is all mismatched and looks like someone just put together a restaurant by stealing furniture from all of their neighbors. They also have an awesome patio that is what I see in my dreams when I think of the coolest possible patio there is. If you don’t like tacos, you should definitely come hang out just for the ambience. I also love their mismatched light fixtures and chandeliers. It’s just really cool.

I don't know why I love restaurants with mismatched furniture so much.

I don’t know why I love restaurants with mismatched furniture so much.

To start, we usually get the appetizer trio consisting of salsa, queso, and guacamole (market price). Their guac is killer. It’s so good. If you don’t want a whole trio appetizer, I definitely recommend getting the guac. Unless you’re weird and don’t like avocados. Weirdo. Their queso is also pretty darn good. Their salsa is good too, but not necessarily anything special.

Appetizer samplers are the best.

Appetizer samplers are the best.

I’ve tried pretty much all of the tacos on their taco menu. They’re delicious. I’ll highlight a few of my faves here. My number one favorite is the Fried Chicken Taco (seasoned, breaded chicken breast, lightly fried, with marinated carrots & red cabbage, jalapeño cilantro mayonnaise & chipotle bbq sauce, $3.75). It’s so yummy. Sometimes it’s really spicy, and sometimes it’s not. I think it just depends on who’s cooking. I always get it on flour, because I think it tastes better that way. I also really like the Carnitas Norteno taco (tender slow-roasted pork with poblano rajas & ancho chile sauce, $3.50). I think I like it because it tastes like a pulled pork taco. It’s so juicy and tender and delicious. I get this one on corn. I don’t know why. I just do.

Carnitas on the left, fried chicken on the right.

Carnitas on the left, fried chicken on the right.

My 3rd favorite is the Grilled Fish Taco (chipotle marinated Mahi Mahi with cilantro dijon sauce, field greens & salsa cruda, $3.95). For some reason I think this one tastes the best in the bibb-lettuce wrap (which is $0.25 extra, btw). I love the cilantro dijon sauce. It’s so good. I also really like the Chorizo & Potato taco (spicy mexican ground pork sausage & potato with green chile sauce & onion, cilantro relish, $3.95).  Sometimes I get this one on corn and sometimes on flour. It just depends on my mood. I think this one is really tasty, but if you’re not a fan of chorizo (like my mother), probably don’t order this one.

From left to right: Grilled fish on lettuce wrap, Chorizo & potato on flour, fried chicken on flour.

From left to right: Grilled fish on lettuce wrap, Chorizo & potato on flour, fried chicken on flour.

Some other tacos I’ve had:

  • Baja Fish Taco (tempura fried Mahi Mahi, thinly sliced red cabbage, cilantro & ancho chile yogurt sauce, $3.95). This one is really popular, but I don’t really love tempura, so it’s not my favorite. Ben and my Dad love it though.
  • Al Pastor (thinly shaved spitfire pork, roasted pineapple salsa & pickled red onion, $3.95). I love al pastor usually, but for some reason, this taco just doesn’t do it for me. There’s something weird with the pineapple salsa and I’m just not sure what it is.
  • Southwest Seared Tuna (Southwest seared market tuna with chipotle slaw and cilantro, Market Price). Not my favorite. I love tuna, but this taco was just a little bland and needed a little more texture.
  • Southwest Seared Swordfish (southwest market swordfish with chipotle slaw & cilantro, $3.95). Better than the tuna, but I still prefer the grilled fish.
  • Kimchi Beef (Mexican spice marinated grilled flank steak, Korean BBQ sauce, kimchi, sesame seeds & cilantro, $3.95). Ben likes this one, but I did not. Not even a little.
  • Tempura Avocado (tempura avocado topped with a sweet Thai chili glaze & a citrus, $3.95). I know people who love this taco. I’m not one of them. But I don’t like tempura, so that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Here's a picture of Laura seducing me via taco.

Here’s a picture of Laura seducing me via taco.

I’ve also gotten the grilled chicken quesadilla, which is good. It’s kind of hard to screw up a quesadilla, though. I like that they serve the quesadillas with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole (yay! more guac!). Here’s a picture of Ben from work eating a quesadilla the British way (because he’s British).

Like a sir!

Like a sir!

They have really good (read: Strong) house margaritas, which I love. I also recently tried their pineapple-infused margarita which is really delicious. And lucky for those of us who are on a diet, they feature skinny versions of both their house and pineapple-infused margaritas.

