Joey’s By the Shore

64 Compo Beach SWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 227-5356
 

They kinda have you by the balls and they know it, so don’t expect anything above cafeteria-grade grub. But you’re on the beach with no other options within a mile, so just go with it. Unless you were smart enough to pack tastier options in your cooler or are willing to bite into a seagull.

Inside, it is a sweaty, under-dressed, over-merchandised, fast food hell with very few choices that are under 5,000 calories of deep-fried sin. From fries, to chicken fingers to fried oysters and onion rings. Burgers and hot dogs, grilled cheese, buttered lobster rolls. It’s definitely not the place to go if you want to look svelte in a bikini. That said, there are wraps and deli sandwiches and watermelon to help keep you from porking out too, too much.

Conversely, there’s a whole other side solely dedicated to sweets and ice cream. And while this does nothing to move the needle toward healthy options, there is Chloe’s Real Frozen Fruit, which is the lesser of evils and one of the better things you can get there in terms of both health and taste, with the exception of the watermelon, I suppose.

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Kerby Lane Cafe

2606 Guadalupe StAustin, TX 78705 • (512) 477-5717 • kerbeylanecafe.com

Just steps away from the University of Texas campus, Kerby gets a ton of business from students who are either nursing a hangover or feeding the munchies. And as a result, the reviews on Yelp are insanely skewed if you ask moi.

The queso is not the second coming. It’s just okay and nowhere near as good as the hype makes it out to be. It’s way too watery and compared to Torchy’s, let’s just say it gets torched.

The pancakes are crap. Dry and flavorless. Don’t let that picture fool you. The Cinnamon Roll being only marginally better than the Lemon Poppy, but that’s not saying much. In fact, I think Kerby owes my stomach a formal apology for these discs of disappointment.

Also unworthy of my jaw muscles was the Cuban benedict, which sounds great on laminated paper, but is so overcooked you’d think they were try to kill the chicken who laid the eggs.

The only thing I can say was even mildly decent was the green chili mac & cheese with fried chicken. It’s good. But even that needed extra chili to give it enough kick. I did like how the fried chicken remained crispy even though it sat in a bowl of creamy mac though. What I did not like is that the mac and cheese is school cafeteria grade. And what I actually hate is when a typical diner gets inflated into a legend.

Little Barn

1050 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8501 • littlebarnct.com

I dig the roadhouse vibe of this place, but unlike the Patrick Swayze movie, this one dispenses with the bikers and the topless women and replaces them with a setting that’s civil enough to take the kids. Service is also kid-friendly and attentive. Making it a solid go-to for a family dinner with the young’uns.

I partook in the Shroom Burger, which I have to say was very good. Everything you would want, but nothing more than you might expect. Served with decent helping of sweet potato fries that’ll hit the spot.

The fish tacos were messy as all get out and lacking in the salsa/heat department, but the fish was perfectly cooked, so at least there’s that. Not the place I would go for Tex-Mex though when you’ve got Bar Taco just up the road.

For beer, I tried the Mama’s Yella Pils, a Czech inspired pilsner that could use a little more inspiration, because it ain’t no Urquell or Staropramen.

Hit and miss for certain, but I’m definitely a fan… in the right context.

The Original Pancake House

22 E Bellevue Pl. Chicago, IL 60611 • (312) 642-7917originalpancakehouse.com

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Amidst the like likes of Prada, Ted Baker, Jil Sander and Armani you will find an oddly located, old-school pancake house smack dab in the middle of the Viagra Triangle (it gets its name from the fact that there are a lot of wealthy, older gentlemen partaking in high class escort services in the hotels that triangulate this area).

Hookers aside, there really is some great shopping to be had and if you want to hit the stores early, there are few places that are better to power up than The Original Pancake House (which technically isn’t the original, which opened in Oregon). But “early” is the key word here people, because not only does the early bird get the worm, it also gets a table without having to wait an hour.

Yes, this place packs ‘em in all these years later because they have a good thing going and they keep it that way. Been almost twenty years between the last time I visited and just now and they haven’t lost a step.

My strong recommendations are the pancakes, obviously, and specifically the pumpkin pancakes when in season (they are pretty famous for their apple pancakes as well). But the other call that might seem less obvious are the baked eggs. I’m not sure how they do it, but they bake their omelets instead of frying them and while you might think that would make them less flavorful, it’s quite the contrary. They are chock full and fluffier than a Pomeranian after losing a battle with a blow dryer. So pick whichever one tickles your fancy from veggie to western to spinach and feta- it doesn’t matter. It’s all good and probably the best thing you can buy in the neighborhood for under $100. That was intended to be a shopping joke, not about the escorts. Although I suppose it covers both.

