Friday, July 29, 2011

MMA Extreme Challenge 188 – Target Center – Minneapolis, MN

Here’s the surprising part: I won tickets to an event! Here’s the not surprising part: I won them through Taco Bell!

I will give a disclaimer that I’m likely to offend people by this review. If you’re offended, you’re probably one of the people I’m commenting on, and I offer no apology. However, the rest of the population will find it amusing, factual, and will join me in pointing fingers and laughing at you.

I got an email saying I won two tickets to the MMA Extreme Challenge 188 because I had entered some contest. So I wrote the person back basically asking, “Really???” Of course I was suspicious. But the lady assured me I could pick up tickets at the Target Center Box Office the day before. I took off a little early from work and drove downtown. You know when a bad time to go the Target Center Box Office is? Right before a Twins game – right next to the Target Center. So basically to park my car and run in to pick up the tickets was going to cost me $20. Ouch. Thankfully, a nice lady-cop helped me out and it only cost me a dollar. And no I won’t tell you how to make that happen – I’m not giving away my new found secret.

The following night, D.Rough and I headed to the Target Center after hours of deciding what to wear. How would we fit in? Is it classy like a Vegas fight? Is it wife beaters and cut-off jorts? Or is it Ed Hardy D-Bag sparkle shirts with backwards baseball hats and $200 jeans. Turns out it’s the latter.

Let me start by saying the douch-baggery started before we even got into the event. Out in the ticket window area (there were some minor mix ups in the tickets), there was a large group of people with a d-bag father who had bought a bunch of tickets for a group of his kids and his kid’s friends. The handful of tickets were given to the family in the hands of one moronically-dressed two-toned haired whore. She turned around and started handing out the tickets. We heard some of the kids say – wow, we didn’t buy $82 tickets – sweet. Then we heard the father absolutely blow up, insult the window lady, and demand a manager “who wasn’t an idiot” when he didn’t get one of the chosen few $82 tickets and didn’t think to ask his kid’s friends who got the special seats he had bought. He caused a scene and was a complete dill hole about the whole thing. I loathe people like that. L. O. A. T. H. E.

Once inside, the d-baggery continued. I felt I didn’t have enough gold and silver lamé on my shirt – mainly because I didn’t have ANY – and I wasn’t wearing a baseball hat backwards. In fact, the only people who had their hats on the proper direction were the people wearing golf hats and were clearly out of place. Also, my shirt was the proper size. I didn’t choose to wear the same size shirt as I had in Jr. High. Again, I stuck out. I also didn’t have a pencil thin chin strap beard or a soul patch, so I’m sure people thought I was in the wrong venue.

I was amazingly underwhelmed at the crowd at this thing. Seriously, there were 1,500-2000 people there, and that might be generous. The place was barren. They had half of the Target Center curtained off. HALF, and the octagon was in the middle of the floor with whores (the girls that walk around with giant cards telling you what round it is) and d-bags who had paid $200+ for ringside seats – yes, I’m serious. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

The first fight had started right when we got there. They do the amateur bouts first. No knees, no elbows, three rounds. These are just regular joes who like to beat the hell out of each other. Some big, some small, some in shape, some not so much, some scrappy, some monstrous – a wide variety. On top of all this, the ring announcer was completely indecipherable. He basically yelled in a sing-song voice and we really couldn't make out any of the words he was saying. Heck, who knows - maybe the MMA has its own language, or maybe the sparkly shirts are some sort of communication translator.

This is my "Really?" face, seen most of the evening.

The people in the crowd were loud and drunk, even though there was absolutely zero energy in the air. None. I can remember watching AWA and WCW wrestling when I was a kid and despite it looking like it was filmed in someone’s basement with folding chairs, it had a million times more energy in the crowd.

But I did take the opportunity to write down verbatim what some of the drunks were yelling. Mainly because it amused the hell out of me. Here’s some select words yelled by the people around me towards the octagon:
Sock em up! Throw the right! Chop him down! 1-2-3! Shoulda kicked! Pick him up and slam him! Choke his ass out! Right in the triangle! Beat them kidneys! Make him piss blood! Keep it going! He's looking for a triangle! Put it on him! Squeeze! Drop a knee on him! Knee hook! Show him what Superior’s all about! (this was directed to a fighter from Superior, Wisconsin) Pound him! Get that leg out!

