Posts Tagged ‘Onion Rings’

Clare and Carl’s – Plattsburgh, NY

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by virginia

Our drive to Canada wouldn’t have been an official road trip without first consulting one of my favorite resources, There weren’t too many options on I-87 before we crossed the border so I ended up researching a few places in Plattsburgh, the last “big” city we would pass through in NY. The regional food of choice there is the Michigan, a hot dog covered in chili.

We planned to leave our house early enough to get to Plattsburgh for a late lunch. An unexpected detour through Schenectady slowed us down a bit (we missed a turn somewhere in Albany and ended up getting on I-90 by accident) so we were hoping to make a quick pit stop at Clare and Carl’s roadside stand for some hot dogs before continuing on our way.

As we entered Plattsburgh, I did a quick search on Josh’s iphone for the address and came up with 2 Dock Street. The GPS directed us to a spot right on the shores of Lake Champlain. However, we didn’t see any hot dog stands nearby. Baby J was starting to fuss so I fed her while Josh got out of the car to investigate. He found an old abandoned and condemned building that had Clare and Carl’s signage nearby in the parking lot, but we were clearly at the wrong place. I re-googled the correct address, and fortunately, we weren’t so far out of the way.

It was gorgeous outside, sunny and warm, so we took a few photos by the lake before heading off. We finally found the right spot, and it was exactly what I was expecting – a nondescript building full of character on the inside.


Clare and Carl’s in Plattsburgh, NY

It reminded me of White Manna, our favorite spot for sliders. There was a long u-shaped counter, the menu on a board on the wall, and lots of old signs with humorous statements.


The menu board

We sat at the counter and placed our order, although there were a lot of people eating in their cars outside. We each got a Michigan, and we decided to share an order of french fries and onion rings. I was a bit worried about getting chili all over myself, but the Michigan was pretty delicious despite the messiness. The chili was meaty, well seasoned, hot, and had a little bit of a kick to it. We ordered it with onions on top, though the waitress said her preference is to have them buried under the chili. The bun was pretty generic, but the hot dog itself was a little disappointing – a bit mushy with no snap. It kind of got lost under all that delicious chili.

The Michigan - a chili covered hot dog with onions on top

The Michigan – a chili covered hot dog

The fries and onion rings were pretty standard, though well fried. They were piping hot and crispy, and the onion rings were made with real onions, not some sort of fake composite.

French fries

French fries

Onion rings

Onion rings

Overall I was really glad we stopped at Clare and Carl’s. It’s exactly what I think of when I think about road food. It was definitely a “local” place, as the waitress knew almost everyone who walked in the door by name. There was a lot of teasing and good-natured ribbing going on, and the food was pretty good. Was it the best chili hot dog I’ve ever had? Probably not. The chili was great but the hot dog was a bit lacking. But it was quick, cheap, satisfying, and an enjoyable experience.

Clare and Carl’s
4729 NY-9
Plattsburgh, NY

Hilton Head 2011 Day 2 – One Hot Mama’s

Saturday, September 17th, 2011 by virginia

One of the restaurant suggestions made to us by a reader was One Hot Mama’s, a barbecue restaurant whose chef, Orchid, participated in The Next Food Network Star competition. I don’t watch that show so I had no idea who she was, but the menu looked good and I always like to try barbecue when we’re in the south.

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations but you can call ahead and put your name down, telling them approximately what time you want to come by. They’ll try to accommodate you as best as they can but it’s not a guarantee. Since we had 15 people in our group, we ended up waiting past the time they said to come in. We actually ended up splitting up into two separate tables to shorten our wait. The “kids” sat at one table while the adults sat at the other.

We decided to get a few appetizers to share. The restaurant offers a wide variety of wings, including their award-winning “Hot Asian” wings, so we knew we had to try some of them out. We ended up getting a mix of Hot Asian, Backyard BBQ, and regular Buffalo wings. The Hot Asian and Backyard BBQ wings ended up being pretty similar. They both had a smokey grilled flavor and sticky sauce, though I think the Hot Asian wings were a tad sweeter with maybe just a hint of spice. The buffalo wings were pretty standard with a vinegary buffalo sauce that had a decent kick to it but wasn’t too spicy. They were served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks on the side.

