Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kroll’s West – Green Bay, WI

I was in Green Bay for the North Central Regional Championships of Roller Derby and I warned Weetabix I was going to be in her home town. She knows I love to eat and also to talk about the foods I ate, so she made sure I had Kroll’s East on my list. There is a Kroll’s West as well, but apparently, they are a completely different operation than Kroll’s East. So despite the WEST one being a sponsor of the roller derby tournament AND mere blocks away from the arena, I trudged across Green Bay and found Kroll’s East.

I knew it was going to be one of those days when I pulled up to the place. The entire restaurant looks like the back of the restaurant. There is not actually a defined entrance to this place. In fact, I’ll venture there are probably twelve doors on the outside of the building, yet only 5 or 6 operating yet completely different entrances. I got out of my car and tried two doors and neither of them opened. Seriously weird. I walked around the entire building and got denied by a third door (I’m NOT joking) and then eventually found one that would open and let me in. However, I was standing in a long hallway with old-timey booths on either side and no employees were actually visible. I TOLD you it was weird.

I grabbed a seat at an empty booth and waited for someone to come help me. I didn’t wait long before I saw the menus on the table. I grabbed one and started looking. It’s an old-folks kind of greasy spoon diner atmosphere that hasn’t changed in probably 50 years. Kids meals still come with a sucker and a toy and each burger comes with the bun buttered. I also started laughing at the hilarious things on the menu. For example, the Taco Salad is NOT available on Friday? Why the hell would it NOT be available then?
Kroll’s East won “Best of the Bay” in 2009 for its chili and its burgers. Which, of course, means you can get chili on anything.
I wish I had known this during the year when Coach used to make fun of me because I would order things at restaurants and then ask them to dump chili all over everything – again, I’m dead serious. So at Kroll’s, the spaghetti actually comes with chili on it and you have to ask for it NOT to be on there. Finally, the whitest Nachos in the world were pictured on the menu – chips with pump cheese and… wait for it… CHILI!!!

I finally figured out what I wanted and then started to get… um… anxious that no one had come to take my order nor even acknowledged my existence. Right about then, I noticed in very small print at the top of the menu, “Any booth along the wall, please push button for service. Please pay when served.”
Where was this button? Oh wait. Here it is. Behind the menus. I hate it when there’s a hidden button (twhs). I pushed it and sure enough, a waitress showed up to take my order.

I had decided on one of the world famous burgers and a Dew. The place has fountain soda and cans, so they’ve got quite a collection to choose from – but you KNOW I stopped on Dew when I read that. Apparently, these world famous burgers are served on hard roll. To me, this is weird, but maybe it’s a perfectly normal regional thing. But really? A hard roll? Who wants to crunch their way through a crunchy roll to get to the juicy beefy innards? Oh well, I was hoping the butter that they claim to slather on everything would moisten up the roll. The waitress asked me if I’d like it cut in half, and confused, I replied, “Sure, why not?” Then I was told to push the secret button on the wall again, so the master control button watcher knew I had been taken care of.

The girl went away, and I got caught up on some emails on my phone. Thankfully, the food didn’t take long to arrive. I forgot the menu said (in small print) that you were supposed to pay when the food arrives, so I got “the look” when I wasn’t ready with cash in hand. I’m guessing this is the kind of place where old guys come in and order the exact same thing every day and count out their pennies and nickels from their hundred-year-old coin pouches that you squeeze to open and then stare creepily at the young girls working (I didn’t have a coin pouch but I can work on the other part…). I paid and the waitress left without so much as a word. This button and pre-payment system is clearly designed to minimize the interaction with customers in this booth-hallway. I never saw the waitress again. This place isn’t getting any less weird. (But it will get MORE weird before it’s over…)

The burger that I got was wrapped in waxed paper which made me recall an episode of the Simpsons where Doctor Nick tells Homer that anything he rubs on a napkin that causes the napkin to become see-through is alright to eat. This burger was easily going to make this list since I could see right through the paper due to the grease from the butter-topped roll and the juice from the burger.