D.Rough tried to join in by yelling “neck squish!” She claims it’s a technical term. It was ineffective.

I sort of hated everything at a certain point, so I did what I do best – I went to the concession stand. I mentioned there was no one at the event, right? (1,500 doesn’t fill the Target Center if you’re wondering). I even took a picture of the concourse to show you how busy it is. Seriously, this is during the event. Even Lynx games have more people than this (I had a blast at the last Lynx game I went to, so I’m not taking a shot at them, I promise).

I grabbed a brat and some nachos for D.Rough and I to share and we listened to the concession stand worker complain about the number of people working the booths that night when there was no one there. We looked around and they were fully staffed. FULLY. Not all of the booths were open (no State Fair booth, sadly), but there were like 6 booths open and fully staffed with people literally sitting around doing nothing. All night. Sucked to be them and I felt bad.

D.Rough and I ate some of our food out in the concourse, since it was much quieter out there and no one was going to disturb us.

We went back in right before the intermission and were surprised to see abolsultely nothing going on. I’m used to real sporting events where you get some sort of entertainment during the half time space. They could have taken their cue from roller derby and maybe had little kids come out and show their MMA skillz. Yeah, show all these people that your daddies taught you to beat the hell out of someone until their unconscious – that’s fun, right?

The second half started and was the professional fighters. These guys can use their knees and elbows and they go for five minute rounds – five of them. This part just got long and boring. We had moved seats so we could sit with some of our friends who were actually into the event, but we seriously gave up after the second professional fighter round. Just not very action packed and no one was winning. There was a lot of blood though.

Some things I found amusing, besides the d-bags in the crowd:
  • “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins is not really the best theme song to walk out to at a sporting event. It’s a real downer until about halfway through the song. Maybe he was trying to lull the crowd – sadly, they appeared already lulled.
  • There is a sound played when there is ten seconds left in the round or the break between rounds. It actually is the sound of an orchestra conductor tapping his baton on the music stand to get the ensemble’s attention. Really a weird place to hear that sound.
  • The tables on the main floor were for groups of ten – you HAD to buy ten tickets to get a table – and the seats were $102 each. Not surprisingly, not all of them were full.
  • I found it amusing the write-ups for this event were saying this is an inferior league to UFC. People who do well in this league get tomove up to the UFC where the real fighters are at. The main event – that we missed – was between two guys who had fought each other 67 times and still weren’t in the UFC. That’s a lot of brain damage to sustain before getting to the big leagues.
  • I feel like this sort of thing is one step from sending lions into the ring and watching people die. It’s not like I’m squeamish or anything. I was just bored. Maybe lions would have helped.
  • There was a long-haired ginger fighting in one of the bouts. He came out wearing a karate Gi and had his hair ina pony tail. The guy had obviously never even seen the sun, once that Gi came off. The second we saw that, D.Rough said flatly, “I’ll bet he’s got a lot of ninja swords at home.” Classic, and that’s why I’m marrying her.
  • We actually paid $12 for a beer at the Target Center.

My recommendation? Skip the MMA and go to a real sporting event, like Roller Derby. The Minnesota Roller Girls draw 5,000 people at their home season bouts and have a pre-show AND a half time show. All for $12. In fact, all for the price of one large beer at the Target Center.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rice Street Deli – St. Paul, MN

EnyaFace! got me hooked on this place years ago and I have really needed to visit it again. It had been too long. I’ve reviewed this place before and it was absolutely incredible. Granted, last time I got the largest menu item they had – the Gangster Burger (read the previous review for details on this monster) – so you knew I’d be happy. I decided before I even went this time, that I wouldn’t get the Gangster Burger, I’d get something smaller and more reasonable. EnyaFace! and I agreed to meet at the Rice Street Deli for dinner and pick up some delicious food. There aren’t any chairs or tables in here, so you really do have to take it somewhere or eat it in your car.
Just as a recap, the Rice Street Deli is in the Reemco gas station at the corner of Rice and Maryland. Not the safest neighborhood, but also not the worst – I’m just warning people. There are some shifty characters walking around. There are also some really nice characters walking around too, and there’s an awesome Asian grocery store across the street if you want to pick up some supplies for dinner (The Double Dragon). There are regular police patrols that drive by the area and pop into the deli – multiple in the time I was waiting for EnyaFace! to arrive. At the deli, you order your food and receive a ticket which you take to the gas station part and pay for it along with any drinks or chips you’d like. Efficient operation they’ve been doing for years.

