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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fast Food on the Road

NY Times food critic Frank Bruni recently took an 8-day drive across the country eating only from drive-thrus and only in his car.
Until I hit an In-N-Out Burger in Torrance, Calif., on the eighth day of my trek, all of my fast food was consumed, as fast food often is, in the car, which smelled worse and worse as the trip went on and on. Like an obtuse houseguest or a Supreme Court justice, the scent of a White Castle slider lingers.

While he skipped the midwest instead opting for a tour through the southwest, probably just so he could get a Whattaburger, it's a pretty entertaining read. He did rate a burger he had at a Culver's in Dallas as one of the top ten meals on his trip. He also discovered what the real fried potato connoisseurs already know, the Sonic tater tot and McDonald's hash brown are the best in their respective meal categories..
The fries at Hardee's were better — crisper, more substantial in feel and taste — than the fries at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Jack in the Box.

But the tots at Sonic, a chain prevalent in the South, were the sultans of spuds. Since all of these potato variants are about exterior crackle, not interior vegetable, the tot configuration, with more crests and buttes and ridges, won the day.

The runner-up, for much the same reason: McDonald's hash browns, sculptured by unseen Michelangelos of fast food into what is essentially one mammoth, oblong, scrumptious tot.

It's an entertaining read and sounds like fun for a day or so.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hot Beef in Lincoln

Harold’s Pantry (nee The Pantry)
v. Fred & Ruby’s Grill

Hot Beef Plate

By Jack Jackson

I hadn’t eaten at the Pantry at the Van Dorn Plaza in years, and that’s no exaggeration. It must’ve been at least fifteen years ago when I had eaten there last, probably with several family members who are now no longer on this planet.

From what I remembered, nothing much has changed. Harold’s Pantry is still a place for old white people, much like a Cracker Barrel. There were several elderly people eating peacefully, slumping from irretrievable calcium deficiency, hunching over their plates of food, depicting a very real memento mori.

But apart from this somewhat depressing gerontological atmosphere, the place is very clean, the service is very friendly, and it’s quite nice to eat there. I ordered the hot beef platter, which is oddly enough served on Tuesdays across the street at Fred & Ruby’s Grill in the Parkway Lanes. Both are excellent.

There are many similarities in the two hot beef plates: open-faced slices of Wonder Bread-styled white bread, then thin and lean real rump roast beef, add a decent scoop of real mashed potatoes, and cover it all with beef gravy. Normally I don’t like Wonder Bread-styled white bread, but it is somehow the perfect type of bread for this old standard.
The differences are that you usually get a small helping of corn on the side at Fred & Ruby’s grill, and the gravy at Fred and Ruby’s is clearer, most likely thickened with corn starch instead of flour. Both taste just fine, though.

So if you’re in the neighborhood and in the mood for a hot beef platter (add a tossed salad at Harold’s Pantry, too) [Maybe a smoothie, too?—Eds.], you really can’t go wrong at Harold’s Pantry or at Fred & Ruby’s Grill. Just remember that the hot beef platter is only served on Tuesdays at Fred & Ruby’s.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jerusalen Bakery and Restaurant

I woke up Sunday morning (okay, well, early afternoon) with a hankering for empanada's. It's been too long since I'd tasted that delicious little pie at Julia's Empanadas in DC. Steve had heard that a place over by N Street Drive In had cheap empanadas, so off we went.

Long story short, Jerusalen Bakery and Restaurant ended up being much better and much worse than I expected. Better: the empanadas are only 2 for a dollar. Worse: they didn't have any empanadas at the restaurant that day. Better: the bakery in the back actually had empanadas. Worse: they only flavors they had were pineapple and pumpkin.

Steve ordered the chicken tekka, which he found underwhelming: the poor man's version of Ali Baba's Greek chicken.

I got the grilled steak lunch, which was just... nasty.

Considering we went there on a Sunday, we don't feel like we got the real experience and we kind of want to go back. The food was made right in front of us by a very nice woman. They had a cool grocery store and bakery right there as well. Basically, we're looking for someone to redeem this place for us. If you've been there, leave a comment and shed a little light for us.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Christo's Pub

Gary goes to the beautiful old Norwest building and eats lunch (and channels Jack Jackson).

I took a friend of mine out for his birthday lunch on Friday. He chose Christo's Pub (formerly BC's or something like that) at 12th and O streets. This was a very nice looking restaurant and it looks like it may have potential, although the kitchen must be incredibly small.

