Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mellow Mushroom - Highlands of Louisville, Kentucky

By Carole and Ericah Leone

What's the next best thing when it comes to a soccer tournament besides playing and bonding with teammates?  Stopping to have lunch on the way home on a cute little street with my mom!  We picked a fun looking restaurant called Mellow Mushroom. Mom wasn't sure at first if this was an appropriate restaurant, considering the name and the fact that there were some bars and even a hookah lounge down the street, but after checking the place out and noticing that there were kids' menus, we thought it would be fine. And it was more than fine!

The decor was very unique-in a good way. The main floor looked family friendly with booths and colorful walls. Upstairs had an outdoor patio with lights hanging above that looked fun but too cold for us on that day. We chose to dine upstairs where there were 5 screens with various sporting events, appropriate for a Sunday, but we were easily able to talk and the screens were not intrusive. 

The crowd was very friendly, sitting at tables and sitting at the bar as well. This did not remind me at all of a big-chain sports restaurant because it still had very unique Pinterest-like decorations. There were Kentucky bottles hanging with lights and a hip splatter painted statue.

Since I had played 3 intense soccer games that weekend, I was starving. Immediately when I saw bruschetta on the menu I had to have it. Mom was excited! When they came out, I thought they were 5 wonderful early Christmas gifts. Not only did they have fresh basil and tomatoes, but also an amazing balsamic glaze that rolled down the golden baked pieces of bread. Once you took a bite, the whole masterpiece came to together like a dance party on your taste buds!

A short time later my Carnie Burger (as opposed to the Herb Veggie Burger) arrived at our table along with my mom’s salad. With the smell of caramelized onions along with roasted potatoes, I was hooked. Although a touch messy, you wouldn't have been able to keep me away!

My mom’s Enchanted Spinach Salad was full of fresh spinach, apples, caramelized pecans and sprinkled with feta cheese in a cool lopsided bowl.

Our waiter was an added touch of entertainment, reminding me of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

All in all, I am very pleased that we made this stop. And, by the way, we got 2nd place in our tournament!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Downtown St. Louis' Bailey's Range Rocks the Burger Scene

I've always been a fan of urban dining establishments and as downtown St. Louis evolves, so do the dining options.  Bailey's Range has been on the corner of Olive and 10th ever since City Grocer closed up shop in the same building.  Both were/are housed on the first and second floors of what appears to be an old retail store. Its pretty cool looking from the outside and inside.

Back when it was City Grocer

Check out their website (linked above) to view photos of both Bailey's wonderful fare and the interior ambiance.  You'll notice it is decorated with a series of odd shaped and sized windows on the left as you enter and a full bar on the right. Speaking of which, Bailey's serves a variety of craft beers on tap including several local breweries.

As for food, the focus is on burgers. In fact, the only other items on the menu are sides and three salads.  Bailey's also serves milk shakes and ice cream!

Bailey's serves beef, sirloin, bison, chicken, lamb and veggie burgers. All are served on a beer, pretzel or gluten free bun.

One recent visit we started out with Fried Pickles. Unlike most fried pickles that are cut "chip-style", these are pickles cut length-wise. 

Fried Pickles
Here's the burger rundown for four diners on my recent visit. We all had beef burgers, with all of us in agreement on each tasting fantastic!

The Whiskey BBQ - smoked Gouda, caramelized onion, whiskey BBQ sauce.  And, yeah that is sweet potato chips on the burger!!

Next up is the Basic burger with cheese.  Check out the volume of bacon!!

Although I personally didn't order this one, I found it to be the most interesting - the American. More or less it was a bacon cheeseburger but the cheese was actually fried mac n' cheese - like the size of another hamburger.  

Rounding out the burger collection was the Steak Au Poivre; a sirloin patty topped with blue cheese, bacon jam, caramelized onions and port glaze.

We shared several orders of fries, which are battered and fried. What is even more interesting are the catsups, mustards and mayos served with fries. We had the house catsup, chipotle mayo and honey mustard.  All unique in their own way. For example, the house catsup has a hint of pumpkin pie spice.

Anyway, be sure to visit Bailey's next time in downtown St. Louis!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Trip to Nashville!

A trip to Nashville from the St. Louis area is similar to a trip to Memphis in so many ways. The drive is mostly Interstates, approximately five hours and full of food and entertainment. 