I have to mention that the afternoon I went to Rice Street Deli, I saw three different people with prosthetic legs. I’m not sure if that was some sort of sign, but I just thought it weird that in the space of 5 minutes, I saw three different versions of fake legs. Odd.

I got there before EnyaFace! and set about figuring out what I wanted to eat. I also was very amused at the people that came in to pick up food orders. A LOT of variety in the clientele, but I’m guessing as word of this place grows, it’s going to continue to be a diverse crowd. I said I wasn’t going to order the Gangster Burger, so I had some work to do deciding what else to order. They don’t have an online menu, so you have to do it right there in the store at the counter. (And I noticed they have small printed menu flyers next to the counter so you can bring them home or keep one in your car – bonus!!!). They had a lot of things I wanted, but I kept coming back to the Meat Lovers Sandwich and the Gyro Burger. Both sounded delicious. And both were much cheaper than the Gangster Burger – which is $19.99 – so that means they’re both much smaller right?
EnyaFace! showed up and we decided what to get. She had been talking about the Gangster Fries for months, so we decided to share a large order of those. She also opted for a Gyro. I asked about the Meat Lovers Sandwich and he explained it was cheesesteak and gyro meat chopped up on a roll. He mumbled something about it being huge – which intrigued me, as well. The guy working the deli is amazingly nice. The guy is also an amazing cook. I decided to go with the Meat Lovers Sandwich, since if you couldn’t already tell, I’m a meat lover.

It took a while for him to make our meals, but I could see him working hard back there. When he asked what I wanted on my sandwich and showed me the almost finished product, I realized why. The sandwich is like a foot and a half long. I’m not kidding at all. I asked if I could take a photo of what he had made for me. He agreed as he was putting the finishing touches on our Gangster fries. If you didn’t read the previous review, Gangster fries are a slop pile of crinkle-cut French Fries covered in gyro meat, cheese, and tzatziki sauce. Holy crap these were amazing.

Here’s the photo. But I worry this isn’t the best perspective for you to truly appreciate the magnitude of this sandwich. How’s this:

The guy behind the counter is really nice, as I said before. He handed me the sandwich and told me how to carry it, so it stayed right-side-up. The guy takes great pride in his food flavor as well as presentation and it was wrapped so it could withstand traveling to its destination. Waxed paper on the inside kept the things together. Really smart guy and he made sure I knew how to manage this sandwich.

We schlepped all this food to EnyaFace!’s house and dug in. I made a very small dent in the Gangster fries – which I’m sure they gave us the super size instead of the large size – I hope. They were delicious. Basically, you just need to order one of any of these things for a group of 5 or 6 people. I’m dead serious. Huge amounts of delicious gyro meat covered in delicious cucumber sauce. It was awesome.

I began to tackle this Meat Lovers Sandwich. It too was really awesome. The gyro meat and the cheesesteak were chopped up as they were cooked on the flat top grill and then mixed in with cheddar cheese. It was an amazing combination. I’m pretty sure there was American or white American cheese on the giant baguette before the meat is put on. Then I had asked for tomatoes and lettuce. Delicious. Oh wait, then I had him slather the whole thing in tzatziki sauce for me – can you tell I love it??? Amazing meat flavor combined with the cool deliciousness of cucumber sauce – it isn’t wrong to have it on two things you’re eating, I promise.