The poor waitress was forced to serve every table in the place by herself, in addition to serving as the bartender and ringing out paying customers. Words cannot convey how understaffed they were for lunch. Our waitress performed admirably under these conditions but the food was slow to arrive to the table.

I ordered a cheeseburger. The cheese was barely there on this large pre-formed patty that was not at all good and not at all recommended. Bland taste and no seasonings. I requested ketchup and received a condiment cup of it rather than a bottle for the whole table. I asked for mustard but they were out of mustard. The bun was a fresh roll, something that is, unfortunately, a rarity in many Lincoln restuarants.

This is not a place I will return to, which is too bad. It's a great location and a beautiful setting. They just appear to be mismanaged. The people who were there and working were great, there just weren't enough of them. Whoever purchases for the kitchen, go with homemade hamburger patties. The preformed patties are awful, even though they are huge. Give those employees who worked last Friday a raise, they deserve it for not caving in under the pressure they faced.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Recipe-- Frittata


The Frittata is a great way to use leftovers and feed yourself at 4 am

1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of diced vegetables (asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers, green onion, artichoke hearts, spinach...)
1/2 cup diced meat (ham, bacon, sausage...)-- OPTIONAL
1/4 cup diced fresh dill-- OPTIONAL
8 eggs, lightly beaten with 1/4 cup water
1 cup shredded cheese

Put oven on broil. Heat a cast iron skillet with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Add onions and cook until golden brown. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add other veggies and cook until soft. Add meat. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan and pour egg mixture over the top. Cook for a few minutes until the bottom starts to set. Put under broiler and watch carefully until the top is just starting to set. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and watch until cheese is starting to get golden and bubbly. Take out and let sit for about 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Late night food

It's after 4 a.m. and I'm about ready to hit the sack without food, but a very fresh Google search that hit this site was wondering about food in Lincoln after 3 a.m. I can think of the Hiway Diner and it's smoking bus...er, Freedom Flyer, but other than that I suggest cruising by a 24-hour grocery store and grabbing some eggs, onions, cheese and as many other veggies as you find palatable and making a frittata. If you can't wait for some great home-cooked egginess, there's alway the 24-hour McDonald's drive-thru or D'Leon's.

Other suggestions?

Friday, May 05, 2006


I let the nomination process run a couple of extra days because there are only about 5 or 6 categories that have multiple nominations for more than one restaurant. This was the easiest category to tabulate. The rest will be posted later.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


When Kabuki first opened, I was elated. A sushi bar? Five minutes from our house? !Vive maguro! Unfortunately, the place was dead, the service sucked, the drinks were WAY overpriced, and the sushi was mediocre at best. Since then, I've been getting my sushi fixes on vacations to larger, more water adjacent cities (with a few trips to Shogun and Wasabi here and there to supplement).

Since that time, we've heard enough scuttlebutt about how good they are to give them a second chance. So last night Steve and I headed over there to celebrate his final, er... final of law school. When we walked in, everything seemed eerily familiar: the cool driftwood decorations, the dirty fishtank, and the sparse staff and even more sparse clientele.

We decided to sit at the bar so we wouldn't be awash in a sea of empty tables.

We ordered a nice selection of items: squid tempura, cucumber, tuna, and shitake mushroom rolls; and albacore, yellowtail, and saltwater eel nagiri. Steve got a Buddha, which was, as Jackson would call it, a boozy mess. I was actually almost done with my beer by the time Steve recieved his well-deserved Buddha, because the only guy in the place who knew how to make them busy making food in the back. We waited for our food after the Buddha arrived as well, but we passed the time by watching the sushi chef work.

When we finally got our sushi we were surprised. We had been watching the chef fill up one of those big wooden boats with a beautiful assortment of nagiri and rolls, but we assumed it was for someone else, since we hadn't ordered that much (or so we thought).

Long story short, the sushi was fantastic. I contend that all the fish in Lincoln is pretty much the same (they get their fish from the same place), so the way to judge a sushi restaurant is their rice. After all, doesn't the word "sushi" mean "seasoned rice"? The rice is what makes or breaks the meal for me-- that's why I don't like the sushi at Chinese buffets, that's why I don't like the attempts at sushi I've tried at home, and that's why Marz has the worst sushi I've ever tasted. It had the right balance of salty, sweet, and vinegary flavors; it wasn't crunchy or mushy; it wasn't too skicky; it was really the perfect sushi rice. Whoever makes it is a talented person. Bra-vo.

I see myself eating lots more sushi from Kabuki in the future... but I'll probably get take-out.