Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two Fish Five Loaves Restaurant

Two Fish Five Loaves Restaurant
5216 W. Capitol Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53216

On the recommendation of a born-again Christian friend I paid a visit to the Two Fish Five Loaves Restaurant where they profess to "represent the love of God with integrity." Located in a former Hardee's restaurant, 2F5L remains as plastic and sterile as a fast food restaurant. The piped in gospel music and clientèle of mostly middle-aged black women makes 2F5L feel like church but I found little Christian charity there.

First of all, I have a pet peeve. When I go to a sit down restaurant, I hate to be asked to pay up front and that is exactly what I was asked to do - first when I ordered my meal and, oddly I thought, when I ordered peach cobbler for desert after my meal.

Also, when I visit a sit down restaurant, I don't want to be served on cafeteria type trays with plastic utensils. I don't want my soup served in a plastic deli-like container. But I digress.

I ordered a Swimming Cow sandwich (which, again oddly, is featured on the 2F5L website but is not on the 2F5L menu) a mysterious combination of some fish product and some ground meat product but I am not sure of which or how much because the fish product kind of overpowered the ground meat product and I was unable to distinguish either flavor - outside of the "secret sauce" which was kind of overpowering and nauseating.

The Shrimp Bisque Soup I ordered was a big improvement on the Swimming Cow fiasco. It consisted of nice pieces of shrimp in a flavorful melange that made my mouth happy.

The Peach Cobbler was also tasty albeit served in its small plastic container.

Things picked up when Sharrie Bell, the head chef, actually came out to ask how I was doing. She gave off a very nice warm, welcome-to-my-kitchen vibe. When regulars came in, it was like old home week - lots of hugs, laughs and communal fellowship.

Swimming Cow aside, I decided to give 2F5L another try by trying their breakfast. The website says they open at 9 am - which is already too late to be opening for breakfast - but when I arrived one morning all primed to try Abraham's Breakfast, 2 eggs, sausage or bacon, french toast and grits ($4.99), the sign said the restaurant didn't open until 10 am. TEN A.M? For breakfast? Really?

I haven't been back.

So good you'll slap yo' mama!
It made my mouth happy!
Better than dirt.

Honey Pie

Honey Pie
2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Milwaukee WI 53207
(414) 489-PIES (7437)

Bayview, Wisconsin

Monday - Friday 10am - around midnight
Saturday & Sunday 9am - 9pm

food service ends at 10:00pm nightly

Honey Pie is a eclectic, bo-ho kind of bar/cafe staffed by young, hipster waiters and waitresses. Nestled as it is in a non-descript Bayview neighborhood (that looks like the inner city Milwaukee neighborhood I grew up in the late 60's and early 70's - without the white flight and absentee landlords), it is easy to overlook - especially after dark. And, located where it is, to the south and to the east of anywhere a self-respecting black person has a right to be, it is hard to find.

I dined at Honey Pie months ago but I held off on a review because it has been my intention to return and sample more menu items. This led to that and I never made it back. And that is a pity because the two items I did sample were fabulous.

The PORK FRIES ($9) a giant pile of hand-cut fries topped with BBQ pork, pickled jalapeños and homemade cheese sauce plus bacon for good measure is exactly what the menu says. It is too much for one person to eat - heck, it is too much for two people to eat - but - MAN! - is it tasty.

The RICH BURGER ($9.50) is also as advertised: two quarter pound patties of beef ground together with bacon and pork and topped with carmelized onions, lettuce, tomato, crisp bacon strips, and cheddar topped with a sunny-side up egg. If your mouth isn't watering, it should be. This is one superior sammich.

I am dying to try other menu items such as the CHICKEN AND BISCUIT PIE ($12) a crock filled with a stew of chicken, bell peppers, potatoes, corn, carrots, celery and onions in a rich broth topped with a biscuit crust and THE FANCY MAC, a bowl of macaroni and cheese made with cheddar, mustard and Gruyere cheese sauce topped with breadcrumbs and - wait for it - bacon! When I do, I will tell you about it.