You can’t eat this thing with your hands. No way in the world. You HAVE to eat it with a fork and maybe a knife. The bread itself was much better than I anticipated. Very soft and had some good buttery flavor. I managed to get bread in just about every bite of this meal, although there were a couple of meat-only bites. I felt pretty good about my progress, but I honestly only managed to eat half of this thing. But to eat about 8 inches of a 6x18” sandwich is pretty good. I really didn’t want to quit, since it was all so good, but I didn’t want to get the meat sweats on this one. I just wanted to enjoy it. I took a photo, so you know what kind of damage I did to it.
I also took a photo of the weak attempt EnyaFace! and I made with the Gangster Fries. Next time, we’ll skip either the sandwich or the fries. There’s just no way you can do both. Maybe if you were feeding 12-15 people this would be a good amount. (I'm guessing you can tell which side was mine and which side was EnyaFace!'s)
EnyaFace! really loves the lamb gyro meat at Rice Street Deli, so she was really happy with her Gyro. She didn’t finish hers either and ended up giving the remainder to her father who was in town visiting.

Like I said, this place really is amazing. And I know they do have normal sized portions of things. Someday I will choose to order one. The gyro burger is next on the list and maybe a couple of the appetizers – the wings in particular. We noticed the guy had dessert kinds of things in his case this time around – cakes, cheesecakes, and baklava. I can’t see myself ever leaving enough room to do something like that, but for those that need dessert, this guy has it.

You really need to go here. Rice Street Deli doesn’t appear to be advertising anywhere, so you just have to spread the word on your own. I’m doing my part, trust me.

Top 5 things about Rice Street Deli
1. Meat Lovers Sandwich
2. Gangster Fries
3. Gyro Sandwich
4. Never-before-seen portion sizes
5. Really awesome staff

Bottom 5 things
1. You will never be able to finish one of these gargantuan sandwiches without a crowd of people
2. A little confusing the first time with where you pay
3. When your health coach at your insurance place finds out about this, you’ll probably get yelled at
4. It’s a little bit “hood”. Don’t be a nancy – just deal with it.
5. I feel like I need to buy a white Tall-T shirt when I’m in the gas station part – they sell them there, next to the hostess cupcakes (really)

Rice Street Deli (Reemco Gas Station)
1200 Rice Street
St. Paul, MN 55117

My next trip to this area will likely take me to the Frogtown Deli on Maryland. I'm looking forward to that!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Couva Calypso Cafe - Nashville, TN

Since I had a list of places I wanted to eat at while in Nashville, I jumped at the chance when someone asked me where we should go for lunch. I suggested Couva Calypso and found out it was extremely close to our hotel. D.Rough, the Minnesota Rollergirls SuperFans and I drove over to try it out.

The place is a little bit island-y inside. Lots of garish colored paint and corrugated steel for decoration. Oddly enough, there wasn’t a single steel drum on the ambient music the entire time we were there, but whatever, maybe that’s not what the kids there listen to now.

The menu is pretty straight forward. Lots of delicious looking sides, a couple salads, and chicken dishes that you can get with various sauces. I knew what I was in the mood for, so I got the half a rotisserie white meat chicken with Jerk Sauce. The jerk sauce comes with all kinds of cautionary warnings about how hot it was, but it also said it comes on the side, so you can control your heat. That made me feel a bit easier about getting this. I also got Martinique Callaloo – which is mustard greens, tomatoes, and onions. I’ve had this a number of places and have been thrilled with it. I also got two Boija cornbread muffins since it seemed like the right thing to do.
The food didn’t take long to come out, which was nice since we were starving. I started with the Callaloo – very good flavor, but not much bite to it. I expected a lot more, especially given some places in the Twin Cities I’ve eaten it at, where they appear to be angry with the customer and trying to light them on fire from the inside out. The Couva Calypso version was pretty tame compared to that. No worries, it just meant I could eat it faster.

The chicken itself was really flavorful and I was quite happy with it. The downside was the jerk sauce wasn’t the slightest bit hot. It was vinegar-y and had some bite to it from that, but there was a severe lack of heat in this jerk sauce. Granted, the sauce flavor wasn’t bad, but I really expected something different. However, based on the percentage of Caucasian clientele that were dining here (100%), it wasn’t a surprise that this place didn’t turn up the heat a little bit. On top of this, the corn bread muffins were quite lack luster and dry. They had some shredded coconut on the top, which I couldn’t taste at all, but made them look pretty. I thought the corny flavor of them might add something to the entire dish, but it just seemed to take all the moisture out of the food and left me thirsty. In fact, for the first time possibly ever, I left half a cornbread muffin on my plate at the end of the meal.

