Sunday, November 17, 2013

Taco Bell Triple Steak Stack – Eden Prairie, MN

I enjoy trying the new products that Taco Bell test kitchens launch to the general public. Most of the time, I’m pretty pleased with them, and I’ll stand behind the fact that these guys are one of the most regular new product champions in the fast food industry. The Triple Steak Stack is something they launched back in 2011 and apparently have brought back.

First off, this thing isn’t cheap – it’s $4.99, but I figured since the commercials make the thing look like it is the size of a baby, it might be worth it. It is, in fact, smaller than a baby and even smaller than the marketing advertises. That isn’t to say it’s small – it isn’t. It’s close-to-a-foot-long flat bread filled with lots of steak. Not as full as the commercials let on, but it IS full. I can’t remember that far back, but I feel like this Triple Steak Stack is longer than the one they rolled out a few years back. Maybe I’m making that up in my head.

Aside from cheese, there isn’t anything else in this thing. Just steak and cheese. I’m not complaining, but most of Taco Bell’s inventions have some sort of sauce or sour cream in them. This has none. I’m glad I got a couple packets of fire sauce to jazz it up. The steak in Taco Bell’s products always surprises me. I expect gristly and overcooked pieces of pseudo-meat and I have always gotten flavorful thinly sliced restaurant quality steak. I really don’t want to like the steak at Taco Bell, but I do, I’m sorry. There is also a lot of cheese on this thing. Maybe they figured the melty cheese could replace the sauce.

I’ll be honest, this sandwich is better than I expected it to be. I’d recommend biting both ends off first, to ensure you’re getting a consistent level of meat throughout. And make sure you put some sort of sauce on it for another flavor component. The flatbread isn’t my preferred method of holding ingredients to push into my face, especially at a Mexican place, but it works in this case. It isn’t messy and it holds up just fine (better than some of their taco shells, honestly).

Yeah, I’d recommend this Triple Steak Stack. But be warned, some people will get bored eating it about halfway through. It’s kind of a one note pony without any sauce or lettuce or tomato or anything. So try this – put one flavor of sauce on one half and then another flavor of sauce on the other half, then you’ll feel like you’re getting two different sandwiches. Trick yourself into not getting bored.

I tried to look at its price and compare it to things I usually get. Would this same $5 sandwich fill me up like five items on the value menu? In this case, I would say it’s pretty close. I generally don’t eat FIVE of anything at Taco Bell, but I was as full at the end of this sandwich as I usually am when I get multiple things. I’m going to say the price is worth it for the size and quality of the sandwich. Again, just my opinion.

Not Taco Bell’s best showing (it doesn’t have any bacon – dur), but it’s a solid performer and something I’d get to fill my guts.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foundation Tiki Bar – Milwaukee, WI

When D.Rough and I are out of town for roller derby trips, I try to find the local tiki bar in the area and bring a handful of fun people there to drink fruity cocktails. I had done some research before we left and found out Milwaukee has two such tiki bars. I had considerable luck with the scheduling of the perfect double date night the previous night, so I think my crew was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt for this one. It pays to do your travel research ahead of time. D.Rough, CorpseKitten, TheLatvian, LooseChange, PopeJim, and I headed to Foundation.

As we drove up again, D.Rough asked, “Is every bar in Milwaukee in someone’s house?” (The previous night’s bar looked like it was someone’s house, as well.) Foundation looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but thankfully, there were strings of lights hung from the front of the building announcing it was a step above a residential house.

The inside is incredibly dark – not just dim, DARK. There are a couple of bare outdoor bulbs hung on the ceiling and some candles on the tables, so you’re starting to see (well, NOT see, as the case may be). After your eyes adjust, it’s pretty awesome inside. Surfboard on the ceiling, tiki masks on the walls, lots of bamboo and fun decorations. It’s pretty small inside with maybe 10 tables of varying sizes, and of course there’s bar seating.

There are two guys in Hawaiian shirts working the bar who were super friendly and helpful if you have questions. Basically, you read the menu you should grab from the bar before seating yourself, and that will explain everything. There aren’t any servers, so once you decide on the drink you want, just go to the bar and tell the bartender and you can pay or start a tab – I recommend starting a tab. Many of the drinks include the touristy tiki cup in the price, but surprisingly, it still isn’t what I would consider pricey. And don’t forget on the back of the menu is where you will find the volcano drink that’s on fire.(We forgot to look at the back of the menu until after we had ordered our first round of drinks.)

