Monday, October 29, 2012

Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe


If you've read my blog, you know that I am completely devoted to local (mostly) West Virginia restaurants. I have a few reviews that spill out onto Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. I don't see the point in reviewing a McDonald's or a Subway because you can get those anywhere in the country - or world!

I like devoting this little space on the web to highlight West Virginia specialties. Let's be honest, this state doesn't get a lot of positive attention, and there are a ton of great aspects - I choose to showcase those of the culinary variety.

But recently a friend asked me about Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe, located in the Suncrest Towne Centre. I told her not to go because it was a chain. Then I realized that I am pretty strict with the term "chain," and maybe I could loosen that a little bit. I've previously blogged about Five Guys because it was the first location I had ever been to in the state. And, there was quite a bit of buzz about it.

Since Taziki's only has two locations in West Virginia (one of which being in the Mountainlair), it makes sense to shine some light on it. I won't technically review it (and, thus, no grade) because I reserve that for West Virginia originals.

Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe has locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and, of course, West Virginia. The restaurant features fresh, Mediterranean cuisine - like gyros, salads, and sandwiches. They also have daily specials, which include pastas and more.

At the Suncrest location, you walk up to the counter, take a gander at the menu, place your order and find a seat. The Mountainlair is similar, but you wait there for your food. At the Suncrest location, they bring it to you. There is ample dining space, and it's kind of a nice, cool atmosphere.

My favorite item on their menu is the "grilled tilapia with caper-dill tartar sauce" under The Mediterranean Deli section. It comes with a choice of side: basmati rice, roasted potatoes, pasta salad, tomato-cucumber salad, or fruit. I like the pasta salad best.

The tilapia sandwich is fresh, and the tartar sauce gives it a bit of a kick. The pasta salad is fresh and zesty. They all come with Ruffles potato chips - which are good if you want that added crunch.

It's quick food that is more on the healthy side, and the interior is relaxing - I could see getting some work done here. Since it is the only full location in West Virginia, don't completely count it out.

Taziki's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Munchies

Munchies is located on Spruce Street in downtown Morgantown and is well-known for its "stoner" reputation. The restaurant is called "Munchies," they have Dazed and Confused and other popular movies centered around marijuana posters on the wall, and the burgers are named things like "Chronic."



The Chronic Burger is exactly what I got. As their specialty, the Chronic Burger boasts BBQ sauce, onion rings, bacon on top of two cheeseburgers. They have a minimum of $4 for credit card purchases, but my sandwich and water came out to be about $8, so no worries there. I left the counter for a table and waited for the food, which took a little while. It's scarcely decorated, save for the posters on the wall. Plain black chairs with semi-dirty tables. It was also pretty smokey inside - from the grill, that is. Not the other kind of smoke.

Our burgers were brought over in small styrofoam containers. It seems as though everything is packaged to-go, even though they have a few tables inside and some room in front of the grill to sit.

But the burger was good, and I can count the amount of times I've had a burger without my typical ketchup and mustard combo I tend to use. That crunchy onion ring was a great texture with the melted cheese and burger. Some parts of the burger were a bit more charred than I would have liked, but there was enough BBQ sauce to camouflage that. The flavors worked well between the salty bacon, crisp/sweet onion rings, tangy BBQ sauce, smooth cheese and juicy burger. Homemade? Doubtful. Decent for a small dive restaurant? Yep.

Grade: B
Munchies on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bluefield Edition: Sunny Days

Sunny Days is in the Mercer Mall and serves up typical food court fare: nachos, burgers, ice cream and a sign that says best hotdog in town.

Challenge accepted.

I walked up to the counter to place my order. It's really a pretty small area - only a few tables. And it's kind of right in the middle of the mall. It's awkward to see people walking by, and it's almost as if you're in their way. But anyway.

I ordered a hotdog with their homemade chili, slaw, onions and mustard. They also had chocolate-covered strawberries on the counter, so I ordered one of those, too.

The girl made the hotdog, handed it to me, and luckily, a seat opened up that I grabbed right away. I watched some of the WVU game while taking a bite of my hotdog. It actually wasn't bad, I was quite surprised. The chili had a good texture, and the slaw was perfect.

However, the place doesn't look the cleanest. The carpet is muddled with god only knows what, and the trash can looked like it had run its course. The tables were all dirty and pieces of debris were everywhere.

But then, the owner, or what I assume to be, decided that would be an ideal time to walk around the tiny dining area to spray air freshener at table's height. He continued to walk around every crevice, and I ultimately shot him a dirty look. I went to take a bite of my hotdog - nothing but floral taste and hotdog texture. Ugh.

Yes, it needed air freshener. No, it did not need it at table's height - aka right where my food is - at that moment. I was honestly shocked he thought that was okay. He apologized, but I threw the rest of my food away.