Maybe it was just what I ordered, but I was slightly let down with this Couva Calypso Café. Maybe I should have tried something adventurous, which I thought I WAS. But sadly, if this place had just been marketed as a chicken place, it probably would have been just fine. When you add the Calypso part to the name, I sort of expect some sort of Caribbean flavor with the food. The food wasn’t terrible, just not at all what I expected from it.

I still haven’t looked up what a Bioja is, and why the cornbread muffins were named after it/him/her.

Top 5 things about Couva Calypso Café
1. The chicken flavor
2. The menu has some interesting things on it, despite not being large
3. The decoration inside was really fun
4. Really nice staff people
5. D.Rough said the homemade fruit tea she ordered was really nice

Bottom 5 things
1. Zero heat in the jerk sauce
2. Boija cornbread muffins were dry
3. No spice or seasoning in the Callaloo
4. I have issues with sitting in plastic lawn furniture when I’m inside a restaurant – call me snooty
5. No calypso music at all being played inside

Sunday, July 24, 2011

South Street Original Smokehouse, Crabshack, & Dive Bar – Nashville, TN

I had a bunch of places in mind that I wanted to hit up while I was in Nashville, and this wasn’t one of them. However, it got some good reviews from the local people when we asked where a good Cajun or BBQ place was. Plus it was about three blocks from our hotel – bonus!

We headed over there and found ourselves seated right next to another group of our friends who had walked over just before we did. No worries. We got to look at their table before we ordered so we knew what we did and didn’t want. As I was sitting down, one of the people in the earlier group asked me if I’d ever had a cock punch. I slowly covered my nards with my hands before I told him NO. But then he pointed to the drink menu and said I should get this girl-y sounding drink called the “Cockpuncher”.South Street had a pretty extensive and unique drink menu. The Cockpuncher was just one of many fun sounding drinks on the menu. But with a name like that, I had to get it. It’s got George Dickle (Tennessee whiskey), Triple Sec, Pineapple Juice, Grenadine, Lime, Orange Juice, and Sprite in it. There isn’t any part of that I wouldn’t like.

We had a heck of a time deciding on what to order. It all sounded delicious. Especially the sides. We almost just ordered one of every side and ate that. Maybe next time we will do that. We knew (from looking at the early group’s table) that they’d be bringing us out colseslaw and pickles – like Mexican food places do with chips and salsa), so we knew not to order that. We decided to order some hushpuppies as an appetizer. It’s basically fried cornmeal with some onions mixed in.

Then for food, I asked the waitress if the ribs were serious business or if I should order a whole slab. She said I’d be crazy to order a whole slab for myself unless I planed to take a bunch home with me. I didn’t. So I got a half slab, with a side of Black Beans and Rice with cheese on top. D.Rough got the pulled BBQ pork and some sweet potato casserole (we’re from Minnesota – we are required by law to order things when they say casserole or hot dish).

The drinks came out quickly and mine was delicious. Seriously, the Cock puncher is the way to go. They also brought out a basket full of delicious buttery bread and a huge plate of coleslaw with some pickles on top.

I’m not usually a coleslaw fan ,but I’ve been eating more and more of it these days and am getting used to it, to the point that I actually think I like it now. This stuff here was pretty good, to be honest. I’m glad I got what I did (before other people grabbed their fair share of it – right before I took the photo). I even ended up taking a second helping of it because people were trying to save room.

The hushpuppies came out and before I could snap a quick photo, these vultures I was with grabbed a bunch of the. So I assure you there were more than three in an order. And surprising, they were really quite good. I’m not usually a fan of hushpuppies, but these may have changed mind. Very crispy on the outside and very corny and dense in the middle.