The burger was cut in half as directed, and it’s a good thing it was. This hard roll makes the thing difficult to eat. Soft and amazingly juicy insides protected by what seemed like an iron bread helmet. Just plain weird, if you ask me. I’m not a fan of hard roll burgers. Did they let bread go bad accidentally and then decide to make it seem intentional or something? Who does that?

The burger patties themselves looked like they were identical pre-formed patties, which I was a little bummed about. They were super amazingly juicy (or maybe greasy, but it’s hard to tell with all the butter), so I’m not complaining about that part, I was just surprised. I had asked for it with ketchup on it, and they didn’t skimp on that at ALL. It was about the amount I’d normally have put on and I’m a ketchup-aholic. Well done, Kroll’s condiment person! This thing is a mess to eat with all the juice and ketchup and tomatoes flying all over the place and still protected with a lock box of bread. The burger was decent in the end, but seriously, the hard roll? I’d steer people away from it unless you’re used to it.

I didn’t see the waitress after our initial interaction, so I left a tip and headed out the door. I figured since there wasn’t anyone around in my area, I’d go check out the place since it is huge and those hundreds of doors had to lead SOMEWHERE. It’s like a big D&D building or something. One of the doorways led to an area with counter service and short stools with a short order cook in the middle. Then another doorway led into a large dining room with lots of tables. Then I walked past a large banquet-type room for receptions and things. Then I saw an area with an entire bar area. I had NO IDEA all these small little sub-systems were going on inside all this fortress of secret doorways.

Top 5 things about Kroll’s East
1. Juicy burger
2. Kroll’s East knows how to put ketchup on a burger
3. There’s a room for every mood a customer could have (if you can get into the building)
4. You will not be pestered by an overbearing server at this place
5. They have Dew

Bottom 5 things
1. Hard roll burgers – sorry, I’m not a fan, but that’s just me
2. Very weird layout and unusable doors
3. Putting chili on things does not make it Mexican nor enhance Italian-iosity – it makes it WHITE
4. Hidden button (he he) and hidden instructions on the menu
5. Weirdest atmosphere of a restaurant/staff possibly ever

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kona Grill (Take Two) – Eden Prairie, MN

After my first impression wasn’t so good of Kona Grill some months ago, I received a personal message from someone at the company thanking me for my report back. They pride themselves on using these kinds of comments and reviews to improve service. The company representative offered to send me a gift card for another meal there. I took them up on the offer and my gift card arrived a few days later. Today, I was pretty hungry and thought I’d give this place a second chance.

The waiter was friendly and helpful and was going to work out just fine. Very helpful and made sure my lemonade came right out (they have coke products, so no Dew).

I wasn’t going to try the same thing I had the previous time (the Big Kahuna Burger), so I set about figuring out what I either wanted or what sounded appealing or weird. I was really hungry so I tried to figure out what combinations of things would fill me up. I eventually decided on the Basil Pesto Linguini, but I needed an appetizer of some sort. The menu has a section called Perfect Pairings – you can pick two smaller portion items in the list and they’ll combine them into an entrée (or appetizer for someone like me). I thought the Oriental Salad and the Lunch Roll Combo sounded like a decent appetizer.

I ordered my food and sat back to wait. Based on the length of time I was there the previous trip, I brought a book to read at the table this time – have to catch up on schoolwork sometime, right? I was really surprised that the food took 27 minutes to come out .I actually clocked it, since I wanted to make sure I wasn’t estimating how long it took. I STILL think this is a really long time to wait, especially at lunch and especially when they weren’t terribly busy.

The food however, was MUCH better than the last time I was there. I started with the appetizery portion – the sushi and oriental salad. I’m not a huge sushi guy (at least in the past), but I have found I can not only tolerate it, but I actually look forward to it and enjoy it now. I’m not an expert, so keep that in mind. The Lunch Roll Combo comes with 4 pieces of California Roll and 4 pieces of Spicy Tuna Roll. The tuna flavor really came through – I wasn’t sure if it would or not, but there really isn’t anything else with a strong enough flavor to compete with it. I loved the tiny bit of spice in this, but (and this is just for me), it still had some fishy flavor to it. Not enough to make it gross, but enough so that it was there. However, it was still enjoyable – I’m not complaining – and for that matter, probably how it was supposed to taste. I liked it. The California Roll is simple and easy on the palette, so that was the better of the two in my opinion. Very delicious and I’m glad I got that.

