“Eat Here and Get Gas”

We’ve all seen signs like these along a road trip, right?

Eat Here, Get Gas Eat Here Get Gas Eat here, get gas

Kansas City has not one, but two former gas stations whose cuisine ranks as “don’t miss it” while we’re in Kansas City.

Oklahoma Joe’s

It’s still working as a gas station, but it’s the barbecue that stretches the line out the door into the parking lot. We should have called in our order from the parking lot — surely it would have been faster than waiting in line for over an hour. But I figured it out — for those waiting to snag a table and dine in, the food was worth the wait.

I had The Z~Man Sandwich: Brisket, smoked provolone topped w/w/ BBQ mayo, lettuce & two onion rings on a kaiser bun. It was excellent. Sarah was also quite enamored of her brisket sandwich. We both liked the home-style skin-on french fries — nicely seasoned. Some caveats: after waiting in line, snaked around the inside of the restaurant, for so long, we didn’t check our order closely. And honestly, we thought we didn’t need to — we heard the staff behind the counter shout out our complete order four or five times before we paid and left. Nevertheless, some of the items we ordered didn’t make it home with us (and I’m not sure whether they made it onto the bill, since I my FIL was buying). One of those missing items was a side of baked beans, which my BIL said were a disgrace compared to Smokestack.

So call in your order (perhaps from the parking lot…) and double-check it for accuracy before you leave. Another great reason to stop in at Oklahoma Joe’s: they have a great selection of barbecue sauces available for sale. I am sure I counted over thirty regional and national varieties and that gave me something to look at while waiting in line.

Pizza 51

This place is well and truly no longer a gas station; just a restaurant where one used to be. We’ve never eaten in there, since it’s so convenient to my in-laws’ house. But this is exactly the kind of pizza of which I dream when European pies just won’t sate me and I set out to make my own. The sauce, crust, cheese, and toppings are all classic American-style — the kind you just can’t get in Mainland Europe without patronizing Pizza the Hutt (which is to be avoided). A word about their sizing: two 14″ pizzas easily (over)fed four adults with varying appetites. We’ve never tried their salads or sandwiches or even breadsticks, so we can’t vouch for them (perhaps on a future KC visit), but I can tell you that the specialty and create-your-own pizzas were excellent and completely satisfied my American-pizza-cravings.

La Esquina del Tomatillo

The Joint

Morelos 601
Downtown Puerto Vallarta

Phone: +52 322 22 29434
Web: http://www.eltomatillo.com.mx
Email: cheftomatillo@gmail.com


Cliff

We first experienced this restaurant under its previous name, Xitomates, in 2009 or 2010. We tried to visit again this year, and show my parents what a swell restaurant we’d found for somewhat upscale Mexican food, but were surprised to find that its name had changed. We passed on it then, but returned a few days later to give it another shot, after noticing some similarities between what we’d had last time and the current menu offerings. We were not disappointed. If anything, the prices on the items seemed a little lower compared to what we remembered. Same great salsas, same friendly service. Really pleased it’s still going, even if under another name. Check this place out if you’d like to eat a nice meal downtown without the touristy Tex-Mex flavor or Marina sports bar atmosphere.

Sarah


I was very disappointed when we first passed this place. All I could tell was that 1) this was where Xitomates used to be and that 2) this place wasn’t Xitomates. That said, we gave the place a shot on our last evening there and thank goodness we did. It was the same basic place – so much so that the container that they served the chips in still said Xitomates on the side. And the most important part – the exquisite salsas were the same. We split a mixed quesadilla appetizer (one pumpkin, one cheese and squash blossom and one huitlacoche) which was lovely and full of unusual flavors. My main course was a chile relleno filled with ratatouille. It was light (which goes down really well in the heat), but filling and the flavor was really fresh and intense. For dessert, we split a crème brûlée. We had high hopes for this; as Mexican flan is a thing of beauty, we assumed they would probably do other custards well, too. I love being right.