My rating for the Pork Fries and the Rich Burger on the Eating While Black scale:

So good you'll slap yo' mama!
It made my mouth happy!
Better than dirt.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Daymaker Cafe

7225 W. North Ave.
Wauwatosa, WI
(414) 774-1200

Tucked into an East Towne Tosa neighborhood (between a laundramat and a popcorn shop) the Daymaker Cafe looks like the cafe time forgot. Painted lime green and lemon yellow the cafe has crown moldings, aluminum blade ceiling fans, Formica counters with glass salt and pepper shakers and leather upholstered bar stools and booth benches. Everything is old-school but the food - which is hearty with new age twists and tweaks.

I had the misfortune of discovering the Daymaker Cafe at the same time most of Milwaukee did. The owner and staff were wholly unprepared for the deluge of business. Service was awful, the customers surly and the understaffed staff harried. On my first visit, it took me twenty minutes to find a seat, forty minutes to place my order and an hour and a half to get served. My one bit of good fortune: I literally got my pancake order in right before they ran out of both pancake mix and the flour to make pancake mix. "86 the pancakes!" the owner/cook called out. It was 9:50 am in the morning.

But let me tell you, the pancakes were well worth the wait. It quickly became apparent why service was so slow - the young chef/owner would sell no pancake before its time. Everything else - the scrambled eggs, the toast, the bacon, the sausage, the coffee was ordinary - but each and every flapjack was a small jewel of culinary perfection.

The Blueberry pancakes were wonderful: light, fluffy and bursting with blueberry flavor. It is hard to describe how great they are. I have never, ever had a better blueberry pancake. The Buttermilk pancakes are equally wonderful - hands down the best buttermilk pancakes I have ever eaten. But, in my humble opinion, the star of the Daymaker breakfast pancake menu is the Cyclops, a huge plate-sized pancake with sausage pieces baked right inside the pancake with a marvelous "poached" egg in the middle. Great slappy molassy that was some good eating.

I would never have ventured there but on my last visit my dining companion ordered an egg-white omelette stuffed with asparagus, zucchini, herbed chicken and some other stuff and, I must admit, it was good.

Oh yeah - things have calmed down nicely since the Daymaker was the cafe non-grata and it is once again safe to sample the best pancakes in Milwaukee.

I love the pancakes so much I have yet to try the sandwich menu (but I have heard good things).

So good you'll slap yo' mama!

Everything else:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Breakfast at Subways

Below is my initial review of Subway's new breakfast menu. I went to another location and what a difference a new location makes. I ordered the 6 inch steak and cheese with egg, added red onions and spinach, and it was fabulous! Better still, this location was next to a Starbucks where I decided to couple my breakfast sandwich with a tall dark roast (the second location did have Seattle's Best coffee but I found it a markedly undistinguished brew).

It made my mouth happy!

On April 5, 2010, the Subway Restaurant Chain began offering breakfast menu at their 25,000 plus outlets. I happen to be a fan of Subway's sandwiches. Like McDonalds and Taco Bell, the leaders in their respective fast food categories, Subway has mastered that nebulous nexus of flavor and value. Competitors make better subs and I have eaten them but, IMHO, nowhere is there a better five dollar value than a fully loaded foot long tuna sub. Something about that soft, fresh-baked bread, toasted with melted provolone cheese makes my mouth happy, so I was a little geeked about the prospect of grabbing breakfast at Subway.

I did my homework and learned the sandwiches would be made with omelets - regular eggs or egg whites and cheese - served on English muffins, flatbread or Subway's fresh-baked sub rolls. Options would include Western egg and cheese, Black Forest ham and cheese, bacon and cheese and steak, egg and cheese. As usual, customers can add any of Subway's regular lunchtime condiments or vegetables to their order. Thus armed I proceeded to my friendly neighborhood Subway.