Sorry. I tried to take a picture when it was full, but it was just too good.

Sorry. I tried to take a picture when it was full, but it was just too good.

Basically, if you’re craving tacos, Taco Boy is the way to go (but go to the downtown location. For some reason I don’t think the Folly Beach location is as good….probably because it’s all the way out on Folly Beach).

I would eat the crap out of some tacos right now.

I would eat the crap out of some tacos right now.

Taco Boy
217 Huger St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 789-3333

Taco Boy on Urbanspoon

Velo Fellow, Greenville, SC

Last weekend, I went home to Greenville to visit some of my family and friends. I spent some quality time with my mom shopping at the Haywood Mall before being overcome with hunger pangs and deciding to go get lunch. My mom suggested we go downtown to the Velo Fellow–she’d been there before and really liked it. She read me the menu as I drove, and the food sounded amazing. So with high hopes, we entered into the Velo Fellow.

We so pretty!

We so pretty!

They market themselves as a “british publick house,” and the interior was dark and filled with leather chairs, wooden booths, and mismatching furniture to make the place look like it had been there for years. I instantly loved the way it looked inside; it was so homey and comfortable. And the bar was really impressive. As we settled into our booth, our emotionless, condescending waitress (looking annoyed that we’d decided to eat there) came over to get us drinks (I ordered sweet tea. This was not southern sweet tea. This was unsweetened tea that someone put some sugar in. Not what I had hoped for). We asked her some questions about the menu, which she answered matter-of-factly and without any detail other than what was required. So far, our trip was not off to a great start. [My favorite Yelp review stated that "Hipster McHipster meetings here on Tuesday nights (bc Wednesday is just too middle of the road and complacent)." Very accurate...and hilarious]

*Photo taken from the Velo Fellow Facebook page

*Photo taken from the Velo Fellow Facebook page

We decided to order appetizers first, before deciding what we wanted for entrees. The first dish we ordered was the fried green tomatoes with garlic pimento cheese ($8.95). The tomatoes came out hot and crispy, and we eagerly dug in. The breading was cornmeal based and a little thick for my liking, but they were fried to perfection. The garlic pimento cheese had a really good taste to it, but the texture was kind of weird–it almost tasted gritty. All in all, I’d say this dish was pretty good.

Also, only ice cream should keep the shape of a scoop after serving.

Also, only ice cream should keep the shape of a scoop after serving.

Our second appetizer was the Bowl O’ Tots (deep fried tater tots covered in melted cheddar cheese, $5.95). If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty obsessed with tater tots. And cheese. So this should have been my new favorite thing. And it was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was literally fried tater tots toped with shredded cheddar cheese. A monkey could make that dish. I was hoping for some housemade cheddar cheese sauce or something creative and awesome. And although it tasted good, I really just felt like they could’ve done more.

Judging from this picture, it's apparent who I get my tot-obsession from.

Judging from this picture, it’s apparent who I get my tot-obsession from.

Our third appetizer was a cup of the soup of the day (price varies daily). It happened to be creamy tomato-basil soup, topped with croutons and served with a nice hunk of bread. The bread was delicious. The tomato soup, however, would have made more sense being served atop spaghetti noodles instead of in a bowl. It was way too thick to be a soup, and although it tasted good, I just couldn’t get over the feeling like I was eating tomato sauce out of a jar with a spoon.

Sorry. I ate the croutons before I took the picture. I'm a monster, I know.

Sorry. I ate the croutons before I took the picture. I’m a monster, I know.

Our final appetizer was the basket of raw fries under bleu cheese crumbles ($6.95)…because we hadn’t gotten enough carbs with our carbs. My mom really liked these and ate basically the whole basket. I’m not a huge fan of potato chips, and I was hoping that these were going to be more on the undercooked, potato-y side, but they were very much potato chips. I think they would’ve been better had they been a little more “raw,” but to each his own.

Pictured: Blue Cheese Potato Chips

Pictured: Blue Cheese Potato Chips… nothing raw about them.

After being unhappy with our appetizers, we decided not to bother with entrees. I was really sad, because I wanted to love this place. But from the service to the food, I was really disappointed. They have a 92% approval rating on Urbanspoon, which leads me to believe that maybe our experience wasn’t the norm. I’ll be willing to give it another shot sometime in the future, but I don’t think I’ll be ordering any of these appetizers again.