Then the food came out. It was massive. I was reallllly glad I didn’t order a full slab. The meat on these ribs was extremely thick. But thankfully, it was also fal off the bone delicious and juicy. Really smoky with a hint of Cajun seasoning (may have been an accident, but a tasty accident). I liked the sauce (didn’t LOVE it, but I was happy with it) and got to slather much of it on the rib meat. Very good ribs. The black beans and rice were good, and I think I made the right choice with the side dish. The melty cheese on the top was a great touch to this dish and I’m glad they did it. Then again, I’m a cheese-aholic.

D.Rough's pulled pork was pretty darn good. Jsut a tad dry, but with the BBQ sauce, it was perfect. I really liked it. The sweet potato casserole was much better than I epxected as well. Sweet without being sickening, and just the right amount of cinnamon. The texture is weird, but then again, sometimes pureed vegetables are. I'd order this again though!
I had to order a second drink since the Cockpuncher wasn’t infinite. I got the Tropical Time-Out: Light Rum, Dark Rum, 151 Rum, Triple Sec, Cherry Brandy, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, and Grenadine. This thing is basically a Wondrous Punch that you get at the Red Dragon here in Minneapolis. Delicious, but I still liked the Cockpuncher a little bit better.

I will let you in on a little secret here. I mentioned the ribs had a lot of meat on them. I mean MAJOR amounts of meat. I absolutely faked how full I was. I blew it off like it wasn’t a big deal, but I really wanted to die. I didn’t want to show weakness around the roller derby girls though – they can smell it and are not afraid to make a mockery of someone for less than something like this. So I pretended it wasn’t a big deal. But I was in pain. I’m glad we had to walk back to the hotel. I probably could have walked back to Minnesota from there and still been full. I was a trooper and no one knew about it. But a half slab of ribs would fill an entire family, I’m sure of it. Be forewarned…

I would highly recommend this place in Nashville if you’re here. It’s really good, and they have a ton of things to fit anyone’s mood or appetite. We even had some vegetarians happy with their meals there. It just looked like they were eating rice, but what do I know – they were happy.

Top 5 things about South Street Original Smokehouse, Crabshack, & Dive Bar
1. Ribs – flavor and size
2. Cockpuncher
3. Hushpuppies
4. Coleslaw
5. Atmosphere – open walls to the street

Bottom 5 things
1. I got so full here, I thought I might die (not their fault, I know)
2. Sooo many delicious things on the menu it is difficult to narrow down
3. I just now looked at their on-line menu and noticed I didn’t get my freakin cornbread!!! Hahaha I guess I’m the sucker.
4. The chairs are a little cramped between tables, so you may not be able to move once you’ve sat down
5. The open walls to the street let out on some sort of drunk d-bag reception

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Baker’s Ribs – Eden Prairie, MN (Rib Quest 2011)

HotGirlsBrother and I finally tricked Low-Vee’s schedule into allowing her to come along on a Rib Quest 2011 adventure. We confused her by sending out many different meeting invites until she accidentally said yes – it worked, since she showed up this time!!! Hooray!!! We were also honored with the presence of TheDoctor at this outing, which always raises everyone’s spirits!

This is also the first head to head match we’ve had of the Rib Quest 2011. Baker’s Ribs vs Market BBQ. So keep in mind we’ll be comparing things to Market BBQ, rather than just reviewing it in a vacuum.
Baker’s is close to my office, so I didn’t have to go far to get here. It’s also in a strip mall which bodes well for most places in Minnesota. We popped in and checked out the specials board, which thankfully, had a four-piece rib lunch with a side! Lucky us. Normally it’s a half slab and fries for this challenge, but Baker’s doesn’t have fries. I went up to the counter where all the sides are displayed behind a sort of glass wall and ordered a four-piece rib lunch with a side of coleslaw (I’m new at coleslaw, but trying to learn) and I also got some baked beans (which I paid extra for). The sides get added to the plate and the plate goes back to the man behind the chopping counter. He’s madly chopping up pieces of meat into individual ribs and brisket and such. He throws what we needed onto the plate and hands it back to the cashier guy.
I grabbed a Sioux City Sarsaparilla as well, since it’s been probably 20 years since I’ve had one of those. I paid the man, grabbed plasticware, and we all found a table in the large dining room. Points for having a roll of paper towels on the table! There is a bottle of sauce on each table, so we were good there.
I started with the toast this go around. It looked really big, but wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped it would be. I’m not even sure why. It looked like there was enough butter on it, but it just wasn’t toasty enough. If you’re going to give me bread, then give me bread. If you’re going to give me toast, then make sure it’s toasted. Not some halfway point where it’s sloppy and just this side of crispy.