5 teeth

Hominy Grill

207 Rutledge Ave. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 937-0930hominygrill.com

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A bit more toward the outskirts of town, we decided to make the jaunt over here because everyone said this was the best breakfast in town. And judging from the ever-present crowd, it seemed ever-promising. After all, how could 1400+ Yelpers be wrong? But either the other breakfast places in town are atrocious or the breakfast standards in the South have plummeted, because it pains me to say that this is your VERY average diner. The eggs are eggs and the grits are grits. Even though according to the waitress they were “the best grits in town,” even topping the ones at Husk. They are not. In fact, they are not even in my top ten, bested by places all over the map, from Texas to Florida and up to New York. For shame!

The homemade sausage has a nice little kick to it, but tastes no better than some of the better pre-packaged stuff out there these days. The home fries are decent too, but the only thing I can honestly say makes this place worth the trip are their biscuits (pictured). As Tina Turner would say, they are Simply the Best. In fact, they just might be the best biscuits I’ve ever had. But even as magically moist as they were, I can’t honestly say they carried the rest of the over-hyped meal.

2 teeth

Russ & Daughters Cafe

127 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002(212) 475-4881russanddaughterscafe.com

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The kosher deli is like the tiger of restaurants, loved, but rapidly nearing extinction. As cited by the documentary Deli Man (an obscure Netflix gem), kosher delis in New York alone, have gone from over 1500 in number back in 1931, to today’s very depressing stat of just 21 establishments left. So, call it my Jewish guilt or moral obligation, but I felt the need to help turn the tides by turning my kids onto the glory that I lovingly call “Jew Food.” A cuisine unlike any other, that I have adored since childhood. But sadly, like many other bad Jews (apparently), I haven’t been back in years. Which is a shame, because there’s really no good reason. It’s not like going to Synagogue or anything. It’s actually quite enjoyable. And downright sinful.

Well, also turning the tides is a modern-day twist on the kosher deli, paying faithful homage to its diner roots, while also feeling contemporary somehow at the same time. That’s Russ and Daughters, a beacon of hope for the “chosen” cuisine.

Speaking of chosen things, our first choice was the Pastrami Russ, a small but crazy good sandwich made with their unique salmon pastrami, cucumber, coleslaw and deli mustard all on a cigar-sized pretzel roll, served next to a mountain of homemade waffle potato chips and a half sour pickle that also rocks. Mad mazels on this one.

But as good as the Pastrami Russ was, the Latkas stole the show. Easily the best I’ve ever had, done up at least a half inch thick with a hard, crusty outer layer and moist, fuffy innards. It’s Ultimate Latka perfection. Also, we had ‘em both ways, the new fangled crème fraiche and salmon roe way, as well as the ole tried and true apple sauce way. Both are good, but the kid in me still leans toward the classic A-sauce.

And while we’re on the topic of classics, the Classic Board with Nova, tomatoes, capers, red onions, cream cheese and an everything bagel was also very good. Not quite as inventive as some of the other twists, but as solid as you’ll find anywhere else in the city, Essa included. Granted the Nova is very lightly cured though, so nowhere near as salty as you might be used to.

Lox, eggs and onions were good, but not great. Partly due to the less salty lox, which is what makes this dish normally shine, ya know, cuz salt and eggs and all. That said, the rye bread that comes with it is another Ultimate. So flavorful and packed with texture. In fact, we loved it so much we walked up the street after breakfast to the Russ & Daughters store on Houston to buy a loaf. And my god is that thing dense. One loaf probably ways as much as a Mini Cooper.

We ended the meal on a duo of dishes from the “Sweet” column, the first being the Chocolate Babka French toast. Yes Challah, you just got trumped. Topped with fresh strawberries and sidled up next to a ramekin of sweet cream- no need for syrup on this thing. It’s richer than Daddy Warbucks.

Yet as wonderific as the Babka French Toast was, the kosher purist in me still found the Noodle Kugel to be the shiznet. It’s like muscle memory for your taste buds, bringing you back to that sweet noodle lovin’ fro your childhood that you just can’t deny. And wow did that sound way more child molesty than intended.

All in, Russ is tops in my book. Even if Gweneth Paltrow likes it too. From the incredibly fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices to both Ultimates I mentioned above to their caviar cream cheese that needs to make its way from store to café (hint-hint Russ).

4 teeth

Tick Tock Diner

481 8th Ave. New York, NY 10001(212) 268-8444ticktockdinerny.com

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Unofficially, I believe the name is derived from the fact that if you eat here, the clock is running on how much time you have left to live. Okay, so that’s probably not entirely true. It’s probably how much time before you become ill, which for me was only a matter of seconds, stepping in to the sauna-like dining room, which a term way too nice for whatever this was. “Eating area” I will call it.