The Oriental Salad was a pretty simple salad of napa cabbage, green onions, almonds, and ramen noodles with a sweet soy dressing. There were also a couple carrot slices and red pepper which jazzed it up a bit. It was a very light salad, but still pretty good. Not amazing, especially compared to the sushi, but still a good appetizer.

I’m torn a bit on the Basil Pesto Linguine. It is pieces of chicken and andouille sausage with spicy basil pesto chipotle cream sauce. The waiter had asked me if it was alright to leave it spicy, and I said yes. Like a lot of things in Minnesota (D.Rough being the exception) it wasn’t remotely spicy. It had great flavor though, so that’s alright. It wasn’t a ginormous portion, which was good, since it was lunch, and also I had just had what amounted to an appetizer already. So the flavor is the good part. The “middle” part of my like/dislike spectrum was that I really couldn’t tell which was chicken and which was sausage. They both tasted good, but for some reason (I’ll get to that with the dislike part) they both tasted the same and actually sort of chewed the same. The part I didn’t really care for was the amount of olive oil in this dish. The pasta and meat were seriously swimming in olive oil. It ended up making the meat taste the same and was pretty messy, no matter what I did. There were splashes of olive oil all around my dish and a now see a handful of spots of olive oil on my dress shirt (sigh). Here’s a photo of the pool of olive oil left in the bottom of this deep dish of pasta. Like I said, I was torn.

Despite being torn on whether or not I liked the pasta, the service and flavor of the appetizers and entrée were exponentially better than last time at Kona Grill. There are enough options on the Perfect Pairings menu or the sandwiches/wraps menu that you can get out of there for $15 for lunch. Maybe just a little work on the speed of things (there is NO WAY you can eat here and get back to work in under an hour), and this place will make its way back into my good graces hahaha. Seriously, it’s much better than the first time I went and I won’t hesitate to go back here… when my boss is on vacation.

Top 5 things about Kona Grill
1. California Roll
2. Spicy Tuna Roll
3. Still think the atmosphere of this place is top-notch
4. Pick two combo plates are a fantastic idea
5. Flavor of the Basil Pesto Linguine

Bottom 5 things
1. Length of time waiting for food
2. Pool of olive oil in the linguine seemed excessive
3. Another dress shirt for the trash – this is mostly my fault, I’m an expert sloppy eater
4. The oriental salad was really green-onion-heavy. Probably my own taste, but still, there were a LOT
5. There could have been more sweet soy dressing on the salad

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aurelia’s – Eden Prairie, MN

I stumbled across the website for this authentic Mexican restaurant in Eden Prairie, which is kind of a miracle because only the front page of the site actually works. FireRetarded and I had made arrangements for lunch and I suggested we check it out. Yes, it is a Mexican food place in Eden Prairie, BUT it is in a strip mall, so we had high hopes.

As we found out, Mama Aurelia took over the shop of the former Pepito’s restaurant. But the guy behind the counter assured us the food was greatly improved and it was impossible to get anything bad at his restaurant. The menu is pretty simple, but covers a lot of things. 10-12 entrees and some kids plates. I like this and it made ordering much easier. One of the cooks came out and was trying to narrow down our choices for us, but succeeded in basically reading the menu to us – seriously, everything is good here.

FireRetarded and I are basically the same person sometimes (I’m sure that bothers HIM more than it bothers ME), so we both decided on the Mama Aurelia’s Plate – your choice of a bunch of different meats and tortillas (I got caritas and corn shells and he got barbacoa and flour shells) with beans, rice, chips, guac, cheese, pico, and some tortillas. And of course, I got a Pineapple Jarritos!

We sat down and got caught up on all of my roller derby adventures, and in less than 5 minutes our food came out. These people are fast.

They asked if we wanted mild or spicy sauce with our lunches and we both went with spicy. Once we got it, we were not surprised at how non-spicy it was, but the flavor was quite good and made up for it. It was delicious – both the food and the sauce. We wrapped our own tacos and basically destroyed these plates. We were both really full afterwards and kept talking about the food. The worker came over to check on it and we assured him we’d be back to this place. It was really good.

