Terrain Garden Cafe

561 Post Rd E. Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 226-2732 • shopterrain.com

01-storepages_updates_wpcafe

As a store this place is lovely. Easily 5 knives. I mean just look at that picture! The setting will charm the pants off of you, so be sure to wear clean underwear. And if you’re decorating your house, your deck or your garden this is essentially Nirvana for Druids.  It’s also Anthropologie’s finest achievement to date, although & Co is opening soon, so TBD on that one. But I don’t do stores, so who gives a squat, right? I review restaurants and as far as this one goes, it could stand for some improvement, to put it mildly. Perhaps the people running the shop should take over the kitchen?

From the café, I thought the chai latte was good enough, but the croissants are crapsants. Chewy and doughy. And dinner doesn’t fare much better, the short ribs were overcooked and the burger and fries were just okay even though it had all the right stuff, from caramelized onions and sticky mushrooms to Swiss and the prerequisite brioche bun. Yet with all that, it somehow still didn’t hit the wow bar. Little Barn down the street has much better burgers if you ask moi.

The burger wasn’t alone though, because even the pear cobbler a la mode was equally lacking in flavor. Fortunately the wine was good and the service friendly, but if you ask me, your money is better spent on rustic pots, topiaries and terrariums.

2 teeth

The Commoner

458 Strawberry Way • Pittsburgh, PA 15219(412) 230-4800 • thecommonerpgh.com

gHF569L3

Located in the basement of the tastefully done Monaco Hotel, lies an equally tasteful restaurant with an industrial loft vibe about it, cool lighting fixtures and elephant-sized steel beams, showing off the pride of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately the taste doesn’t go much beyond the décor however, serving up some of the worst pancakes I’ve ever had. I know they look cool, stacked high and thick with a huge knife stabbed through the center, but they taste doughy and sad. Equally disappointing is their Arnold palmer which gets too tricky for its own good, yielding floral notes and other hints while leaving behind the flavor of lemon and tea. So what’s the point?

On the plus side, the green juice is made fresh to order and you can really taste it. And I mean really. For better or worse, because if you’re one to like your juice with a little sweetness or chill, you won’t find it in this glass of celery.

But in The Commoner’s defense, they do serve up a few things that aren’t so common (or average). For example the Messi Benny is pretty darn tasti. Made with chorizo, potatoes, peppers, onions and stewed tomatoes, all topped with a pair of perfectly poached eggs. It’s a tad on the oily side, but way on the kickin’ side. Good heat, great flavor and by far the best thing on the menu.

Back on the missy side though, the French Onion Soup Burger does everything right but taste good. Topped as the name suggests with caramelized onions, gruyere and aioli, but then stacked on a brioche bun way too big for its britches, overthrowing the burger and causing you to abandon ship, going open face just to get the balance back in order.

And last but not least, the final nail in the coffin is the painfully slow service. There were only six tables seated in the entire restaurant at the time and yet it took over an hour to get our food. Which I blame mostly on the kitchen, but then again, our server did little more than apologize as opposed to compensate. So I will do little to compensate on their knife count and give them what they deserve, two.

2 teeth

Justin Thyme

171 Grand St. Croton-On-Hudson, NY 10520(914) 271-0022dinejustinthyme.com

peanutbutter-burger-822

I can’t decide if the name is charming or cheesy, but either way, it definitely starts with “ch.” I am less conflicted about the outdoor seating, however, which is perfect in the summer, set under a huge tree, away from the sidewalk, shaded and overlooking a small town street. Plus, at night, they have strung lights in the trees making it an idyllic oasis around the clock.

Service also helps to keep you charmed, although they aren’t very helpful with the recos. Everything’s great and popular and wonderful. Which is probably the Prozac talking, but to be fair, the food can be quite good, depending on what you order. Case in point, my modest sampling of two dishes produced both an “mmm” and a “meh.” So amidst this 50/50 hit ratio I would recommend the lobster roll, served faithful New England style with mayo and celery atop a brioche bun as opposed to a long roll and plank fries as opposed to shoestring. It was very solid. Holding its own against the likes of Ocean House. My only nit would be the side of coleslaw. A touch too far on the creamy side for my tastes. I prefer the mustardy side, it’s right before the dark side and just after the wild side.