On a Monday I arrived at approximately 8:10 am in the morning. I thought it was a good sign that a truck-load of construction workers were either inside purchasing breakfast sandwiches or outside heartily tearing into their recently purchased sandwiches. Since I had done my homework, I already knew what I was going to purchase: a Western egg and cheese on an English muffin and a six-inch steak, egg and cheese on hearty Italian bread.

My first daytime dilemma was not seeing steak, egg and cheese as one of the selections on the board. They had steak and cheese but no steak, egg and cheese. My second was hearing the English-impaired counter girl informing me that this particular location not only did not have any Seattle Best Coffee - which Subway had been hyping in all their advertizing and which I had been really looking forward to sampling - they did not have ANY coffee at all. What the fuss! How you gone serve breakfast with no coffee? How am I supposed to get up to my appropriate caffeination level without any coffee?

So I am already bummed (I have not had my coffee). My mood does not brighten when I am told I can, however, select any of their fine lunch beverages as another employee is standing over the machine blowing something into or out of it. This is my second nit about Subway serving breakfast. Seven to 11 am in the morning is typically when a Subway bakes the bread and preps for lunch. So, while you are getting your breakfast, employees are doing what prep employees do and it is not very appetizing. It is like shopping at a 24 hour supermarket in the middle of the night. Sure there is the convenience of being able to shop in the middle of the night but it is always obscured by the evil of having to navigate around pallets and stockers who/that always seem to be in front of whatever you want to buy.

Anyhoo, I order a 6-inch steak and cheese sandwich with no egg and a western egg and cheese on an English muffin. I add spinach and red onions to both sandwiches and jalapeños to the steak and cheese. The slice of black forest ham on the western egg and cheese omelet is ridiculously thin. And if I hadn't known the western omelet included green pepper and red onion, I would not have known it. I foolishly added raw red onions to my sandwich and it totally overpowered the bland ingredients. The light wheat English muffin was flavorable enough but overall the sandwich was a big disappointment.

The steak and cheese 6-inch on the other hand was just a regular steak and cheese sub I was eating at breakfast. It wasn't bad. In fact, after the thoroughly disappointing Western omelet, it was pretty tasty - but it wasn't a breakfast sandwich.

I am going to try the steak and cheese sandwich again - with egg this time - if I can communicate this to the counter girl.

The steak and egg 6-inch: aiight!

The Western Omelet: better than dirt

Friday, August 28, 2009

Taqueria Arandas Trunk, Milwaukee, WI

Taquerias Arandas Truck
Somewhere in Milwaukee
(Usually in the vicinity of
37th and National, S. 27th
and Oklahoma and S. 13th
and Lincoln)

One of the pleasures of my long ago trip to California was getting
authentic Mexican food off a roadside stand. The food was hot,
fresh and surprisingly inexpensive. I tried to eat there everyday.
When I read an article about curbside cuisine featuring Taqueria
Arandas I made it my business to drive to the intersection of
National Avenue and 37th street to check it out. And I am glad
I did.

The 37th street Taqueria Arandas truck is parked in a neighbor-
hood of eclectic ethnic restaurants. The Asian influenced Noodle
House anchors a corner kitty-corner from the Columbian Bakery
Mekato's. The Taqueria Arandas truck offers something else
altogether - quick, hot Mexican food to go.

On my first visit I ordered three chicken tacos (also available in
beef, tongue and tripe), a steak tostada and a chicken burrito.
When my order was up, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in
a paper bag, I was asked if I wanted grilled hot peppers and
grilled onions. I answered in the affirmative and, once again,
I was glad I did.

It is possible to eat at the metal fold-down counter on the side
of the truck but I choose to return to the comfort of my van.
Unwrapped, all the food was surprisingly hot, fresh tasting and
full of flavor. For my two cents, the crunchy steak tostada was
the first among equally tasty entrees. Garnished with the grilled
peppers and caramelized onions and drizzled with spicy chile salsa
it did, indeed, make my mouth happy!

The check made my wallet happy. Three tacos, a tostada, a
burrito and a tangerine orange soda only set me back $13.00.

In the words of the Terminator: "I'll be back."