I asked if they had to-go menus to bring to the office and they did not. However, they are adding breakfast to the menu, so they’re waiting for that offering to be finalized so thy can print up accurate menus. I might actually get out of bed early for that (depending on how early the serve food). Thank you Aurelia – we’ll both be back.

Top 5 things about Aurelia’s
1. Mama’s plate with carnitas
2. Mama’s plate with barbacoa
3. Spicy sauce flavor
4. They have pineapple Jarritos (AND Dew)
5. Super awesome staff

Bottom 5 things
1. Spicy sauce wasn’t spicy at all (well, maybe for Minnesota it is)
2. A lot of 2-person tables, with a couple of 4-tops
3. Small menu (but they cover everything, so I really shouldn’t put that on here)
4. I was in the mood for chips and salsa for lunch, but didn’t get any – I didn’t even look for it on the menu
5. The website doesn’t work at all, so I couldn’t look at the menu before or after eating

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hyland Ski Hill (Morty’s) (last time of the season) – Bloomington, MN

I’m only reviewing the sandwich, not the place.

When I showed up for lunch today, Morty’s had a Peanut Buster Burger on the menu. Burger patty covered with peanut butter and bacon bits. That’s what I’m talking about. It was delicious. (The bacon bits help, of course.)

I’ve never had a burger with peanut butter on it before, but a LOT of people have told me they are delicious. You just have to go into it thinking you’re eating a salty-sweet food combination. If you can do that, you’ll love this burger. I know I’d get another one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gino’s East – Chicago, IL

I have wanted to go to Gino’s East in Chicago for approximately 20 years now. I’ve heard people talk about the “Big Three” (or four, depending on who you ask) – Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, and Gino’s East (and sometimes Pizzeria Uno). I’ve eaten at all of these places except Gino’s East. D.Rough and I were in Chicago visiting her sister and brother-in-law, Hermana and BIL, and their new baby SecretSociety. They’re on a … uhhh… newly revised sleep schedule, so D.Rough and I headed out to the city for dinner.

I wanted to eat at the original Gino’s East to make sure we got the best of the best Gino had to offer. I grabbed the GPS and typed in “Gino’s East Original Chicago Pizza”. It pulled one up that was really close to where we were driving. Cha-ching!!! We ended up near the O’Hare airport and then in a sort of business hi-rise area. We pulled into the driveway where we saw the sign for Gino’s East, but couldn’t see it anywhere. What the heck. It was THEN that D.Rough pointed out that I was a complete buffoon and the GPS had read the search as “Original Chicago” Pizza. It was a pretty safe bet Gino hadn’t started his world-famous pizza business by the airport. Score one for D.”Smarty Pants”.Rough.

There was a driveway that had been closed off for what looked like new blacktop, so we assumed the restaurant was in there. We drove around back. Nope, that led to a service entrance. We saw a few cars here, but basically a back entrance to one of the high-rise office complexes. Then we saw a piece of paper taped to a light pole in the lot. It had writing on it that looked like it might say Gino’s East. Seriously? Yup. We got out and walked towards the back entrance. There we saw another piece of paper TAPED TO THE CURB. I’m not lying to you. Here it is.

We walk into this scary an unmanned back entrance to a company and looked for more signs. After walking through various corridors and following multiple signs for almost five minutes (again, seriously), we found ourselves in some sort of underground bunker – we should have made a savings throw, apparently (only Garrison will get that). Then, out of nowhere, pops the Gino’s East sign. Neither of us were all that happy to find it at that point, but we were committed now.

We walked into what appeared to be the back entrance to Gino’s East and expected to be the only ones there. Nope, the place had a good number of people hanging out. Including a hilarious stereotypical Italian family of men harassing each other loudly and enjoying what looked like incredible pizza.

We kind of knew what we wanted, so we ordered deep dish Chicago style pepperoni pizza. A medium, since we were both hungry (from walking). We also split a salad to tide us over until the pizza was done cooking.

The waitress brought us our salad and we dove in. It was a decent salad and one you’d expect from a pizza place. Iceberg lettuce with some other veggies and simple dressing. Great ppetizer. Then the pizza came out.