*Stolen from Yelp.

*Photo stolen from Yelp.

The Velo Fellow
1 Augusta St #126
Greenville, SC 29601
(864) 242-9296

The Velo Fellow on Urbanspoon

Verde

Ok, so I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of weeks, traveling around the Southeastern US, so I haven’t really had a lot of time to go out and eat at any of the places on my Charleston Restaurant wishlist. I’ve mostly been cooking at home and eating at all of my usual haunts. One place that I frequent at least once a week, is Verde. Verde takes up the space where Bruegger’s Bagels used to be, and is basically a giant salad bar. Now, historically I’ve been very anti-salad–I think people only order salads when they either A. don’t like the taste of real food, or B. are on a diet–but I actually really like Verde.

Lookin' at you, Lauren.

Lookin’ at you, Lauren.

First of all, the space is really nice. It’s very clean and open, with a white and lime green color scheme which make you think of freshness, health, cleanliness, and nature. You start by ordering at the counter. You can choose to either build your own salad / wrap, or choose from one of the “Signature Creations.” The first thing you notice when you step up to the counter is the wall of lettuce. At least, that’s what I notice. Maybe you notice the 50 some-odd toppings and dressings you have to choose from. Either way.

Behold, the wall of lettuce.

Behold, the wall of lettuce.

Back to the toppings: Seriously. They have any kind of salad topping you could want. Unless you want something weird, in which case–move back to Seattle, ya Hippie. Laura always chooses to build her own salad, which is never the same twice. You get 4 ingredients included in your salad (while proteins and avocado cost extra, and each additional topping after 4 is an extra $0.50). They also give you a piece of bread with every salad / wrap. Here’s a copy of the menu, so you get an idea.

See what I mean about the green and white?

See what I mean about the green and white?

My favorite salad (obsessed is a good word) is the Mesa Verde (romaine, roasted chicken, grape tomatoes, red onion, avocado, black beans, corn, fresh cilantro, and tortilla strips with chipotle lime vinaigrette, finished with a fresh squeeze of lime). I usually don’t get the corn or tortilla strips (because… gross). I absolutely love their chipotle lime vinaigrette, it is so yummy. And the fresh squeeze of lime at the end just makes everything taste fresh and  delicious. I freaking love this salad. I make it at home all the time (but it’s really just easier to let them do it).

I think I like it because it doesn't actually taste like salad.

I think I like it because it doesn’t actually taste like salad.

You also get the option of getting your salad chopped or tossed. If you get it tossed, they basically stir your salad up and then put it in the bowl. I always get it chopped, which is where they take this medieval torture-looking device (like a double-headed pizza cutter), and attack your salad until it’s mincemeat in a bowl. That’s my favorite part. They charge upwards of like $28 bucks to buy one from them, but if you’re trying to chop a salad at home you can just use a single-blade pizza cutter. It literally works exactly the same way (trust me, I’ve tried).

That second blade is pretty redundant, if you ask me.

That second blade is pretty redundant, if you ask me.

Basically, if you’re on King Street and looking for a fast, healthy lunch that tastes as good as it is good for you, I highly recommend you visit Verde. Plus, they have a lot of cool, natural drinks to try, and they offer King of Pops popsicles (which are really good. TRY ONE). Also get their loyalty card–Buy 10 salads / wraps, get your 11th one free (I’m only 3 away!)

I'm kind of craving a salad right now. I feel like I've been body snatched.

I’m kind of craving a salad right now. I feel like I’ve been body snatched.

Verde
347 King Street
Charleston, SC  29401
(843) 579-2884

Verde on Urbanspoon

Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy, Myrtle Beach, SC

After a fun and busy weekend as a bridesmaid in Myrtle Beach, I decided to spend some time exploring the city with Ben. Ben was craving mexican food, and after some intense Google searching, we ended up at Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy at the Coastal Grand Mall. Pulling up to the restaurant, the first thought that popped into my head was “I found the Mexican P.F. Chang’s.” I normally reserve the restaurant building photo for the end of my review, but I’ll put it here just to emphasize my point.

I mean, all it's missing is a giant horse statue.

I mean, all it’s missing is a giant horse statue.