Speaking of sides, on the miss side, the apple crumble a la mode undid all of the good will the lobster roll had secured. It was soggy and the only thing crumbling about it was my impression of Justin. And the mode didn’t help much either as the ice cream tasted like Breyer’s.

So I’m torn between 2 and 3 knives, but it’s a pretty extensive menu, so I’ll have to give it another whirl and see if they can improve their batting average. In the meantime, if you leave nearby, I say do it. What’ve you got to lose? It’s not like Umami Café is flawless either. If you don’t live nearby, then I wouldn’t make a special trip. But if you’re on a day trip to Croton Beach, this is the perfect place to come for a late lunch/early dinner.

3 teeth

 

The Hollywood Brown Derby

Disney’s Hollywood Studios • Walt Disney World Resort • Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 • (407) 939-2267 • disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/hollywood-studios/hollywood-brown-derby

hollywood-brown-derby

Ever since I used to work at Disney’s MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and yes, that sentence just came out of my mouth, I have always wanted to eat here. Widely considered to be the best restaurant in all of the theme parks combine (not including hotels).

Well, some 25 years later, and no longer a turtle, I finally made it to lunch here, and I’m happy to report that it was worth the wait. Well, at least the food is, the service quite annoyingly slow. But after waiting 25 years, what’s another hour, right?

In terms of décor, while fake to the bone like all things Disney, it still passes as MUCH nicer than any other restaurant in all of Disney, hotels included this time, with the only exception being Victoria and Albert. Set to make you feel like you are back in the 50’s, eating at some Hollywood movie star favorite, the Derby delivers an experience that truly rivals The Palm. Granted I don’t love The Palm, so perhaps that isn’t saying much.

Now on to the grub! Which is more surprising than learning that Mickey Mouse is more often than not played by a girl. For example, their waygu beef burger holds its own amongst many of the so-called best burgers in the country. Topped with gruyere, pastrami, Cognac mustard and a fried egg this crazy-ass messy burger will take you right to the threshold of embarrassment as you will meld with this bun-filled beacon of beef like you were soul mates. Also, it comes paired with a beer called La Fin du Monde, which I also highly recommend for the melding process. It’s a French Canadian tripel, which means it’s a very strong ale… which means 9% alcohol… which is nearly twice that of a regular beer… which means you’ll need a nap later.

And equally impressive, but vastly different was the andouille crusted chicken sandwich with smoked bacon, white cheddar and veggie slaw all sitting on an onion Kaiser roll.

Now I’m not about to run back to Disney again anytime soon, but if I do, this will be higher on my list than that 3-D Buzz Lightyear shooting game, which really is quite fun, I have to admit.

4 teeth

 

The Collins Quarter

151 Bull St. Savannah, GA 31401 • (912) 777-4147 thecollinsquarter.com

l

This Australian transplant and relative newcomer is off to a pretty popular start because the place was packed from the time we arrived at 1:00pm to the time we left at 2:30pm. And for good reason, Collin has pretty great menu, cool decor and very friendly service, albeit a bit slow, but I’m guessing that was mostly due to how busy it was- a good problem to have if you are Mister Collin.

A lesser ideal problem is that they are a bit hit and miss.

Among the hits I would like to give a round of applause to the burger. It’s very, very good. Made from ground brisket, served on a brioche and topped with an onion aioli. But if you want to make it truly transcendent, I recommend adding bacon and taking that slaw on the “side” and putting it “on top.” There is a certain alchemy that takes place between great slaw and great meat that never ceases to amaze me. From Virgil’s pulled pork sandwich in New York City to Elizabeth on 37th’s pork chop with mac and slaw it’s a classic combination that could give Oreo and milk a run for its money.

Another apparent hit across the table was the Aussie Brecky. Basically a kitchen sink of brunchy-type things. Fried eggs, bacon, andouilli sausage, peppers, onions, etc… I only tried the bacon from it, but as bacon goes, and if it was any indicator of the dish at large, I’d say it was pretty darn good.

The miss, however was “The Catch.” A rotating dish based on the local fish market bounty. On that day it was flounder, set amidst fried eggs, potatoes and few other odds and ends that sounded better on the menu than they tasted in the field. And this is after having to add both salt and pepper to try and eke some flavor out of it.