On the Eating While Black scale:

So good you'll slap your mama!
It made my mouth happy!
Better than dirt.

Service: Friendly and courteous
Comfortable for black people?: Yes
Recommend to your black and white friends: Yes
Recommend to just your black friends: N/A
Recommend to just your white friends: N/A

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Glendale, Wisconsin

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Bayshore Shopping Center
5650 N. Port Washington Rd.
Glendale, WI 53217
(414) 962-3560
Fax (414) 962-3565

"Oh my God!"  The voice I heard was mine as I took my
first bite of a "regular" Five Guys hamburger that I had
adorned simply with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions,
mustard and ketchup.  I swear, I have never tasted a
juicier, more flavorable hamburger in my life, outside of
one I made myself.  And that is saying something because
I am a burger guy, on a perpetual quest for a better burger.

Now, let me reiterate, I have had many juicy, flavorable 
burgers off my grill made from fresh ground beef I had 
formed with my own hands.  That is the unexpected but
delightful sensation I got when I bit into my first Five
Guys burger.  And I specify "my first" because I went
back to the newly opened restaurant #150  three more
times in the next seven days.  

The Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant is a 
decidedly stripped down affair.   They only sell burgers
and fries, a kosher style hot dog (with or without bacon)
and, for for blasphemers, something called a Veggie or
Grilled Cheese sandwich.  And the burgers only come
in two sizes: a double patty, half pound "regular" or
quarter pound "little."  Likewise, the fries come in large
"regular" or a ridiculous "large."  For beverages, they
have regular ($1.99) and large ($2.19) Coca-Cola soft drinks
and bottled water ($1.99).  That's it.  No shakes; no pies.

During my first rodeo, I ordered the regular hamburger
($4.99) and a large fry ($4.99).  At Five Guys, whether
you are dining in or taking out, your sandwich comes
wrapped in aluminum foil, your fries come in a styrofoam
cup and everything is served to you in a plain paper bag.  
That's it.  No tray, no utensils, no nothing. 

If you get your orders to go, as I did all four times,
you find the good people behind the checkerboard 
counter are very bad at measuring their french fries.
Every time I have been my french fry cup has runneth
over filling the bag with excess fries.  The fries are
hand cut and cooked with their skins in peanut oil.
The fries also come regular and cajun style.  On 
my third trip I order cajun style and that will be 
my style of choice going forward.

I was so stuffed from consuming a regular ham-
burger and a large fry that the next time I ordered
two little hamburgers ($3.59 ea.) with all the "red" 
condiments, which includes everything except relish,
green peppers, A-1 sauce, Bar-B-Q Sauce and Hot Sauce
and a regular fry ($2.59).  The little burgers were tasty 
and less of a carbo-load but the reglular burger was much
more satisfying.

On my third visit I ordered what will become my
standard order: a Bacon Cheeseburger ($6.29) with a
regular Cajun Style Fry ($2.59).   In addition to the "red"
condiments, I added green peppers and jalapeno
peppers.  Oh, baby!  We are definitely into "so good
you'll slap your mama" territory here!  

Which brings me to my fourth and last visit.  I
ordered what will become my usual, received
my greasy bag of goodies and absconded to my
own abode.  There I opened the greasy bag, 
poured out the abundant Cajun Fries on a
paper plate, unwrapped my aluminum foil
wrapped burger, and sank my teeth into  -
can you imagine my surprise?  - a mouthful of

I opened the twin buns and there was no meat
inside.  How in the world could Five Guys Burgers
not put any fresh cooked ground beef patties
between my buns when, for all intents and purposes,
that is all they sell?  I was so outdone, I could not 
even spit.

I had to get redressed (yes, I chose to eat my burger
in my underwear) and drive back across town to the
Glendale location.  I asked for the manager, showed
him the content (or lack thereof) between my buns
and I received  - the burger I ordered in the first 
place.  No apology.  No "here's a little something for
your trouble."  No nothing.

Admittedly, I am not as in love with the Five Guys
as I used to be.