Grade: D
Sunny Days on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Princeton Edition: El Dorado

The now-defunct Pizza House (short-lived, eh?) location has been replaced by El Dorado in the Princeton Kroger plaza. El Jaripeo closed, and that management opened this new Mexican restaurant (I'll tell you how I know all of that for sure later), El Dorado. So, Pizza House and El Jaripeo are both closed, and in the same building as Dragon Palace (1295 Stafford Dr) is now El Dorado.

It is quite nice looking inside. Lots of plants decorated divider ways, buttery-yellow walls and spacious dining areas. There are some booths along the wall, but for the most part, there are tables and chairs. There's a bar area hidden by faux-cement blocks. The menu is glossy with a notebook binding.
We took a booth and were served some chips and salsa. I asked for some queso as well. It was all pretty good - the salsa had a strong presence of cilantro, but it was mild and palatable. The queso was good, too. A little less flavor, but still good.

Looking at the menu, I wanted to try their specialty, of course. It was the "Molcajete," which is served in a volcanic stone dish. It has grilled beef, chicken, pork, shrimp all cooked with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, squash and mushrooms. It's topped with cheese and faja salad ($12.99). Our waiter looked at me and said that's all we needed; Chris hadn't ordered yet. The waiter continued on, saying it was huge. I hesitated, but I hadn't really had a backup option, so I decided to get it anyway and opt for leftovers. Chris got a seafood dish, with shrimp, crab, scallops and tilapia. 

When our two dishes came on, I was sure our table was going to catch on fire. Everything was steaming like crazy, and this giant pig-shaped dish was just bubbling and oozing cheese. I let it sit for a long time before trying it. I wasn't too impressed, really. It was all those items, but no spices, herbs, great flavor going on here. It's a bunch of meat mixed together with some veggies, but a sauce or some great spices could have made it a more cohesive dish. I guess it's their specialty more because it's so big, not necessarily the flavor. I tried some of Chris' though, and it was tasty. 

Both of our dishes were served with some warm tortillas, so I used some of the "faja salad" - which was another plate full of lettuce, tomato, rice, refried beans and guacamole - to make four small tacos. I'm not sure why they only gave four for such a big dish, but so be it. 

I got another plate and emptied the stone full of food onto it to help make a larger surface area so it would cool down. I just wanted it to stop bubbling so it would be safe to put in the styrofoam to-go box. In the process, I decided I wanted dessert. Duh.

They had fried ice cream, flan, sopapilla, but the churros caught my eye: fried pastry dough with a fruit filling, covered with cinnamon-sugar and served with a scoop of ice cream, honey and a cherry. One, please.

Our waiter brought out this behemoth of a dessert. And I was happy. The churros were cooked a liiiittle too long, as they were kind of hard and not pastry-like soft, but it was still good overall. The ice cream was fried, and it was actually strawberry, with hunks of strawberries in it. Yum! It was a decadent dessert, but it was delicious.

Now is when it got interesting, our waiter asked how the dessert was, and I said great. He then said "Can you taste the arsenic?" I paused for a split second and said "not yet," laughing it off. He then continued on, saying it was roofied and just trying to be funny, I suppose. This went on for a few minutes, so I changed the subject, asking about the restaurant. Turns out he is the son of the owner. He told me his mom owns it, and his step-father is Mexican, thus the Mexican restaurant. "Why else would you see one white guy working here," he said. He also said they hired a gay filipino - something that would probably be offensive to some people to so bluntly talk about people as if that's their only identity. 

I didn't take much offense to it then. I thought he was kind of fun. He's young, so hopefully he figures out who he can talk to like that and who he can't really quickly. As we were leaving, that filipino guy winked at Chris. I then put my arm around him, and the guy goes, "aw, you share, right?" And that was my trip.

Grade: B
El Dorado on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bluewell Edition: Dick's Swissburger

When Chris was at work recently, I wanted to explore the area. I usually don't do this without him because 1- I get lost easily 2- I am bound to always get lost. But he was working one of those 12-hour days, and I was wanting something other than McDonald's or Wendy's for lunch. A friend suggested Dick's Swissburger. I had heard of this place, but the only address I could find for it was "Rt 52 N," which doesn't give me much to work with. However, with my handy-dandy iPhone, my friend dropped a pin on the map so I could find it exactly.

From Princeton, it wasn't too tough to find. I went past the mall, made the next right to go toward Bluefield. Then I was on the main drag in Bluefield and made a left to go up a small hill (across from Bluefield State College) and across that bridge for a little while until Dick's Swissburger was on my right.

I actually saw the sign first and had to look for the building - it's kind of swallowed up by the larger building beside it. But I pulled up and it's kind of an empty lot - maybe park wherever you want? There was one spot open at the front so I parked and went inside.

As soon as you walk in, there's a bar area where you order your food. A few menus are up at the front. I went for, you guessed it, the Swissburger - 1/2 pound beef, lettuce, swiss cheese, tomato, mayo, onion, pickle and mustard. For $5. They only take cash here - luckily, I stole a few bucks from Chris JUST IN CASE this was the case. And it was.