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Casa Pepe de la Judería

The Joint

Casa Pepe de la Judería
Taberna — Restaurante
Calle Romero: 3
14001 Córdoba
España

Reservas: 957 200 744
Reserva de Grupos: 957200 766
Web: http://www.casapepejuderia.com/

Frommer’s steered us toward this restaurant. Well, that, and our tendency to roll iconoclastic, food-wise. I mean on Christmas and Easter, we typically go to an Indian or Kurdish food restaurant (or visit Turkey). So in a city famous for its Islamic and Catholic influences, we had lunch in the Jewish Quarter.

I wouldn’t say that it’s out of our price range, but we did decided to make our lunch here the priciest meal of the visit. It was certainly fancier than any other restaurant we visited in Spain, and I felt kind of underdressed in a tee shirt with cartoon characters on it, even though the rest of the clientele were in jeans and sweaters (no ties or suits or anything like that) for lunch. When we arrived and asked for a table (instead of a seat at the bar, which he also offered us), the maître d’ snorted a bit. Sorry bud, you’re in a tourist zone, recommended in a tourist guide book, and I am…a tourist. With money to give you. If you let me.

But that was really absolutely the only hint (and it was nothing more than that) of unpleasantry. Everything else about this place was lovely. Even the waiter. We negotiated languages first:

¿Habla Vd. ingles?

No, por desgracia.

OK, no hay problema. Geht das mit deutsch?

Lo siento — ¿frances?

¡Ay, qué lástima! OK, probamos nuestro español…una botella del Paso a Paso, por favor.

And we got this lovely wine. So far, so good. Really good. Pretty darn tasty good. And it was the second cheapest one on the wine list at 12€.

I started off with a fantastic gazpacho, mixed on the table in the bowl in front of me from stuff our waiter poured from a champagne flute, a whole cherry tomato, chopped onions, and green peppers. Positively delicious — even the cherry tomato, and for me, that’s saying a lot. My main course was some bonless cut of Sephardic Lamb with sweet & sour sauce, dried fruit and nuts. Very tender and flavorful. Also loved the baby asparagus and the sweet fruit chutney on the side, hiding under my roasted potato.

Sarah started off with a salmonejo — a tangy, tomato-based thick soup with hard-boiled eggs and chopped jamón in it. It was actually too much flavor for an appetizer. She had to call me in to bat clean-up on it. For the main course, she went with Iberian pork in a mushroom sauce.

Dessert was lovely tiramisu and profiterols.


Summing it up: if you’re in Córdoba for lunch, this is a great place to splash out a little. The “Wintergarten” room we ate it was very pleasant — both rustic- and modern-feeling at the same time. Thanks to Frommer’s for the tip on this one.

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Getting a burrito in Munich

Two choices here, both courtesy of Emily over at Servus München (thanks!). Sarah noticed her nod to Wahaka, and later she clued us in to Milagros.

Wahaka

Not far from the Munich Hauptbahnhof, we ducked in there on a chilly Saturday afternoon. We both had chicken burritos and they came with the stuff you’d want: a nice limey salsa, guacamole, black or pink beans, seasoned rice, sour cream, shredded cheese. Sarah had a beef burrito once there, and the beef was Typical German Weirdbeef™ — but the chicken ones when I was in attendance were great. And about 5 lousy German corn chips.

So don’t go there if you’re expecting Dolores (like in Berlin). Given the reported Weirdbeef™ and chips, I’ll be cautious about trying other stuff. But the chicken burrito worked and I’d do that again. Just not on a Sunday, because they’re closed then. Also, there appeared to be a downstairs Party Room, possibly decorated with Piñatas in staircase. ¡Fiesta!

Milagros

But Milagros at the Viktualienmarkt is open Sundays. We stopped in there a couple Sundays ago for an early lunch. Viktualienmarkt, when everything is closed and slushy, is really depressing. Good thing the restaurant was open, warm, and inviting. We were the only guests in there the whole time, so I think they’re either still getting the word out, or Viktualienmarkt is just like that Sundays around noon.