Hot Asian and Backyard BBQ wings

Buffalo wings

We also shared a platter of pulled chicken nachos. The chicken was tender and flavorful, and there was lots of it piled on top of the tortilla chips. There was also cheddar cheese sauce, melted monterey jack, pico de gallo, scallions, and jalapenos. The flavors were well balanced and we ended up polishing off the entire plate.

Pulled chicken nachos

Josh and I wanted to try as much of the barbecued meats as we could so we split a rack of baby back ribs (also award winning) and a BBQ combo with hand pulled pork and sliced beef brisket. The rack of ribs was simply ginormous, and the meat was falling off the bone tender. It was slathered with Mama’s Red BBQ sauce, which was a good mix of sweet, sour, and spicy. I really enjoyed these ribs but there was so much food that we only ended up getting through half the rack. We boxed up the rest for lunch later in the week. The ribs came with a side of french fries (perfectly crispy but standard), honey jalapeno cornbread (a bit crumbly), and coleslaw (crunchy, tangy, and not too mayo-y).

Baby back ribs with cole slaw, fries, and honey jalapeno cornbread

The BBQ combo was also supposed to come with fries and cole slaw on the side but we were allowed to substitute for two other sides. We ended up choosing collard greens and macaroni and cheese. The collards were great – intensely leafy but not bitter at all and soft but not mushy. The mac and cheese had a nice tangy, cheesy flavor to it, and the pasta was perfectly al dente. It was a good combination of creamy and gooey, and one of the best mac and cheeses we’ve had. As for the barbecued meats, the pulled pork was soft and melt in your mouth tender while the brisket was smokey in flavor and quite tender as well. We did douse more barbecue sauce on both for extra flavor, a vinegary bbq sauce for the pork and more of the fantastic Mama’s Red BBQ sauce on the brisket. Again, the portions were enormous, and we took home lots of leftovers.

BBQ combo platter

Slice Texas beef brisket

Hand-pulled pork

Macaroni and cheese

Collard greens

We also got an order of onion strings to share for the table. In retrospect, that was definitely way too much food, but the onion strings were actually really tasty. They were very sliced thin, lightly battered, and perfectly fried to a nice crisp. The strings were not greasy at all, and they were perfectly seasoned. There was ranch dressing on the side for dipping but we were happy eating them plain.

Onion haystack

We were much, much too full for dessert, plus we had eaten Spiderman birthday cake before dinner. We also had tons of leftovers that we ended up doggie bagging for lunch later in the week. Overall I think everyone was pretty happy with the food at One Hot Mama’s. It wasn’t anything fancy but the food was hearty and solid. Prices were incredibly reasonable, especially for the amount of food we received. The only downside of the evening really was the fact that they don’t take actual reservations so we ended up waiting a long time, plus we had to split our party into two groups. Nevertheless, once we were seated, the service was fast and efficient, and the food was really good. Authentic barbecue? Perhaps not, but I’m no expert. I have to admit, I had some reservations, especially since the place and a commercial, chain restaurant vibe to it, but in the end, I was won over. I don’t know how well Orchid did on The Next Food Network Star, but I definitely have to give her props. I would happily come back here the next time we’re in Hilton Head.

One Hot Mama’s
7 Greenwood Dr.
Hilton Head, SC


Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by virginia

There have been lots of different burger chains popping up around NYC and northern NJ recently. It seems like I’m reading about a new burger place opening up every week. Smashburger was one of the chains that I’ve been really eager to try. It’s gotten good reviews from several sources, and I liked variety of toppings and side dishes available on the menu. One Saturday afternoon, Josh and I were left to our own devices in NJ and we headed to Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack to check out the Smashburger branch that was closest to us.

There was a relatively long line to order, though it moved fairly quickly. We had time to peruse the menu posted on the wall and make our selections. After we placed our order, we found seats and got sodas from the fountain. The food was delivered to our table shortly afterward (when you order, they give you a number that you display on your table so they know where to bring your food).

First up, the burgers, of course. I decided to create my own burger and chose a 1/3 pound patty on a classic egg bun with aged swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles.

A 1/3 pound burger with swiss

The burger was true to its name, smashed flat while it cooked so that the edges were crisped up and the patty had a somewhat irregular shape to it. However, I found it to be a bit dry and incredibly bland. The swiss cheese helped, as did the toppings, but I ended up drowning it in ketchup to add some much needed moisture and flavor. It just seemed like the meat hadn’t been seasoned at all before it was cooked, and I was pretty disappointed.