The two women working were super nice and helpful. I told them I'm not from the area, but I heard good things so I wanted to check it out. They made some small talk with me about WVU and my nail polish, then I went to find a seat. It seems as though they have two main dining areas - two small rooms. One is at the very front with some windows, while the other is window-less. The tables and chairs are basic for a burger joint. I only waited a few minutes before one of the women brought me a basket cradling the massive burger I just ordered.

Their burgers are made with seasoned angus, and you can certainly taste the beef. It's not overpowered by any of the condiments, so if you want a huge slab of meat, this is your place. Everything was really tasty, too. I don't know if I've had a burger with just swiss, sans cheddar/American, but it was good. It was melty and warm and coated the meat in that slightly sweet, creamy cheese. Ingredients were top-notch - fresh tomatoes, lettuce, etc. The burger here is clearly the star, though. That flavor is most prominent. I actually added a little ketchup because they had some at the table. I couldn't even finish this burger, so I got a to-go box. The service was awesome, and the food was great. Want a good, homemade burger? This is your place. This is everything I love about West Virginia restaurants - quality food, awesome service and the rest is up for grabs.


Grade: A
Dicks Swissburger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wong's Wok

I'm at the point in my blog where I've visited most of the mainstream restaurants in town, and I'm now venturing those bar/grills (meaning, a bar with about five food items) and, now, the mall food court. But it was actually a pretty good decision.

Morgantown's mall is fairly small, especially for a college town, so there are only a handful of options in the food court. There are four that aren't major chains: Wong's Wok, Fuji Grill, T&L hotdogs, and Just Desserts. My friend that I was with is doing a "low carb" thing, so we were sure we would have to look outside the mall. But as we were walking around, we saw that Wong's Wok advertised a "Non-Carb Menu."

We got in line, and before we knew it, we were already at the front. It is extremely fast; it might be good to have an idea of what you want beforehand. They have a few options: 1 entree with rice/lo mein, 2 entrees with rice/lo mein, or 3 entrees with rice/lo mein. I wasn't completely certain what their entrees were because the line moved so fast. But they are up on the wall. So, I asked for sesame chicken, general tso's chicken and lo mein. Also, I got an order of cheese wontons. Plus a drink.

My order came to $12.37, but they don't give receipts. I took my tray back to a table to uncover my lunch. They are pretty large portions, especially for "lunch." The box was filled with a bed of lo mein, and each type of chicken was two large, heaping spoonfuls on top of the lo mein.

To my surprise, it was all pretty tasty. Granted, this is not authentic; this is Americanized Chinese food in every sense of the word. But I'm not ashamed to admit I like it. The chicken had the perfect amount of crispness, with a thick, spicy sauce over it. I couldn't sense much difference in the sesame chicken and general tso's - but it's pretty similar anyway. Tangy sweet sauce over chicken. The cheese wontons were even pretty good - ample amount of cream cheese filling.

Next time I'm in the mall around lunchtime, I'm headed here (after I try the other three places, of course).

Grade: A
Wong's Wok on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bent Willey's Red Zone Sports Bar

Bent Willey's is the nightclub for 21+ college kids. That's not my scene. But Bent does serve pizzas late night, when drunk patrons need some food. When you've been drinking, sure they taste fine. So, I'll combine that review with this one.

Bent now has an extension called Bent Willey's Red Zone Sports Bar, which is underneath the main Bent Willey's area. And it's open for lunch and has a bazillion TVs.

As a side note, Vintage Room is also owned by the same folks, but it's a finer drinking establishment, and they, too, are known for their pizzas. But that's a more separate restaurant that I've already reviewed.

Again, Bent just has pizzas for the late-night drunken kids. This new sports bar portion has an actual menu and is open for lunch. When we walked in, it was pretty bare. It's still very new, though. TVs are plastered everywhere, and there were a few games set up to play. A waitress came over to us as soon as we sat down and handed us their menus. She suggested their wings and potato skins. I was more interested in their pizza, since it seems to be a running theme.


My two friends had their food delivered way before mine. The waitress apologized about four times, which honestly started to make me uncomfortable, but when it finally came out, it looked pretty good. It was fairly large. I'm not sure if Vintage/Bent/Red Zone share a kitchen or not, or at least Bent/Red Zone, but the pizzas seem a little different. While Bent's seem like large, NY, flat slices, the Red Zone's are big smaller, but parmesan cheese was all over it, including the crust.

It was tasty - the sauce is their homemade sauce they use at Bent. It's more tomato-y and less marinara. It's hearty, acidic. But it's a decent pie overall. I also tried Tony's potato skins - they were okay. I wouldn't order them again. And he got the sweet chili wings, which were probably the best item I tasted. Not a homemade sauce, but decent.

It's basically a run-of-the-mill, mediocre sports bar. Lots of TV. Lots of decent food. I won't seek this place out again, but it wasn't a waste of money either.


Grade: C

Bent Willey's Red Zone Sports Bar on Urbanspoon