I had a burrito and Sarah had a chicken enchilada verde. They brought over a little pico de gallo and some outstanding corn chips. And the pico was wonderful — heavy on the lime and cilantro. The menu got me looking forward to cilantro soup, but sadly, it was unavailable. The burrito I got was kind of a letdown, flavor-wise. It might have been too much Mex and not enough Tex. But Sarah’s enchilada was excellent. As much as I liked the pico de gallo, chips, and the salsa verde on her enchilada, I think my favorite part of the meal was the stroll downstairs to see a man about a horse. The facilities were beautiful talavera tile and sinks, spotless, and generous. And playing on the Muzak de baño was a cute little vocabulary lesson intended for the German traveler making friends and visiting an internet cafe in a Spanish-speaking country.

Both places are worthy of another visit under the right conditions. Maybe I’ll call ahead next time to make sure that cilantro soup is really an option.

Mesopotamia

The Joint
Mesopotamia Homus
Happily, nothing remains of the homus appetizer. So just take our word for it.

Restaurant Mesopotamia
Inhaber: Sinan Coskun

Fröhliche Türkenstraße 12
93047 Regensburg

Telefon: 0941 / 5839513
http://www.restaurant-mesopotamia.de/

Cliff

ZOMG! After the big let-down that was Exil about a year ago, we’d kind of given up hope on our once-awesome Kurdish food hookup in Regensburg. But while walking through the city on our way to Kaufland at the Arcaden on Friday, we spotted a new (to us) Middle-Eastern restaurant and walked closer. Sarah let out a shriek as she recognized echoes from our culinary past in the names of the main dishes and we both remarked that the font on the menu was like an old friend — yes, our old friend Exil.

SDC10317Practically holding our breath, we strolled in, sat down, and ordered a Homus appetizer. Imagine our delight when it turned out to be the reddish homus variety we’ve never seen anywhere else (not even Dearborn!). This was a really good sign. I ordered the Pir Kebab — my default Exil dish (back when Exil was good) to really give this new incarnation of our favorite restaurant a proper control group. Then, as now, it came with grilled seasoned lamb chunks on skewers, lightly-fried potatoes faintly spiced with paprika (or some other magic red stuff), the standard salad, zatziki, and the one true spinach/feta side dish (our attempt at recreation pales in comparison…gotta work on that some more now that the source material is available for reverse engineering purposes again). The result: as good as it ever was.

Sarah

It’s back, baby!
SDC10318
This was our JOINT, our fall-back, our favorite place to go and enjoy good food with friends. When Exil changed owners and overhauled the menu, they didn’t start serving bad food, they started serving indifferent food, which might be even worse. So imagine our delight, after going without for over a year and a half, at walking into Mesopotamia and recognizing the cook! The plates were the same, the way food was arranged was the same, the bread was the same and (most important!) the flavor was the same. Cliff had his old standby and I had mine – the Beritan (formerly Aras): thinly-pounded chicken breasts, marinated and grilled, turkey rolls stuffed with the divine spinach and walnuts with a white-wine/turmeric sauce, salad, potatoes, tzaziki and bulgur. It was everything I remembered! Incredibly flavorful and delicious.

When it was time to settle up, the waitress asked if we lived in Regensburg, we replied that, yes, we did and we used to go to the old place all the time. She delightedly told us that her father was the chef and he recognized us, as she set down complimentary shots of ouzo. She also filled us in that the first Saturday of every month is a buffet night with entertainment. We will be going back. And we will probably ask you to join us.

