I went to Ray's Place in Kent without TBG so I couldn't order as much food as normal. The happy hour prices were really good; half off already reasonably priced apps and $1 off draft beers. They have a pretty good selection of draft beers. We started with the feta tomatoe dip. It was very good. Fresh tasting and the pitas were soft and warm. Next we both got a bowl of chili with cheddar cheese and sour cream. It was suprisingly good. A little watery, but had a nice kick and plenty of cheese. With our chili we got a basket of sun stix, which are sweet potatoe fries. These were a little bland but they did come with some decent ranch dressing. We did not need the fries, but they were included in the half off apps. The basket was pretty big. TBG has been here before and also likes it. Ray's was mentioned on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network for their burgers. I would like to go back with TBG and order a burger. The resturant is pretty big with a bottom and top floor. The top floor includes a pool table and some video games, and both floors have a bar. Ray's is located on the back side of all the bars in Kent if you were interested in bar hopping.
We met friends in Lakewood to try out the Buckeye Beer Engine. It was packed when we walked in and we were informed of a 1 hour wait. We moved over to the large bar and ordered drinks. This proved to be difficult because of the HUGE beer list. We all ended up ordering drafts and loving them. They had a large selection of beers, seasonal, bottles and drafts. We sat down in a little under an hour and ordered three appetizers. The first is Beer Caps which is breaded and fried jalapenos with chipotle ranch dressing. We all liked them even tho some people thought they were a little too hot (not TBG). The next app was Buckeye Chips which were fresh made chips with wucumber sauce. The wucumber sauce is wasabi-cucumber and was great. The last app was the fried pickles. I loved them, not sure what makes them better than others but they were great. The pickles also came with the wucumber sauce.
Next came the entrees. The Beer Engine is known for their burgers so almost everyone got that. If you did not get a pickle for an appetizer, never fear because every burger comes with one. The fries are extra but are very good, nice and crispy. The first burger is the Blackened which has Cajun seasoning, grilled mushrooms, caramelized onions, and blue cheese. The burgers were cooked exactly as ordered and were very good, and pretty big. I did not order one because I knew I couldn't eat the whole thing. I also wanted to try one of the seasonal dishes. I ordered the chicken paperkash. It was ok, there was a lot of food but it was a little bland. The next burger is the West Side which is carmalized onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a pierogi! It was very good, the person who ordered it said the pierogi went so well with the burger. The last burger is the Southwestern which is roasted red peppers, pepper jack cheese, grilled jalapenos, and chili sauce. TBG really enjoyed it. The service was pretty good. The hostess took our names then gave us the beer list so we could look that over and order while we waited. She also offered to get drinks for us. Our server was prompt with food and new drinks after we sat down. The bartender was also good, they were out of the beer I ordered so she gave me a sample of another similar beer to see if I would like that before she poured me one. The staff was very knowledgeable and friendly. The atmosphere wasn't anything too special, but it didn't take away from the experience. Behind the bar was a full wall of taps and seasonal beer listings. The value wasn't too bad for what we got. We got great beer, lots of quality food, and good service. I would definately recommend The Beer Engine to anyone spending time in Lakewood.
I know there are a lot of chain restaurants out there that are also worthy of our time and money so I thought I would do a post about some of those! I would like to give a special mention to Starbucks for their pastries. They didn't make the top 5 but I do love to get a latte and giant scone when I am feeling spoiled.
#5. Taco Bell
Kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I know how horrible it is for you, and I usually feel pretty sluggish afterward, but I do love to indulge in Taco Bell from time to time. TBG usually makes fun of me, but hey, everyone has their strange loves! Everything on the menu is good (and almost the same thing). It's also cheap, so there is that...
When it comes to chain/fast food burgers Wendy's takes the cake for us. We love their new sea salt fries and the burgers always taste fresher than the other chains. I enjoy dipping my fries in their chili, and who doesn't love a frosty now and then! I never get them, but they do have an interesting selection of salads if that is what you like.
We LOVE bread. Panara is a natural favorite for us with their many delicious fresh baked goods. The coffee is pretty good too. The soup is always good (esp in a bread bowl!). There is a nice selection of light and heavy, breakfast and lunch. I also appreciate the "working" environment Panara has if needed. The catering is also good for a work lunch.
We love all of Chipotle's offered local meats. TBG likes the spicy salsa, guacamole and the chipotle Tabasco sauce. I just like the real beans and flavorful meat. I have heard they started offering brown rice. I will have to try it, but when you are consuming that many calories and other unhealthy foods, what's the point?