Autopsy shot

Josh also decided to create his own burger, choosing a 1/2 pound patty on an egg bun with sharp cheddar, bacon, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. He also got some smash sauce, which came on the side and tasted a bit like russian dressing. What we found weird with his burger was that even though it was a 1/2 pound patty as opposed to the 1/3 pounder I got, his burger was smashed to the same degree of flatness, meaning that his burger was much bigger in diameter. That would have been fine except they use the same exact bun, and the burger overhang was way out of proportion. So much of the meat was off the bun, and because it was smashed so thin, the patty fell apart right away. He ended up having mostly burger with no bun, and it was incredibly messy to eat. His patty was also pretty tasteless, and while the cheddar and bacon helped, the cheese barely covered half the meat, and the three strips of bacon were pretty paltry compared to the size of the burger.

A 1/2 pound burger with bacon and cheddar

For our sides, we got an order of smashfries. They were shoestring fries tossed with rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. I liked that the fries were thin and crispy but surprisingly, the rosemary and garlic detracted from their flavor. I think there was too much rosemary and not enough garlic, but the taste was also kind of artificial. The olive oil also made the fries seem extremely greasy. I was incredibly disappointed with these fries, and probably would have enjoyed the plain french fries much more.

Rosemary and garlic smashfries

The haystack onions were much better, with thinly sliced and battered onions fried to crisp perfection. The onion strings were well seasoned, and we gobbled down a good portion of the basket.

Haystack onions

We also got an order of fried pickles because, why not? The thin slices of dill pickles were also battered and fried, and I like the sourness mixed with the saltiness of the batter. The pickles still had a nice crunch to them, and they came with buttermilk ranch dressing on the side for dipping.

Fried pickles

Overall Josh and I were both pretty disappointed with our Smashburger experience. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, or even that good. The burgers were pretty dry and tasteless, and smashing the patty was pretty detrimental to the larger 1/2 pound burger. I did like being able to create my own burger and having lots of different options to choose from, but in the end, the burger just wasn’t that impressive. I was also unimpressed with the smashfries, though I did like the other sides we got, especially the haystack onions. Prices are pretty reasonable, starting at $4.99 for the 1/3 pounder and $5.99 for the 1/2 pounder. Cheese is included, as are basic toppings, but certain add ons cost extra. Sides average around $2 each, and portions are pretty big and easily shareable. They also have chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads available, but I’m guessing most people go to Smashburger for the burgers. Reading the menu now, it looks so good on paper. However, our experience just didn’t live up to expectations. I’m not really itching to go back, though I might give it another shot sometime just to make sure this wasn’t just a fluke. Otherwise, for me right now, it’s just another burger chain I can pass up.

Smashburger (multiple locations)
390 Hackensack Ave.
Hackensack, NJ

Del Frisco’s

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 by virginia

Del Frisco’s is a steakhouse in midtown near Rockefeller Plaza that Josh says is his favorite steakhouse in Manhattan. He goes to lots of steakhouses for work dinners and I never get to tag along, unfortunately. Josh has been raving about Del Frisco’s for years so I was thrilled when I finally got an opportunity to try it, because I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was all about.

The restaurant is huge, with two floors and a big bar that always seems to be packed, especially after work. The clientele is mostly business folks –  lots of people dressed up in suits, but the restaurant also appears to draw in tourists as well. We had a reservation for four (we were dining with Dave and Mike) and had to wait about 15 minutes before they seated us. We pushed our way to the bar and got a round of drinks. The hostess found us shortly afterward and we were shown to our table in the back. We kind of joked with our waitress that this was where they stuck the unattractive people, as we were pretty tucked away from the main dining room “scene.” To be honest, I didn’t mind – I preferred the dark nook in the back where we were seated because it was not as noisy, and we could actually hear each other without having to yell across the table.

We looked over the menu but basically all we were deciding was what cut of steak to get. We were at a steakhouse, after all. They had a few special cuts available (though Josh says they’re always the specials, so I wonder why they don’t just put them on the regular menu?) that most of us wound up ordering. We also got a few sides to share, and some crab cakes to start. The bread they served us was soft and fluffy, like large dinner rolls, which we tore apart and slathered with some sweet whipped butter.