But while we’re on the menu and talking about things sounding good, while I didn’t actually try it, there is a S’mores hot chocolate that has my name on it the next time I’m in town. It sounds pretty insane. I also hear their lavender latte is crazy sick as well.

3 teeth

Westchester Burger Co.

106 Westchester Ave. White Plains, NY 10601 •  (914) 358-9398westchesterburger.com
353 N Bedford Rd. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 •  (914) 218-3200

 fc-jeepney-videoSixteenByNine1050

Please don’t take these three knives lightly. I mean these guys custom season every burger to match its accoutrements. And as a result, there are burgers on the menu that easily make their way into the four knife realm. The problem, is that there are a lot of two knife burgers as well. And the sweet potato fries that everybody raves about are just “eh.” If you really want sweet potato fries to rock your world, go to Blue Smoke in Manhattan. Also, the shakes, while good, get by more on the guilty add-ins as opposed to the ice cream base.

But back to some of those four knife burgers… Numero uno would be the Napa Burger- WOW! Almost every time I don’t get this, I regret it. Fortunately it’s too big for my wife to finish, so I usually get a few bites anyways. So what makes this burger so good it guaranteed a return visit all on its own? Well, first, they marinate the patty in a Zinfandel sauce and top it with goat cheese and watercress- all aboard a sweet brioche bun. It’s somethin’ special.

Another high would be the Ba Da Bing, made with spicy Italian sausage, as opposed to ground beef, broccoli rabe, provolone, balsamic glaze all atop a focaccia bun. It’s quite inventive and quite good.

And coming in third for me would be the lamb burger served with squash and zucchini, a yogurt sauce and once again, focaccia. They can go a little crazy with the sauce on this one, so I’d recommend asking them to go light or to put it on the side.

In the middle of the road would be their namesake, the TWC – their classic with a twist, or as I like to call it, a high end Whopper. Good, but nothing I would ever order again.

Same goes for the Graziella, The Balboa and The Firehouse. Just nothing about any of them makes a big enough impression to make it worth ordering again. Especially the Firehouse. I mean with a name like that, you’re expecting some heat. C’mon, break out the habaneros or jalapenos or chili peppers- hell, break out something other than just chili.

Service was friendly and fast and they are always great with the kids. Decor is nothing THAT special, however. Not sure why so many people rave about how cool it is. Guess they don’t spend much time in the city… or at Chipotle. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s pretty normal by my standards. Like a Chipotle.

3 teeth

The Ravenous Pig

1234 N Orange Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789 • (407) 628-2333 • theravenouspig.com
20130513-111428

I’m not sure if the term gastropub has worn out its welcome yet, but this is a very good one should you happen to be a fan of the genre like I am. And a fan I was, from the very first bite of my soft pretzel dipped in their taleggio-porter fondue. Just genius. I mean I’m a huge fan of grain mustard with pretzels, which was the other dipping option, but next to that fondue, it went virtually untouched.

The pretzels were quickly followed by an order of densely packed crab cakes with a nice, crispy crust. They were a solid good, served with mache, almonds and a cilantro aioli.

And for our mains, we split two sandwiches, the king salmon and the brisket. Now normally I would say that brisket is going to when this battle 9 times out of 10, especially at a place called The Ravenous Pig, but that’s the great thing about life…and food… They both never cease to amaze. The salmon was the clear winner. So clear even if you had an oil tanker full of Windex you couldn’t make it any clearer. Just spot on, with its nice slab of perfectly cooked fish, crisp bacon, gribiche sauce and a brioche bun.

Whereas the brisket shat the bed. A touch on the dry side with the meat overpowering the accouterments so much so that not even the chimichurri could break through. Fortunately we has a bunch of left over mustard from the pretzels which helped to save it, otherwise I’m not sure I would’ve eaten more than a bite.

And finally, the banana bread dessert with toffee ice cream was a strong finish. Served warm with a crunchy top and soft, fluffy innards. Then mixed with the cool toffee cream. So good, even though I was full, I pushed through it like a… ravenous pig.

Service and décor were also good, granted the server pulled one of my biggest pet peeves, dropping the ball on a recommendation with, “everything’s good.” But he was very nice and accommodating so I’ll let him live.

4 teeth