The coleslaw was actually pretty good. I’ll remind people I’m not a connoisseur or anything (maybe I will be by the end of this Rib Quest), but it was good. Not as good as Market BBQ, but according to HotGirlsBrother, that’s going to be difficult to beat anyway.

I moved to the baked beans. They were REALLY BBQ saucy. I didn’t think there was such a thing, but they were all BBQ saucy. TOO BBQ saucy, in actuality. The flavor that wasn’t BBQ sauce wasn’t all that stellar, so we pretty much decided the beans weren’t good on their own, but made out alright if you dipped your bread or ribs into them.

The ribs we thought were going to win us over from Market BBQ. The meat fell off the bones here at Baker’s. Really juicy pieces of meat. And there was pretty good smoke flavor from them, which we were all pretty happy with. However, the BBQ sauce on the table detracted from the flavor, rather than enhanced it, and it was really really liquidy. This was a pretty big disappointment, since it was looking so promising for Baker’s. The bean juice tasted better than the BBQ sauce, sadly.

In the end, it was a really tough call trying to pit (pun intended) these two places against each other. Market BBQ’s ribs were tougher and didn’t have smoke flavor, but the sauce was really quite good and helped the rib. So if you’re a sauce person, you’re going to like Market a lot better. If you can eat your ribs without sauce, then you’re probably going to like Baker’s.

In a close match, we decided Market BBQ would stand above Baker’s Ribs. Not by much, but the sides and sauce at Market pushed them ahead. We’re trying to go for the whole rib experience, not JUST the ribs (though we still think Market would be slightly ahead in this solitary race, as well). And if you factor in the fact that Market has a full bar, it is inching its way further and further past Baker’s. This means our first battle – between the 9th and 10th seeded rib places – goes to Market BBQ!

And as a bonus, since we’ve already eaten at the place where the winner of this battle was going to compete against, we can safely say that Baldy’s BBQ certainly beats out Market BBQ on pretty much all counts. So we’re well on our way.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be taking down a couple of rib places in the First Four division that we’ve been looking forward to. Stay tuned for the results of those matches.

Top 5 things about Baker’s Ribs
1. Fall of the bones meat on the ribs
2. Coleslaw
3. Lots of delicious soda to choose from
4. Plenty of daily specials (we liked the fact that there was a diet rib plate with four bones instead of six)
5. Super close to work for me

Bottom 5 things
1. BBQ sauce wasn’t that good
2. Baked Beans were basically BBQ sauced beans
3. Underwhelming Texas toast
4. It isn’t very cheap
5. We had to look for wet naps, which we really needed

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cooter’s Place – Nashville, TN

So let’s say you were NOT a fan of country music, but you grew up watching television as a kid. Now let’s say you get stuck in Nashville for a few days with nothing to do. What’s the highlight of the trip going to be? ? ? ? You guessed it – Cooter’s Place.Cooter’s Place is a sort of ram-shackle museum or Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia. Some of the items are in mint condition and some of the items are held together with scotch tape and pinned to the wall crooked. Seriously. I’m not sure what the Duke Boys’ tie is to Nashville, since the show took place in Georgia, but that’s totally beside the point. The real point is that this place is awesome on 912 different levels. I found soooo many items I used to own when I was a kid. Matchbox cars, figurines, posters of Daisy, Underoos, model cars, license plates for your bike, t-shirts of Uncle Jesse, and half a billion photos of the cast members standing right there in that very shop. On top of all this, they have cars from the television show that you can sit in (some are replicas), and relive your glory days of sitting in Mom and Dad’s living room every night watching them Duke Boys run from the law.The place is actually run by Ben Jones, the actor who played Cooter on the television show before he turned politician, before he turned author, before he turned store owner, and before he turned into the lead singer of Cooter’s Garage Band (with a new album due out in 2011!!!). We didn’t see him at the shop that day, but we did get to see one of the ladies who works there fire up the General Lee and back it out into the parking lot (after one of the Minnesota Rollergirl Superfans moved their car from in front of the garage door – hahahaha)

I can’t rave about this place enough. Sure it’s full of trashy kitsch, but it’s also full of memories from when I was a kid. It’s also full of really short jeans shorts.