Ben and I were starving, so we ordered enough food for about 4 people, even though it was just the two of us (we have a problem). When you first sit down, they bring you chips (which were thinner than typical Mexican restaurants, but they were still good) and a trio of their salsas–traditional Mexican salsa, a mild salsa verde, and a spicy hot salsa. They were all tasty, although the “spicy” salsa was not very spicy at all. We started with the chile con queso (traditional dip made with melted, blended cheeses and fresh roasted Poblano and Anaheim chiles), which was good but tasted not unlike the Superbowl cheese dip you make with Velveeta and Rotel. I was kind of bummed (but not really surprised) that they used a yellow cheese instead of white, but that’s what we get for going to Mexican P.F. Chang’s.

I'm still trying to get the hang of my new cell phone camera.

I’m still trying to get the hang of my new cell phone camera.

Our second appetizer was the Jalapeño Cheese fritters (crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Deliciously delicate hand-breaded fritters, oozing with minced jalapeño and melted cheese. Served with ranch dressing), from their new “Tapas And Small Bites” menu. These were freaking delicious. I wish we would’ve nixed the cheese dip and gotten two orders of the fritters, because they were seriously so yummy. They also paired really well with the ranch dressing, and I loved the little container they came in.

Apparently, Fritters are the new "It" food. Which I'm totally ok with.

Apparently, Fritters are the new “It” food. Which I’m totally ok with.

The cheese LITERALLY oozes out.

The cheese LITERALLY oozes out.

For my entree, I ordered the chicken nachos (Individual tortilla chips baked with cheese and topped with seasoned ground beef, shredded beef, chicken or refried beans in any combination. Served with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo and jalapeño slices). I was really confused by the waiter’s follow up question, which was “Ok, did you want 5 or 10?” … what. I ordered 10, thinking I was only going to get 10 of the little tortilla chips like the ones on our table, but they turned out to be HUGE chips. Like, we’re talking taco shell-sized chips here. I definitely should’ve only gotten 5. The presentation was really pretty, but the nachos left a little something to be desired. And I definitely was not a fan of their guacamole, which had a paste like consistency to it (and flavor to match).

More like disappointment nachos.

More like disappointment nachos.

Ben ordered The Grande combination plate (Three enchiladas – one beef, one cheese and one sour cream chicken – a cheese chile relleno, tamale, crispy beef taco and guacamole). I was surprised by how much I liked the tamale–it was flavorful and not on the dry side like tamales tend to be. The cheese enchilada was seriously cheesy. They definitely did not skimp on the cheese. It also came with beans and rice, which were very good as well (but not anything special). The only thing Ben wasn’t a huge fan of was the beef enchilada, which he said was kind of dry. We were both too full to even try the beef taco, which came on its own separate plate, so I have no idea how that was.

When they say "Grande," they are not joking around.

When they say “Grande,” they are not joking around.

All in all, I’d say we had a pleasant experience at Abuelo’s, but I’m not in any hurry to go back. Partly because of the food, but mostly because I hate Myrtle Beach. Plus, I really prefer more authentic Mexican food to Abuelo’s Tex-Mexican fare.

Also this creepy statue

Also this creepy statue

Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy
740 Coastal Grand Cir
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
(843) 448-5533

Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy on Urbanspoon

La Norteña

I have a new favorite mexican restaurant in Charleston. Technically, it’s in North Charleston, but it is 1000% worth the drive out to Rivers Avenue. Other than Real Mexico in Columbia, I think this is the freshest, most authentic tasting Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in a really long time… and I eat a lot of Mexican food.

Yeah, that's pretty accurate.

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.

I’ve been a bunch of times, so I have a lot of pictures to share. When you first get there, they bring you chips, salsa, and a plate with 4 different kinds of sauces. Many of them are spicy, so I’d recommend waiting until you have a drink in front of you before you try any of them. I really like the thicker red one, which has a nice smoky taste to it and the green goopy one because it isn’t spicy at all and is really refreshing and helps to put out the fire that the other start in your mouth.

La Nortena Sauces

The “goopy one” is the one at the very top, by the way.

When I went there last week with my dad, he wanted to try the shrimp cocktail, which came out more like a shrimp soup. It was served cold in a tomato sauce with pico de gallo, which kind of threw me off at first. I couldn’t really get over the cold tomato soup part, but the shrimp were cooked to perfection and tasted yummy. My dad said it was “very refreshing,” and ate the entire thing.

If the words "Cold Shrimp Soup" throw you off, you might not enjoy this.