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Wannaburger

The Joint

Wannaburger
217 High Street, Royal Mile
Edinburgh, EH1 1PE
Tel: 0131 2258770
Email: info@wannaburger.com

Cliff

We’d been craving some burgers (ideally not from beef which had also had beef for dinner, but who knows?). We tromped up and down the Royal Mile a couple times over the course of our stay in Edinburgh and the Wannaburger seemed outwardly exactly the kind of place at which I’d be ashamed to tell anyone we dined (sorry, Mom). “Chainy” in appearance (you’d think there’d be many other franchises elsewhere, but according to Wikipedia, there aren’t), cheaply decorated, with glossy, infomercially menus.

But my stomach was growling louder and louder and a few of the other places we’d been wanting to try (among them Chocolate Soup) were jam-packed or pretty pricey, and when Sarah said she thought she’d heard they actually served a pretty good burger. Whomever she heard it from was right. That was the best hamburger I’ve had since making Germany my home.

I had the “Cheese” and an Irn Bru (that’s pronounced “iron brew,” I learned as I asked the waitress what an “urn brew” was). Turns out, Irn Bru is essentially a slightly less sweet version of Faygo brand Rock’n’Rye — kind of cream soda flavored, with a color similar to Orange Crush. The burger itself was quite large. Not the biggest I’ve ever had, but it sure tasted like the best. Thoroughly cooked but not overdone, still juicy and dressed in tomato relish (I saw “relish” in the description on the menu and assumed cucumber pickle relish). It was great, and reasonably priced. Swallow your pride the next time you want a burger and happen to be near Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Wannaburger didn’t disappoint.

Sarah

So we were at Edinburgh Castle, debating whether or not to pay the exorbitant (14GBP per person) entrance fee. We came down on the side of ‘cheapskate’ (mostly me) and, tired of nearly getting blown off of the hilltop, took off down the Royal Mile to find some lunch. After bypassing a couple of grody looking chip shops and not wanting to wait for a free seat at a friend’s recommended spot, we cried uncle and decided to get a cheeseburger. And I am so glad we did!

The initial appearance is pretty “chainy,” but the location we were at has a full bar and surprisingly nice seating in the back. We were in the front which is more fast-foody in appearance. I had the bacon bbq burger and fries. The burger was pretty much ideal – juicy, but not bloody, substantial (1/4 lb or more), but not obnoxious. And the fries were a guiltly pleasure: deep fried thick crinkle cuts! After the fact, we found out that that Wannaburger is a local chain and that they use Scottish beef in the burgers. Tourist-sellout guilt thus alleviated, I heartily recommend Wannaburger!

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Henderson’s Bistro

The Joint

Henderson’s Bistro
94 Hanover Street
Edinburgh
EH2 1DR

Cliff

We kind of stumbled onto this place as it was not far from the apartment we rented in the New Town and the only restaurant we managed to try for dinner in that part of town. Obviously, there’s still lots to explore. And that’s a good thing. There were a few things we liked about the place, not the least of which was the friendly service, but on the whole, I am sure I’d avoid it in the future, knowing what I know now. First and foremost, we didn’t realize until we’d sat down that the whole place was vegetarian. Maybe we should have; I don’t know — I’m a sucker for falafel and my eyes are always drawn to that word and I tend to ignore everything else.

First, the positives: We each tried a Westons Premium Organic Cider and were quite happy with it. It washed the “Spicy Nachos” we ordered as an appetizer to share down very nicely. And the nachos really were quite tasty. It was great to have the right kind of jalapeños again for once (they always seem wrong somehow in Germany). And our waitress had some good ideas on how to spend our last full day in Edinburgh, which proved relaxing and interesting.

“Opportunities for improvement” (as we like to say in the corporate world): it seemed, for my Spinach & Lentil Falafel main course at least, that all of the flavor had been used up on the spicy nachos appetizer. It was beyond bland and a pretty severe let-down. It didn’t even seem to be fried (kind of my minimum requirement for falafel) — if I had to guess, I’d say they’d been baked or maybe even frozen and then thawed.