I tried not to buy a bunch of crap while I was there and somehow made it out of the gift shop under $25. It was difficult, but I managed. I will probably go back here if I get back to Nashville in the next 50 years. It probably won’t change that much. If you need directions, it’s right across the street from the Grand Ole’ Opry (and right next door to the equally trashy/tacky Willie Nelson Museum).

Love. It.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Noshville New York Delicatessen – Nashville, TN

Mr. Torture, Slam, and I got into Nashville before all the other folks we were meeting, so we decided to take a look around town. What we found is, that unless you’re a serious country music fan, Nashville is really quite boring. We didn’t want to pay $32 each to go to Nashville Shores water park (we meaning the other two guys), and the one place we DID want to go is amazingly closed on Friday. Se we walked to the thing Nashville is most proud of: The Parthenon. No they didn’t steal it from Greece, they just copied it. Seriously, it’s an almost-identical replica of the famous building in Greece, right smack dab in the middle of Millennium Park in Midtown. Almost.
Here it is. Done.

Then we found a beer store and got beers for our hotel pool. Please note: Nashville liquor stores are not allowed to sell beer and beer stores aren’t allowed to sell liquor. Asinine rule, but I had remembered that from the last time I was in town. So at least we had a heads up.

So we went back to the pool and drank since it was eight thousand degrees outside.
Then we decided since we were here, we might as well see the Country Music Hall of Fame. …Which was just ok. I recognized most everyone in the museum, thanks to my mom’s love of country music while I was growing up. So I was at least amused and educated at the same time. They also have a pretty sweet library/archive of recordings and such there, so that piqued my interest as well.

We walked back to our hotel and decided we were going to walk to Noshville. It was one of the places recommended to me from all of my internet research before I left. Plus, it is directly behind out hotel – we walked past it coming back from the beer store. It’s supposed to be a pretty authentic New York style deli. The menu has a lot of delicious things on it, so it was difficult to decide, but all of us had been talking about pastrami for at least a day, so that’s what all of us got. I actually got a half pastrami sammich with a bowl of matza ball soup. A lot of the online reviews for this place say it’s good, but expensive, but I didn’t think the prices were any different than the places back home, so I wasn’t going to complain.

The server brought out our soups out along with a large metal bowl of pickles and a set of tongs. Wow, they don’t play around here. Mr. Torture and I dug into our soups right away, and I’m always glad when I order matza ball soup. It is almost always phenomenal. I love it here, and the ball was really quite large – about baseball sized. And served with chicken noodle soup that was really really good.

We didn’t wait long before our sandwiches came out. The server said he didn’t want Slam to have to wait any longer while we were eating delicious food, so he brought them out fast. Even though I only got a half sandwich, it was plenty. I got it on marble rye, which is usually pretty good when paired with pastrami. It was, which is a good thing. It was a really solid sandwich and the pastrami pretty much melted in your mouth. It looked like bacon from the side, but just dissolved nicely. The bread was moist and had a great flavor and the swirl of color didn’t separate as you bit into it, like cheaper store-bought breads sometimes do. This was a really good sandwich.

And yes, D.Rough, I DID eat an entire pickle. You can ask the guys.

I’m wondering if we’ll end up back here with some of our friends. We are here for a few more days…

Top 5 things about Noshville New York Delicatessen
1. Pastrami sandwich
2. Matza ball soup
3. Marble rye bread was fantastic
4. Giant bowl of pickles on the table
5. Really friendly and helpful server

Bottom 5 things
1. There really weren’t any, to be honest. I liked all of this experience