So, the eating area is actually quite packed during the breakfast rush, for reasons which escape me entirely, because the food is god awful. Granted our career waitress who has been there since the day it opened 17 years ago was very nice. And apparently she squeezed the oranges herself to make the fresh squeezed orange juice I ordered. The issue, however, is that you need to start with good oranges in order to get good juice. After all, it’s not like the process of fresh squeezing miraculously transforms a pile of shit oranges into liquid gold. Thus, the fresh squeezed orange juice was plus rapidly turned minus.

And equally tragic was the Greek omelet, which was so disappointing it almost rivaled the economic issues in Greece as the lowest point in the nation’s modern day history. Filled with feta, spinach, olives and tomatoes it was so flavorless I could’ve closed my eyes and had someone told me it was a plain omelet, I wouldn’t have even questioned it. I guess this place is as terrified of salt as they are of buying fresh produce?

Suffice it to say, this place isn’t going to be raking in the knives, so if you are already sitting in the eating area and are reading this now, get out while you still can! Tick tock!!!!

1 tooth

Canuck

Vancouver Airport • 3211 Grant McConachie Way Richmond, BC, Canada V7B 1M8

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There is a surprisingly thin selection of places to sit and grab a bite to eat in the morning at the Vancouver airport. So, unless you want to try your luck at Tim Horton’s or Burger King, I’m afraid your mouth just got backed into a corner. A corner that serves supermarket orange juice and French Canadian toast that tastes like empty calories and a poor interpretation of the breakfast classic, even with the addition of the Great White North’s bounty, maple syrup.

The breakfast sandwich, however, is much better, made on a brioche roll with a runny egg, marinated mushrooms, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. It’ll do the trick, but it’s not exactly something you would ever swoon over unless you’re nursing a hangover.

Décor is non-existent, assuming you don’t count giant flat screen TV’s playing hockey games as decor, service is friendly and there’s nothing else to really say about this place apart from the convenience of being near your gate.

2 teeth

Sweet Hollow Diner

100 Broadhollow Rd. Melville, NY 11747 • (631) 549-0768

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Ya know those pathetic diners in movies where the criminals are on the run and they stop to get bite? Or the place bad buys meet up to talk over a plan? Or the place where undercover cops meet with informants so as not to draw any attention to either of them? That’s this place. No, you won’t even find Guy Fieri caught dead at this joint, because it’s even below his standards, appealing to the absolute lowest common denominator possible. Granted I’ve eaten there twice, so what does that say about me? Although the pickens are pretty slim in Melville and I was outvoted the second time.

In terms of what to get, I recommend getting as far from here as possible. But if you’re like me and find yourself stuck here by reasons beyond your control, than I’ll tell you what not to get, the only two things I’ve ever had here, which are a grilled chicken sandwich and a Greek salad, both of which were like eating a nightmare. Chicken so dry you could use it as chalk to write “Help!” on the menu board, served with your typical, soggy diner plank fries. Or you can opt for the over ripe fruit salad, depending on your mood. And should you go for salad-salad, like the Greek, you can look forward to limp lettuce, bitter grape leaves, canned olives and a dressing that almost makes matters worse.

If you respect yourself, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and avoid this place at all costs. Even jump out of a moving car if you have to and head to the Starbucks down the street. You’ll thank me for it. After the abrasions heal.

1 tooth

The Egg & I

1601 Q St. Ste A Lincoln, NE 68508 • (402) 476-3444 • theeggandirestaurants.com

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I’m guessing this place does well with the college kids, because it’s like a Denny’s, but without the chain stigma or the racism. Granted I didn’t actually witness them serving any African Americans, so perhaps this is an unfair assumption. That said, my waitress was so incredibly friendly I can’t imagine her harboring such demons. But then again, she was suspiciously nice, which leads me to believe she is hiding something.

Located in a strip mall down the street from Nebraska U, the Egg & I reads like your typical small-town diner and it tastes like it too. And even though I appreciated inventive attempts like their apple cinnamon granola pancake, the execution fell just short of the mark, the granola coming out soggy, more like oatmeal, as opposed to crunchy, which would’ve made for a nice textural contrast. On the flip side, they probably should’ve skinned the apples, because that was a textural element that wasn’t so ideal. The flavor of it was good though, so no complaints there.

And no complaints on the side of bacon and eggs either, both cooked just the way I like them- Okay so there’s one tiny complaint, the eggs were in dire need of salt, so make sure the shaker at your table is full, because the chef is definitely in the do-it-yourself camp.

My biggest gripe, however, was with the orange juice. Being a Florida boy in my formative years, OJ was practically a religion down there, so anything less than fresh squeezed is blasphemy. Even Odwalla. Sorry, but what are we, animals?

I can’t say I’d recommend The Egg & I to anyone passing through, but if you’re a student on a budget, still hung over from fraternal hazing rituals, than I say, what’ve you got to lose? But if you’re aiming higher, aim elsewhere.

2 teeth