Sarah

It looked like this place is kind of a complex. There seems to be a lunch counter/deli/bakery/market in the front and then this sit-down restaurant iteration in the back. If we hadn’t had our minds boggled by the public transit system in Edinburgh, we might have tried one of the other sections, but alas. I also didn’t notice the vegetarianness of the place as we looked on the menu outside – Cliff saw falafel and it was all over.

The service was great! Our waitress was really nice and took the time to help out a couple of hapless tourists. Cliff didn’t want to get drawn into the banter, but I still remember how to do that, so I went ahead and accepted the chat-up. We came out of it with a neat field trip, so yay me. Anyhoodle, the pear cider was a lovely experience and the nachos were very nice – the flavors were pretty accurate and in the right proportions. Any chance for fairly correct Tex-Mex that I don’t have to make myself is welcome.

My main course was the curry of the day, eggplant and tomato on basmati rice. It was pretty good, but it lacked a certain depth. I have the same problem when I make all-vegetable curries myself, but I expect a little more from a restaurant. The pricing at Henderson’s was actually pretty affordable – one of the more economical meals (outside of Marks & Spencer) we had in Edinburgh.

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Urban Angel

The Joint

Urban Angelhttp://www.urban-angel.co.uk/
121 Hanover Street
Edinburgh
EH2 1DJ
0131 225 6215

Cliff

This was a cute little restaurant on the outside restaurant half a flight of stairs down from the street level in the New Town section of Edinburgh, along our daily path downtown. The white paint job on the outside in contrast to the mostly gray buildings surrounding it made it seem extra “cloudy” — because that’s where the angels hang out (presumably). The inside had a much more rustic flair to it, with exposed beams and big, old, heavy looking cast iron hardware. The menu seemed focused on organics, a theme we saw repeatedly in Edinburgh. They even had free-range bacon! I’d not heard of that before. (Tasted good, too.) It seemed kind of expensive though, at £7.90 for just french toast and bacon. Lots of seafood items offered in the non-breakfast specials.

Sarah

I love how vertical space is used in Edinburgh. This place was a few steps below street level, but it didn’t feel subterranean. The decor used the old elements (exposed stone walls, beams, old-fashioned stove/fireplace), but kept it light and airy. As Cliff said, there was a serious organic bent to the place and that was reflected in the prices. But my french toast and bacon was really well prepared and the quality was very high. Maybe not high enough to warrant that kind of pricing, but I’m not much a breakfast person. The service was super-friendly , but the coffee was nothing to write home about.

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Restaurant Colosseum

The Joint

Restaurant Colosseum
Inh. Teixeira Pinto
StadtamHof 5
93059 Regensburg
Tel. +49 941 28 00 74 65

Cliff

Restaurant Colosseum
Restaurant Colosseum
This seems like one of those locations that has a hard time staying in business. Maybe it’s cursed (not a big surprise, owing to its history), or just had a string of unlucky proprietors since we’ve been here in Regensburg observing it. But I really hope this iteration sticks around, despite the odds facing it. The location is ideal for us and food quality was, by our estimations, very high. I like that the owner comes around to check on his guests while they are eating. But I’m troubled by what seem big threats to his livelihood.

  • Trattoria Marina is just a few meters away and has a much flashier location, setup, and is well established as the Italian restaurant on this part of the island.
  • They seem to have much more capacity for seating than necessary. Of course, they just opened this spring.
  • It’s hard to know what the place is actually called . The building is labelled “Colosseum”. Is that the name of the restaurant? Cursory google searches about the restaurant yielded nothing useful. What about carry-out business? Phone number on the door? All of that was missing or not obvious. Seems like the owner is relying on walk-in/by business. Hope that’s enough.

Here’s what it does have going for it: homemade pastas (excellent!), decent pizzas, a great bruschetta, and a Buy 10 Get 2 Free deal on carry-out pizza. I just hope they can stick it out against the odds.

Sarah

Locals already know this, but for those just visiting, Regensburg suffers from a glut of Italian restaurants. Most of them are fair-to-middling with a few standouts. Colosseum is on track to be counted among the standouts. Service is friendly and attentive. The food is fresh and well-priced. They don’t seem to have the flair that Marina has, but they’re far more pleasant to deal with – just try ordering a pizza from both places and see which experience is better.