Foundation also serves bar frozen pizza, but I didn’t see anyone eating those this evening. But otherwise, there isn’t any food here. Make sure you eat ahead of time, or these mostly-rum drinks will not treat you well.

Foundation is a really fun bar, even if I hadn’t been there with five of my favorite people. But, it always helps having some fun people to swap stories with and sample everyone’s drinks. As is par for the course for most derby weekends, we rolled out of there close to bar close. We were tempted to hit up the hookah bar across the street, but we weren’t sure if they were also required to close at bar close, even though they don’t serve drinks. It really didn’t matter, we were all dragging by that point. It was sleeping time.

I will for sure go back to Foundation and have a couple more fruity drinks. I wouldn’t bring an entire roller derby team, but I think a small group would have a great time here. I plan to do that when we head back to Milwaukee next May for the Midwest Brew Ha Ha roller derby tournament.

No Top 5, but there’s no downside to this place anyway. Everything is in the top portion of the Top 5.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Koz’s Mini-Bowl – Milwaukee, WI

D.Rough and I were in Milwaukee (one of my favorite cities in the US) for the 2013 World Championships of Roller Derby. Our friends CorpseKitten and TheLatvian from Kalamazoo, Michigan, also met us in Milwaukee for a weekend hangout and we had a great weekend. I had heard about this “mini bowling” alley from a few websites and thought we’d make a double date out of it. I had a very rough idea of what was going to happen in this particular bar on the South side of Minneapolis, but the other three were going in blindly, and only trusting me a little bit on this one. Probably smart on their part.

As we drove past what the GPS told us was the address, D.Rough sounded dubious – “this looks like someone’s house…” I retorted, “But there’s a beer sign in the window!” TheLatvian replied, “This is Wisconsin. Everyone has a beer sign in their window.” Fair enough. But, we went in anyway.

I’m soooooo glad we did. The place is dimly let, but in a home-y way, not a seedy scary way. And it IS NOT a house – it’s an actual bar. There’s a full bar, a pool table, a juke box in the front room. And in the back room is the bowling. Duckpin bowling to be precise.

My father taught me about duckpin and candlepin bowling when I was a kid – my family has a pretty serious bowling legacy (I’m not kidding). If it helps you visualize it, take a standard bowling pin and squash it down about half way, so it’s short and fat. Duckpin bowling is traditionally a west coast thing, but they’re also in Milwaukee and Indianapolis. You throw a small bowling ball with no finger holes (about like a softball or bocce ball) and it’s an extra short lane – about 20 feet.

Picture skee-ball, but with pins.

The guy behind the bar was super nice, which we appreciated as first-timers. He told us a lane was actually open and ready to rock. He grabbed us a score sheet, told us how much the games were each, and reminded us to tip the pinsetters. There are actual human pin setters that kick the pins out of the way after each frame or reset up the pins in a triangle format. Manually. None of this automated machinery stuff. Then, the bartender recommended some drinks. I knew I liked this guy.

Two bonuses at Koz’s: they don’t have low ball glasses. Mixed drinks are in a pint glass, the way I make them at home. Also, the mug of beer I ordered was $1.50. Thank you, Wisconsin!!!

I’d love to tell you how awesome this evening was, but it’s difficult. It’s super fast paced and there’s lots of mocking and high-fives. Plus the awesome juke box kept getting stocked with awesome 80’s and 90’s music. You can ask the bartender what the standard tip is for the pinsetters, since these guys are dodging balls and pins flying around behind their protective shield. Dangerous and back-breaking work, for sure. But waaaay more fun than standard bowling, in my opinion.

And did I mention this place has a taxidermy lion and other creepy taxidermy??? BAM!

You really need to check this place out. They are open until bar close so around 2am, which is even better. I think you can call ahead and reserve a lane if you want, but we rolled right in on a Saturday night and got an open lane. Perfect night.

[Note: I found out we were supposed to be throwing three balls per frame, but we only threw two like standard bowling. Bummer for me, since I would have bowled higher than the 238 I bowled!]