So good you'll slap your mama!
It made my mouth happy!
Better than dirt.

Service: Friendly and courteous
Comfortable for black people?:  Yes
Recommend to your black and white friends: Yes
Recommend to just your black friends: N/A
Recommend to just your white friends: N/A 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Soups On! Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Soups On!
221 North Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 283-9244

There are few things as satisfying a large bowl of freshly
made soup.  And there are few things as satisfying as the
soups prepared fresh daily at Soups On! in Milwaukee's
Historic Third Ward neighborhood, just blocks south of 
downtown Milwaukee.   

Soups On! is only open Monday through Friday and it only
serves soup from 11 am to 3:30 pm.  That is a small but
dependable window that allows for the sampling of four different
soups, one vegan, one vegetarian and two with meat, every week

I have visited Soups On! on several occasions at different times.
I have entered the establishment at 9 am in the morning and it
is already fragrant with that day's soup selections.  I have arrived
just before 11 am and had to wait while the proprietor finished 
making the pasta that would go into one of the soups of the day.
Lastly, I have arrived near closing and been rewarded with the
remainder of that day's freshly baked bread.  

I have bought soup to go, it comes in two sizes, $4.85 for a 12
ounce container and $5.85 for 16 ounces and a thick slice of
either semolina or sourdough bread, and I have sat down at 
one of the quaint patio style tables with their even quainter
green plastic chairs and eaten my soup from a crockery bowl
while looking out at the Milwaukee River - frozen in the winter
and free-flowing in the spring - and eating from the crockery
bowl is better.  Still, I have bought several cartons of soup to
go and they transport and reheat wonderfully.  

On my most recent visit, on a beautiful spring day, I had time
to have a crockery bowl of soup and another delight to be found
at Soups On! - a 1/4 pound Nathan's Famous hot dog on a 
Rosen's sausage bun with all the fixin's ($3.00).  The soups of
the day were a vegan Ginger Lentil, a vegetarian Cream of 
Spinach, a Chicken Dumpling and a Black Bean Chili with
Sausage.  I ordered the Black Bean Chili with Sausage.

Among the things that make Soups On!'s soups so great are
the fresh and plentiful toppings.  The Black Bean Chili with
Sausage came topped with a melange of wonderful things
including a generous serving of shredded cheddar cheese.

It is hard to describe how magnificent is the Black Bean Chili
with Sausage.  I have had the Black Bean Chili without the 
sausage - incredibly flavorable chunks that must be andouille -
and, for me, it is like eating pancakes without syrup.  Don't
get me wrong, the Black Bean Chili (without sausage) is good
but the Black Bean Chili with Sausage is great.  

I had my soup with a thick slice of rye bread that I buttered
and broke off to dip into the dark brown sauce of the chili.  Yes,
this did indeed make my mouth happy.  I am not ashamed 
to admit that when I got down to the bottom of the bowl 
where I was unable to get what was left with my spoon, I 
picked up my large crockery bowl, raised it to my mouth,
and slurped what remained out of the bowl.  

By my count, Soups On! offers sixty different soups.  In
my many visits, I have probably only sampled ten, and 
have yet to have a bad one.  Only in one instance have I 
had a better version of a soup offered at Soups On! and 
that would be the Chicken Dumpling.  All of Soups On!
chicken soups are delicious but I have had better 
dumplings than the dumplings in their Chicken Dumpling
soup and, for me, Chicken Dumpling soup is all about
the dumplings.

Soups On! is open from 7 am and offers breakfast burritos,
bagels, muffins, sweetbreads, scones, pre-made breakfast
sandwiches, chalkboard veggies strata and yogurt but I
wouldn't know nothing about that because I am all about
the soups.  And the Nathan's hot dogs.

On the Eating While Black scale:

So good you'll slap your mama!
It made my mouth happy!
Better than dirt.

Service: Friendly and courteous
Comfortable for black people?:  Yes
Recommend to your black and white friends: Yes
Recommend to just your black friends: N/A
Recommend to just your white friends: N/A