This is serious pizza for those of you not familiar with Chicago style pizza. Many layers of cheese so the thing ends up being about two inches thick. And the crust itself has some sort of corn meal in it that makes it delicious. The waitress scooped out our pieces and put them on our plates (common serving style in Chicago).

We dove in and by the time we finished the first giant piece, we were both full. I’m not kidding. Then out of guilt, we finished another piece. Hahahaha. We shouldn’t have, but we did. We were in pain, but it was totally worth it. The pizza at Gino’s really is world class. The cheese is super thick and flavorful, the sauce is really quite good, and the pepperoni had a tiny bit of kick and wasn’t over done. Gino has mastered the art of making and cooking pizza. It’s no wonder people managed to walk through Mordor to get to Gino’s East.

Even though this isn’t the original flagship location (which I later found on the internet), it was a great representation. I loved this place. I will concede that I enjoy Giordano’s a tiny bit more than Gino’s East, but Gino’s is a VERY close second. I’m actually looking forward to when D.Rough and I can come back for a visit to her family – and then we’ll sneak away and stuff ourselves again!!! (I also realized with as close as it is to O’Hare, I could probably hit it on a long layover if I really HAD to…)

Top 5 things about Gino’s East
1. Cheese
2. Pepperoni
3. Deep dish corn meal crust
4. Super nice waitress
5. Very nice homey Italian atmosphere (even inside an office complex)

Bottom 5 things
1. Ridiculous trek through an office building to find the restaurant (it isn’t normally like that – they were just redoing their driveway)
2. NOT the flagship location, but that’s totally my fault
3. We were full after one piece
4. We were miserable after two pieces
5. There isn’t anything remotely like this within 7 hours of my house

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cheesecake Heaven – Green Bay, WI

While in Green Bay at the North Central Regional Roller Derby Championships, Garrison Killer, one of the most awesome people in the world, mentioned he had gone to Cheesecake Heaven for lunch. It sounded delicious and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. Plus, whenever possible, I LOVE to torture my sister, NotMomsFavorite, with photos of cheesecake, since she’s an incurable cheesecake addict.

After running all kinds of errands (including a trip to the holloween store with the Minnesota Rollergirls Allstars)(If you EVER want to laugh yourself stupid at a Halloween store, then go with rollergirls), I tricked the ladies in my car into going to the Cheesecake Heaven with me.

This place seems to have a bit of everything snack-worthy. It’s got sandwichy things and breakfasty things, coffee things and cookie things, and of course, cheesecake things. There is a case with individual slices in a rotating cabinet. It had some standards like traditional and some caramel covered things and raspberry flavored. I went right to the main refrigerated case which held the holy grail of cheesecake – Monster Cookie Dough Cheesecake.

Yeah, it’s ridiculous. I scored a slice of that, as well as a Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cannoli. The guy mistakenly put in a chocolate covered Oreo in the bag, but I told him to leave it in there and I’d pay for it, since D.Rough needed some Oreo Cheesecake.

I’ll be honest with you, we ate everything so fast, I never once thought about taking a photo of the individual pieces. I sent my sister the above photos to prove I was at the Mecca for cheesecake and she was appropriately angry with me. It was worth it though.

The cheesecake was delicious and I’ll probably hit this place up again when I go back to Green Bay in March of next year. I can’t do a top 5 because Monster Cookie Dough Cheesecake would be all of the top 5 and there wouldn’t be a bottom 5. So just pretend I did, this time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Annual Canoe Trip – Mequoketa, IA

Every year, a group of Quad Citians and I have gone on an awesome canoe trip. Each year, it is awesome, no mater what the weather or who comes along for the ride. This year was no different. In fact, I even tricked a couple of people into coming down from Minnesota with me for the weekend. They loved every second of it.

I can’t even begin to go into details about everything that happened on this trip, but I CAN give you some highlights.

Yes, we ARE putting EZ Cheese on beef sticks and eating them. Delicious idea, Kanoo.

We aren’t sure if Coach is praying for continued good weather, or trying to catch some food-related object.

Minnesota’s own B.Sweet demonstrates the proper veloceraptor claw style of kung-fu. Yes, folks – those sideburns are for real.