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Mirabelle

The Joint

Mirabelle
Drei-Mohren-Str. 11
93047 Regensburg

Tel: +49 941 5956550

Cliff

Mais oui, c’est tres charmant!

We didn’t do our annual (?) Frenchy (road) trip this year. I have been missing something all Spring and unable to put my finger on it. I’d been trying to fill that hole void with imported cheese (ask Sarah, she’ll vouch): in casseroles, appetizers, even straight. It was all very tasty, but none of it was hitting my Gallic spot. Last night, I think I got a little closer to it. Mirabelle did the trick.

This place was hard to get into on our first attempt — we called one afternoon and asked for a reservation later that evening and were regretfully and politely, yet resolutely, turned down. On our next attempt we booked about a week in advance. The maitre d’ who took our reservation considerately asked whether there was a particular occasion we were celebrating. “No no, just four friends having dinner” was my answer. “Na, prima. Bis Dienstag, 19:00 Uhr dann. Vielen Dank!” Even the reservation-making was pleasant (to be fair, she was quite nice when turning us down, too).

I didn’t sample the wines, but did appreciate Alte Liebe — my favorite brand of dark wheat beer which is a little hard to find around here, even though it’s brewed in a nearby town. It’s in no way French, but I know what I like, and none of the non-German beers on my list are French. I thumbed through the menu and oohed and ahhed at the beef and lamb offerings…but in the end I opted for the menu: smoked salmon salad, pork tips with a side of ratatouille, and some kind of carrot/potato mash thing followed up by Bayerisch Créme* in a fresh berry sauce. All very good — even the carrot/potato mash thing.

My only suggestion for improvement (and I freely admit this is really picky of me): the waitress seemed a little less…fitting to the atmosphere. In contrast to the setting, the telephone experience and the food itself, she seemed just a little off in terms of timing: finding the opportune moment to clear the table or the pause in our conversation to offer drinks, etc. Or even reaching across the table to grab empty dishes where I would have expected her to walk around and retrieve from the proper side.

I am glad our friends were pleased with the place, especially since it was new to them too. It’s nice when “locals” (to the extent that we don’t yet qualify) thank us for our local gastronomic joie de vivre.

Sarah

Très charmant, indeed. I was impressed from the moment we set foot in the joint. Honestly, the décor struck me as a little dark for summer dining, but we were led out to a lovely little terrasse – which Cliff didn’t specifically ask for in the reservation, so that was encouraging. I had a glass of Riesling (yeah, I know it’s not French – don’t you judge me) which could have been a little colder, but was light and really fresh tasting without being overly dry. Kerstin, one of our dining companions, had an equally lovely Grüner Veltliner.

The food was the impetus for our visit, though, and it was enough to help stave off regrets of not making it to France this year. I had the rolls of goat-cheese-stuffed roasted eggplant, dressed with vinaigrette, marinated tomatoes (think bruschetta topping) and pesto. These are all ingredients that I love, so I was pretty much in heaven. Plus, this was a cold, antpasti-type of thing and it’s been pretty hot and miserable here, so it was a great seasonal offering. The main course was a stuffed red pepper, filled with ground lamb, ratatouille, roasted cauliflower and the same mashed potato/carrot thing that Cliff had. It was all very good and prettily presented, but it wasn’t particularly innovative or surprising, like some of the meals that we’ve had in France. Dessert was a mixed-berry crème brulée – small, but creamy and potent.

I was, like Cliff, a little puzzled by our server. This place was so unfailingly professional and polished on all other fronts that her bad timing and chilliness (polite, but seemingly on the edge of irritability) was almost jarring. Maybe she was having a bad day. But we didn’t! We were so looking forward to our dinner at Mirabelle – it’s nice when things live up to your expectations.

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