Bread and sweet butter

The crab cakes were pretty fantastic. They were made from jumbo lump crab meat and basically had no filler in them. The crab broke off in huge, meaty chunks, and we could really taste how fresh the crab meat was. The large cake was sitting in a pool of remoulade sauce that was nicely seasoned and paired well with the sweetness of the crab.

Jumbo lump crab cake

Our steaks were served just a short while after they cleared our appetizer plates. When they bring your steaks, they have you cut into the meat right away so that you can see immediately if it’s done to your liking. I ordered my steak medium rare, and it was perfectly pink throughout, just the way I wanted it. It’s important to note, however, that the temperatures here are probably just a little under what you would normally expect, so adjust your order accordingly. Dave ordered the bone in filet mignon (one of the special cuts) medium rare as well, but he thought it was just slightly more rare than he preferred. Still, it was cooked exactly the way our waitress described it would be.

Bone in ribeye with a cut in the middle to check the doneness of the meat

Josh had suggested that I order the bone in ribeye, another one of the special cuts. It turned out to be the perfect choice – tender and flavorful, with little pockets of marbling that just melted in my mouth. I thought the ribeye was perfectly seasoned, with lots of cracked black peppercorns on top that added a nice bite. The meat itself was beefy and flavorful; it was pretty much the quintessential steak for me.

Beautifully cooked on the inside

Josh ordered the eight ounce filet mignon black and blue. It was cooked as requested and very tender. We ended up going halfsies, and while he loved the ribeye, I wasn’t a huge fan of the filet. Because it’s such a lean cut, I find the meat to be less flavorful. I think they tried to overcompensate for that and ended up over-salting the meat. I have a pretty high salt tolerance but I found the steak difficult to eat. Josh seemed to enjoy it, though he did prefer the ribeye. A little bit of fat really makes a huge difference flavor-wise I think.

Autopsy shot of the filet mignon

We ordered a few side dishes that were big enough to share. After they put a portion of each item on our plates, they left the platters on the table so that we could continue to serve ourselves family style. We ended up getting macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach with bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and onion rings. The macaroni and cheese was pretty fantastic, with lots of stringy cheese mixed throughout and just the right amount of creaminess. The creamed spinach was rich and flavorful, though the bacon might have been a bit overkill. The sauteed mushrooms were well seasoned and had a nice texture to them.

Macaroni and cheese

Creamed spinach and sauteed mushrooms

The onion rings arrived in an impressive tower, with large slices of onion covered in a light, crispy batter. While the batter was well seasoned and crunchy, it didn’t adhere well to the onions and completely fell apart once you bit into the onion ring. The onions themselves were also slightly undercooked and had a raw bite to them. Too bad, because they looked so good.

Tower of onion rings

We were pretty stuffed but made some room for dessert. We all shared a slice of lemon cake, one of the restaurant’s specialties. It’s a moist yellow cake with layers of lemon icing in between. It’s pretty rich, though the lemony flavor makes for a nice and bright finish. I also liked that it wasn’t too sweet or cloying.

Lemon cake

While we were eating our cake, Dave introduced us to a Canadian after dinner drink called blueberry tea. Surprisingly, the drink doesn’t involve blueberries. It’s two ounces of Grand Marnier and one ounce of Amaretto poured together in a large snifter glass. Then you add hot black tea (Dave used Earl Grey) on top of the liquor. The aroma is supposed to be similar to blueberries, though I found it more orange-y and fruity. Flavor-wise it was actually quite nice. I could taste the Earl Grey, which was slightly sweetened by the Grand Marnier, and the almond flavor of the Amaretto lingered on my tongue. I really enjoyed the blueberry tea and could see myself drinking this more often in the future.

Overall I really enjoyed the food at Del Frisco’s and thought their steaks were pretty top notch. While I don’t eat at a lot of steakhouses, I do eat a lot of steak and would happily eat that ribeye any day of the week. The crab cakes were wonderful, and I also enjoyed most of the side dishes. The menu is your typical steakhouse fare but they do execute it very well. Our waitress was friendly and had a good sense of humor, which was important when dealing with the corny jokes that were being made at our table. The restaurant “scene” itself at the bar and the outer room might be a bit much for me, but the in the end, food trumps all. I would happily go back, though the prices might make it a bit prohibitive. It was pretty expensive, almost shockingly so, but the food was really great. I can see why Josh thinks of this as the best steakhouse in Manhattan.

Del Frisco’s (multiple locations)
1221 6th Ave. at 49th St.
New York, NY