This photo makes it look like we’re doing considerable paddling. It’s a total farce. I think I paddled exactly 13 times.

ImposterChao wins the boobie prize. Oh wait, he actually BROUGHT the boobie prize!

Chao partakes in some high-octane beverages… from time to time…

Yes, that is alcohol-infused whipped cream being consumed straight from the tap. Brilliant idea!

Someone didn’t have a sunscreen buddy, did they?

Stop for a quick lunch break.

Coach wants a piece of the dirty boobie prize.

Mr. Burns loves the boobie prize, too!

Don’t mess with D.Rough.

…Or her minions…

Man overboard!!!!

Random stragglers. Cute random stragglers:)

“Train don’t run outta Witchita. Less’n you’re a cattle, or a hog. People train runs outta Stubbville.”

People get upset when you take their photo right after they’ve tipped their canoe and lost various items… Who would have known?!

This year was a super fun trip and we all had a blast. Look at all the smiles in the photos – that ways it all. Only two canoe tips this year! Wait, One canoe, but it tipped TWICE, didn’t it, SecretMeat?....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cookie Dough Creations – Naperville, IL

I will try not to ramble on and on about this place, but frankly, it’s one of the best culinary ideas ever created, so it will be difficult.

D.Rough had gone to this place a few years back when her sister moved to the Chicago area. When she found out, the hard way, about my addiction to cookie dough, she immediately brought it up and made sure to mention it from time to time so I didn’t forget – like THAT would happen.

We were in the area visiting her family and had some free time, so we headed there. And to be frank, it’s amazing.

It’s a cookie dough shop AND ice cream shop. In fact, what you’re supposed to do is order your cookie dough first (in the same refrigerated cases as the ice cream) and then tell them what ice cream you’d like to go underneath the cookie dough. They have 8 flavors of cookie dough, including Oreo, Turtle, Regular, Peanut Butter, Cake Batter, Fudge Brownie, Brown Sugar, and M&M. The dough is made without eggs, so it’s safe to eat (and healthy, right?) Then you can choose from like 20 flavors of ice cream, which also all sound delicious.

After what seemed like an hour of deliberation on proper caramel-to-chocolate ratio, I decided on French Silk ice cream underneath Turtle cookie dough. And it was stellar. Seriously stellar. It’s half cookie dough and half ice cream in a cup. We got a small dish to share and I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I would have died. They pack a lot of this stuff into the dish.

We went outside and sat on a bench in front of the store. It was so delicious, people walking past asked us what we were eating and then went straight inside and bought their own. We’re great marketers!

When I got home, I looked at the website and I’m glad I didn’t notice they make 10” cookie dough ice cream sandwiches and all kinds of various desserts. Though they do ship these things….. hmmmm…..

No top 5, but it truly is an amazing idea for a dessert shop. Especially if you knew how much cookie dough everyone in our family eats…

Friday, September 10, 2010

Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty – Wisconsin Dells, WI

On a recent roadtrip, D.Rough and I drove through Wisconsin Dells. While en route, her parents called her and jokingly (maybe not?) said we had to stop at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty for lunch or dinner. We had nothing but time to kill (despite a logistical snafu caused by what my friend Paulio says, “comes down to somebody being a dumb-ass”. In this case, *I* was the dumb-ass), so we decided to check it out. The Dells crack me up and I love going there, despite the hoards of white trash tourists and people from Chicago in denial about being white trash visiting for weeks at a time.

We found it relatively easily and were impressed at the number of cars in the parking lot. It was going to be awesome. We snapped a couple of photos outside the place, since these giant things practically demand photos!

Floyd Bear’s brother – Dells Bear – gets a high five!

Right when you walk in the door, there’s a giant blue ox head above the door that talks to you or your kids. It’s a tad odd, but you’d better get used to it… You pay at the register before you walk in and it’s in the $13-15 range, so it’s doable, especially since it’s all you can eat. Not a buffet or anything, they just keep bringing you food to your table until you tell them to stop. We sat down in one of like 5 large dining rooms and checked out the ambience. Lots of Americana and logging photos and paraphernalia on the walls. Kind of log cabin-y and wood-sy. Some tables had benches and some tables had chairs – an interesting mix, but very well designed for the large families populating this place.