The biggest difference I've noticed is the reasonable duration of the stay. Since Nashville has several areas of restaurants and entertainment, you can stay 2-3 days and have plenty of venues to visit all within walking distance of downtown.  Whereas to do the same in Memphis is little more than 1-2 days will do it. Either way, it is all good.

As the title of this blog alludes to, the focus is on a recent trip to Nashville. A good place to stay in Nashville is off Broadway, not to far from the Ryman Auditorium. If you are close enough to walk to the Ryman, then you can certainly easily get to Broadway, Second St., Printer's Alley, etc etc.

A couple of places I'd recommend next visit.

ACME Feed and Seed Co.: this place is in large warehouse on the corner of Broadway next to Cumberland River.  It features three stories and a rooftop.  The first and second floors have separate menus and full bars.  The large open area seats many. The rooftop has no food service but a small bar. No matter what floor you order your food, you can eat it on any of the floors. The third floor is reserved for private parties. Here's a few photos of the first and second floors.

And, of course the food follows!

Rule the Roost

Beer Belly Tacos
The Stillery: spirits, and in particular, moonshine comprise the majority of drink menu.  The small restaurant is located on 2nd St. and is open air, as many are in that area. 

Pictured below are drinks, chop chop salad and Siracha Deviled Eggs - that is toasted prosciutto garnish on them. The moonshine drink on the right is "The Refresher"!

For dinner one night we visited Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant. As with most restaurants in downtown, they featured live music. 

You could need a reservation here as it is small and gets busy quick.  We had the Smoked Sausage & Cheese appetizer, and I enjoyed Shrimp & Grits.  

Sausage & Cheese

Shrimp & Grits

For a fine dining experience a block or so off Broadway is The Southern. This is an upscale restaurant.  The Southern serves a wide variety of oysters - cooked and raw.  We opted to try the signature Oysters Southern - baked with hot peppered collards, corn and Andouille Cream. 

Oysters Southern

We both had steaks, The Belle - a filet mignon and The Nudie Suit.  You select your own cut and it is cooked to order; I chose a strip steak.  

The Belle

The Nudie Suit

Of course there a a number of live music venues along the above mentioned areas. Most have live acts starting in the morning and running well past midnight.  You can always find somewhere to listen to music.

And finally, I did want to mention that Jack White's studio and storefront are a quick walk from downtown Nashville. If you are  fan, then be sure to visit Third Man Records on 7th St. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Another Fine Meal at Social Gastropub...But Let's Tweak the Lighting Again!

Recently visited Social Gastropub again. The menu is always changing, but is very consistent in quality - this time as expected it was awesome.  

Started out with Bleu Chips - house made chips topped with blue cheese and roasted garlic sauce along with a balsamic reduction. They were very good but be prepared - it is best shared with more than two people - the plate is rather large. My favorite cocktail from Social is pictured with the chips - Wood and Salt.

Had really an amazing Eggplant Napoleon.  Fried to perfection and topped with buffalo milk mozzarella cheese. Outstanding.

Also had an opportunity to sample the Lobster & Shrimp Pie. Another fine addition to the ever-changing menu. 

As I mentioned previously in a blog about Social, the lights were an issue in the beginning.  At first when you walked in the lights were very bright. I mentioned it to the owner and over time the lighting seemed to be softer and not so bright. Unfortunately this time the lights were turned up again.  Not being shy, I told them again and hopefully they will bring it back down a notch.

Otherwise, a wonderful dining experience

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gulf Shores Restaurant in Edwardsville, Illinois

About a year ago or so, a new seafood restaurant opened in Edwardsville, named Gulf Shores.  Been there twice since it opened and have been very pleased with the meals.  Most recently I went a group of six and we were all pretty much in agreement that Gulf Shores has hit the mark on seafood.

Gulf Shores has a very “New Orleans theme” going on. Seafood and Cajun are the predominate foods served.  The place is a casual family restaurant. At least the Edwardsville location.  The original restaurant is in Creve Coeur, Missouri. The focus of this blog entry is the Edwardsville location.

Both locations have patio dining and entertainment on certain days.  There is even a Sunday Bourbon Street Brunch.

In front of the restaurant there are life-sized statues of Jake and Elwood from the Blues Brothers.  Once you get in the door you are greeted by a very large fish tank with a variety of fish.  The decor is definitely New Orleans inspired. I do recall seeing an LSU sign on one wall.