If the words “Cold Shrimp Soup” throw you off, you might not enjoy this.

We also tried the guacamole which came with 3 chicken taquitos, which was kind of cool. I liked the taquitos and ate pretty much all of them immediately. The guacamole was good, but not the best guacamole I’ve ever had. Definitely better than most mexican restaurants, though. You could tell it was pretty fresh.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was in a hurry to get to eatin'

Sorry for the poor quality. I was in a hurry to get to eatin’

We also tried some of the tacos, which ranged from your normal chicken, ground beef, and pork, to more unusual options, such as beef tongue (lengua), beef cheek (cabeza), and beef intestines (tripa). We ordered three- al pastor, cabeza, and lengua. I loved the al pastor, which ended up being my dad’s least favorite. We both really liked the beef tongue (lengua) tacos, which had the taste and consistency of pulled pork. My least favorite was the beef cheek, as it was just a little too dry for me.

I have to say, eating tongue was not as gross as I expected.

I have to say, eating tongue was not as gross as I expected.

The first time we went, my mom ordered the barbacoa platter (marinated, shredded beef served with Mexican rice, refried beans, and a small salad), which I really liked, and I don’t usually like beef.

Also, they have amazing refried beans

Also, they have amazing refried beans

Ben always gets the enchiladas verdes with chicken because those are his favorite, and I love to steal bites from his plate because they’re so yummy. They’re listed on the menu as “your choice of four enchiladas topped with green sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and queso fresco. Served with choice of salad on top or Mexican rice.” I don’t know what the green sauce is, but it’s delicious. Ben always gets the rice, which is really yummy. Lots of times Mexican rice can be really dry, but the rice at La Norteña is never dry and always very flavorful.

I promise there are enchiladas under all that sauce.

I promise there are enchiladas under all that sauce.

When Ben was visiting with his friends from Auburn, we took them to La Norteña and they each got burritos. The burritos there are huge and they have seemingly endless options on what to put in them. Everything from cheesesteak, to fajita meat, veggies, beans… you can even get a seafood one stuffed with octopus, shrimp, and scallops. They opted for the basic Burrito La Norteña (Made with refried beans, Mexican rice, lettuce, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, and choice of meat filling) and raved about how delicious it was. Forgot to take a picture, so enjoy just screenshot from their menu.

Pixellated burrito!

Pixellated burrito!

I usually get the order al pastor (marinated, sliced pork and steak layered and slow-cooked on a rotisserie served with charro beans, sweet onions, cilantro, and soft tortillas). It’s my favorite thing and unlike anything I’ve eaten at other mexican restaurants. The charro beans (Delicious combination of bacon, chipotle sauce, beef franks, Mexican sausage, and onions) are like a Mexican version of beanie weenies, and are surprisingly good.

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On my most recent visit, I decided to be more adventurous and get something other than al pastor, so I decided to try enchiladas poblanas (four enchiladas with choice of grilled chicken or steak, topped with poblano sauce and cheese. Served with choice of salad on top or Mexican rice), with chicken. The poblano sauce turned out to be a mole-like sauce (savory chocolate sauce) which was pretty good. My only issue with molé sauce is that I really want to like it, but in reality I usually don’t. This one was good, but I don’t think I’d ever order it again. If you like mole sauce, then I definitely recommend you order this.

I love chocolate, so I don't understand why I don't love mole sauce.

I love chocolate, so I don’t understand why I don’t love mole sauce.

We also tried the Sopes once (specially made thick tortillas with your choice of meat with refried beans, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, and fresco cheese) with chicken, and it was good, but kind of strange. It was almost like eating a savory funnel cake.

Obviously I didn't take this picture.

Obviously I didn’t take this picture.

They also make pretty delicious margaritas. I tried a “Texana margarita” which is made with tequila and grand marnier, so it’s sweeter than your typical margarita. It was really good and they definitely give you your money’s worth of liquor.

It'll get you drunk!

It’ll get you drunk!

Basically La Norteña is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston. Even if I do have to drive all the way out to North Charleston to get there. Plus they have really awesome live music on Friday nights, and they have a special loyalty card where you buy 6 meals and your 7th one is free. How can you beat that?

Thank you Google Maps for being so creepy.

Thank you Google Maps for being so creepy.

La Norteña
6275 Rivers Ave
North Charleston, SC 29406
(843) 225-7055
La Nortena on Urbanspoon

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