The waitress (from Russia) brought us a pitcher of water, two giant pieces of bread and some butter (and also non-butter spread) and took our drink orders. Hooray for me – they had Dew! (Notice the small wooden tip stand on the table to proudly wave your tip in the air like a flag for all other tables to see – weird) The bread was pretty standard, but I’m sure was meant to begin filling us up – not even close, Mr. Bunyan!

The waitress then brought a couple of simple salads (we had a choice of coleslaw, applesauce, or salad to start), with some 1,000 island dressing. Still not filling us up.

Then the waitress brought out the real food. A couple of BBQ ribs, fried chicken, corn on the cob, corn in a bowl with broccoli and seasonings, and mashed potatoes and gravy. The mashed potatoes were delicious, despite having sort of a unholy yellow gravy on them. I’m not sure what exotic creature reduces down to that color yellow, but it is delicious and I hope to hit one with my car so I can take it home and eat it. Just close your eyes and eat it (twss). The corn in the bowl was quite good and I don’t recall ever eating corn and broccoli together. However, this was a pretty good combo that I might at some point recreate. The corn on the cob was particularly good and sweet. D.Rough and I were pretty happy with the corn, all the way around.

The ribs weren’t life-changing, but they were good. They were really meaty with very little gristle. And while they didn’t fall off the bone, they weren’t tough, chewy, nor overcooked. The BBQ sauce on them was really quite good as well. Sweet with just a touch of zing to it. The fried chicken was better than average (though it pales in comparison to the almighty Popeyes). It was cooked well and had great crunch, despite not having a lot of seasonings on it. Still, it was very good.

…So good, in fact, that we had the waitress bring us more fried chicken and more ribs. We got good and full on the main dishes and were pleasantly surprised at how good everything was. It wasn’t quite as good as either of our moms make, but it was great for all-you-can-eat food.

When we were finished with that stuff, the waitress brought out our dessert. Chocolate cake with white frosting. I’m not a cake eater, but I powered through the first bite. Immediately, I could tell something was off. I kept quiet and waited to see D.Rough’s reaction to the cake. She’s got a MUCH more sensitive palette than I do, so I was hoping for some hilarity. She looked at me after her first bite and said, “what did they do to this cake?!” After some quick deliberation, she determined the cake maker had accidentally used lemon extract in the frosting instead of vanilla extract. Yup, that was it exactly. So, if you ever think Chocolate-lemon cake sounds interesting, take our word for it – it’s a recipe for cake fail. It wasn’t good at all. D.Rough ate the cake part and left the frosting (which I’m SURE would have been just fine eaten separately), and I powered through my piece like there was nothing wrong at all.

This place has some interesting people watching. We sat behind a large Hispanic family with a bunch of young boys and a mom. The kids were hilarious and saying some seriously funny things. They had the mom in stitches at various points. These guys seemed like a super fun family. That’s the kind of experience you should fully expect at Paul Bunyan’s.

We left the table and headed out into the giant gift shop at the front of the restaurant. If there’s one thing you’ll learn quickly about Wisconsin Dells is every restaurant and store is filled with stupid touristy crap and things kids will cry for… and people will buy it without question. Wow. In fact, D.Rough bought an awesome salt and pepper shaker set of ceramic monkeys. No, I will NOT post a picture of D.Rough’s monkey…

Overall, a great experience at Paul Bunyan’s Lumberjack Restaurant Thingy Place. Apparently, a LOT of my friends recognize the statue and have recalled all sorts of childhood (and more recent) memories. Go us!

Top 5 things about Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty
1. Fried Chicken
2. Corn on the Cob
3. Neon gravy
4. Atmosphere/Americana
5. Photo ops outside (aka the Paul Bunyaniosity)

Bottom 5 things
1. Lemon extract is NOT a good replacement for vanilla extract
2. You only get what they have on the menu that night. You don’t actually order anything
3. Soapy coffee cup
4. The breakfast they offer sounds pretty delicious, but we clearly missed that
5. They have cute stuffed animal heads mounted on the wall. As in little kid stuffed animals… mostly creepy but slightly awesome