And the top chain is...#1. Penn Station
This is definately TBG's fave, but I like it too. We both usually get the same thing everytime we go here, but it is always awesome. I like the different sizes of sandwiches offered. The bread is great and always perfetly toasted. The amount of cheese is always perfectly gooey and melted. We do not get the fries, but they do offer fresh cut fries. I really like the fresh lemonade too.
All of these happen to be fast food type places. We do not go to the chain sit down places often. Usually we are shopping or traveling when we stop at a chain. What are your favorite chain places?
These cookies sound strange at first, and people give me strange looks when I tell them there is bacon in the cookies, but trust me they are great. Even if you do not particularly like dark chocolate, use it
anytime you want to combine chocolate and bacon, trust me on this one.
Makes 2 doz cookies
Ingredients: 1/2 c butter 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c sugar 1 1/8 c flour
1 egg 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda 8 oz dark chocolate chips
1/2 lb bacon, crispy 1/2 c brown sugar
Melt butter in a small pan. While it is hot add both sugars. Stir, then let cool a bit. If it's too hot it will melt the chocolate, but you don't want it to cool so much it turns solid again.
Mix the flour, soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl lightly beat the egg and add vanilla. Then add to the butter mixture. Stir well then add to the flour mixture. Stir well then add the chips and chopped bacon. You may want to add more chips or more bacon depending on how you like it. I like less chips and more bacon. Put into the refriderator for about an hour. When ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. I use a small cookie scoop to put small balls on my parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake for 7-12 minutes depending on your oven. Take the cookies off the cookie sheet and cool completely, or eat warm. :) Either way, Enjoy!
The Brick House is conviently located on Howe Ave near Chapel Hill Mall. I love the decor of the Brick House. There is a fireplace outside and inside right when you walk in. The bar is a decent size and there are plenty of TVs to watch sports. There are couches, booths, and tables whichever makes you the most comfertable. There are fun sayings along the walls and the wait staff is all female. The beer list is pretty good, not great but they have a variety of kinds, and sizes to choose from. We started the meal with the calamari and pretzel sticks. The pretzel sticks are awesome. Soft and warm they are perfectly salted and come with 3 dipping sauces. The mustard one is just mustard, but there is a pepper jelly dip, and pepper cheese dip that is pretty good. The calamari was good, cooked nicely, not over breaded and the oil drizzeled on top was very good. It came mixed with jalapenos but was not overly spicy. For lunch, I got the fried chicken salad and TBG got the Gun Show burger. The salad had candied walnuts, blue cheese, carrots, cheese, and fried chicken. The menu says mixed greens, but I only saw iceburg. It also says eggs, but I do not think I got any and I maybe got one small piece of bacon. The creamy balsamic vinegrette dressing was very good. The chicken was over cooked, I actually didn't eat most of it. The Gun Show burger is a "brick" burger with a fried egg and dijon mayo. The server did not ask how TBG wanted it cooked, but he tried to tell her med rare anyway. It came out medium-well. The egg was way overcooked, not runny at all. He said the burger was still good, he missed the runny egg and ended up taking the egg off, but the burger was still juicy. The fries were really good. The server was nice, she came to check on us often. We were there on a Sunday at 1:00 during football season and they were suprisingly not busy. I would recommend coming here if you are watching a sporting event and just want to hang out, drink beer, and get apps. The apps are really good and I come back time and time again for the pretzels, but have never been totally satisfied with my meal.
To call the French Coffee Shop a "coffee shop" is a little misleading. They offer little more than your normal cup of coffee and it is a weak cup at that. It also does not open until 11. Normally I want my coffee before 11:00. The menu is not extensive, but does have a French flair to it. Everyone I have talked to about this place says to get the French Onion Soup. We both got a cup and it was very good. There was lots of delicious melty cheese and a large piece of bread. There weren't a lot of onions in it, but the broth was tasty. I ordered the half sandwich with my cup of soup which I thought was a pretty good deal and filling enough for lunch. I got the French dip and it was good. The bread was very good, fresh but crusty. The meat was tender and the homemade mayo was good. TBG got the cheese burger. He agreed about the bread, but the burger was way overcooked. There was a selection of savory and sweet crepes that looked good, but we did not try. The service was a little slow. There was only one server when we arrived, but not too many tables either. As the lunch hour went on there were more servers and plenty more tables. The decor was french chef, not great but looked clean enough. I would say if you live close this is a great place for lunch, I do not know if I will make the effort to go back.
Service____ 5 Chipps