Here's a quick run down of our most recent selections. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of the crab legs my daughter had or the Admiral's Platter I enjoyed the first time we dined at Gulf Shores several months prior, but trust me, they were both delicious!

Hand-Cut Calamari – The breading was awesome with Cajun spices!

Rajun Cajun – this includes fried fingers, red beans and rice, charbroiled Andouille sausage and a Crab Cake. 

Citrus Mahi Mahi – 
Sautéed and served with mango and mandarin orange salsa.

Shrimp Your Way – You can choose from battered and fried, scampi, char-grilled,  sautéed in garlic butter or Cajun spices and blackened. This is fried.

Lobster & Seafood Alfredo Pasta – Homemade Alfredo pasta sauce, lobster, seafood served over penne pasta with shredded Parmesan cheese. It even comes with a Caesar salad!

Gulf Shores also serves several southern craft beers along with a few locals. Here's what was served most recently: Schlafly (Seasonal) and Urban Chestnut are on tap and these southern special beers are served in bottles: Abita Turbo Dog, Abita Purple Haze, and Dixie Beer. As with many menus and drink selections this is probably subject to change.

Hand-Cut Calamari

Lobster & Seafood Alfredo Pasta

Rajun Cajun

Shrimp Your Way

Citrus Mahi Mahi

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pupuseria.... A Salvadorian Speciality!!

Recently while on a business trip to the DC area, I enjoyed lunch at Cerrito's Pupuseria in Chantilly, Virginia. This was my first experience with the food of El Salvadore. When I'm working with folks on the east coast, we often dine as a group for lunch. This visit, Cerrito's was suggested by my friend, Leah Le. I'm not sure any of us in the office knew what a Pupusa was except for her.  According to wikipedia:

 "A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency refried beans, or queso con loroco."

Cerrito's is a classic hole in the wall kinda place located in a bright yellow house on the John Mosby Highway.  But don't let that deter you.  You walk into what appears to be an authentic El Salvadorian restaurant.  And, they serve beer too!

Since I was at work and we like to have "working lunches" we ordered carry out. But personally I would have loved to sit either inside or outside the restaurant and enjoy lunch. Maybe next time.

At Cerrito's a Pupusa tortilla is served with shaved slaw and topped with somewhat spicy red sauce. On the menu pictured above it is #5.  It was accompanied by #6 - Pan con Gallina; which is a Chicken Sandwich Salvadorian Style.

The food at Cerrito's is not only delicious, but also very affordable. The plate pictured below of a order of Pupusas and Pan con Gallina was nine bucks and change.  The portions are more than generous as you can see.

Disfrute de su comida! (Or as the French would say... Bon Appetit!)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Social Gastropub is Getting Better!!!!

Social Gastropub hit the Edwardsville dining scene sometime in 2014.  The owner first opened the original Social Gastropub in Ohio. There is some connection to this area, either he is from here or went to school in the area.

The Edwardsville location is in the old Shenanigan's.  A wall of TVs lines the bar and mostly black and white motif adorns the walls.  Although I haven't experienced it, there is outdoor patio.

The dining experience has only gotten better over the past few visits. The food has always been superior in my opinion, but the overall atmosphere needed some tweaking. The good news is they have tweaked away and the food, ambiance and dining experience rock!!

At first the lights were a little too bright and the service was too hurried.  The food was delivered too fast more or less. I wasn't shy about my thoughts and let them know about these two points. The good news is both appear to have been addressed.... the service is more relaxed and the lighting is a tad softer. 

As earlier mentioned, the food has always been spot-on.  The menu changes frequently so if you see something interesting, try it before it is gone. Here's a rundown of several items

Fried Calamari - check out the larger size pieces of calamari!

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls - generous appetizer with lots of flavor!

Fried Bologna Sandwich - topped with a fried egg and served with Social's special fries!

Baja Fish Tacos - these are very juicy and tender

Asiago Stuffed Chicken - this entree is wrapped with bacon and stuffed with Asiago cheese over a bed of carrot-ginger risotto with a mushroom cream sauce

Fire Roasted Peppers - goat cheese risotto with Italian sausage.

Bloody Mary and  a Dirty Martini

Wood & Salt and a Strawberry Basil Mule