Monday, April 24, 2017

Conch Republic Grill – Redington Beach, Florida

D.Rough and I were passing through the area during lunch and the “conch” part of this bar and grill caught our attention. We’re both big fans, so we knew we had to pop in and get some lunch. All of the seats outside were taken, which was fine because I was hella-sunburned (don’t ask). We pretty much wanted everything on the menu, so we decided on an appetizer sampler. It had conch fritters, buffalo shrimp, and deep fried zucchini and a bunch of dipping sauces. Hard to go wrong, frankly.
But first… beach cocktails!

The conch fritters were just ok – they could have used a bit of seasoning in the batter, but they weren’t terrible. They came with a spicy remoulade sauce, which helped, so they ended up being alright. They were about average, as far as conch fritters go.

The buffalo shrimp was the best part of the plate. Really great sauce on these and it didn’t taste like it was from a bottle. We pretty much fought over who was going to eat more of these.

The zucchini was good at first, but then became pretty soggy once we hit the half-way point. I really liked them a lot at the beginning of the meal, but when we came back to them, we were both a little disappointed. 

This is one of those places I wouldn’t make a special trip to, but I’d certainly go back to if we were in the area and needing some food (and cocktails). Just an average giant beach bar and grill.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa – Orlando, Florida

Is Florida even on the map when it comes to BBQ? Well, Pig Floyd’s certainly is. They’ve got a bunch fo traditional smoked meats, but I was there for some different things. D.Rough and I thought we’d have a light lunch before going to hang with my relatives in Orlando. Light lunch is something that I don’t have a good track record on. But I thought I’d give it a shot.

I know this place is known for their ribs, but I knew I had to eat light. So we got an order of Yuca Fries, their signature sandwich called The Big Floyd, an elote (Mexican street corn), and a butter chicken taco. Yes, you read that right. Butter Chicken – as in Indian food style butter chicken.

This place is hoppin’, for the record. People inside, people outside, people in line, people picking up orders to go, etc. You get the point. Be ready for a wait – but it’s worth it.

The Big Floyd pretty much has everything on it. Oakwood smoke brisket, pulled pork, sausage, house-made sweet BBQ sauce, citrus peanut slaw, on a toasted pineapple coconut roll. You can taste all of the things in there, as well. Lots of meat on this, but I really loved the slaw that was on top. The roll was fantastic, as well. The fries were fine, but nothing to note, especially compared to all the other stuff here.

The yucca fries were good, and the dip that was with it was also good. We’ve had better, but we’ve also had worse. I wouldn’t hesitate to get these again, so I’d still say they’re better than average yucca fries.

The Mexican street corn wasn’t the best, however. I know we’re spoiled with the neighborhood we live in being so Hispanic, but we can get some REALLY good and messy street corn where we’re from. This was a little lacking in ingredient quantity. But, of course, that didn’t stop me from devouring it quickly. Hahaha.
The butter chicken taco was a little less incredible than I had set my expectations for, but it was still REALLY good. I wanted it to be good enough to move to Orlando for, but it wasn’t. But I would still recommend it to people. The amount could have been larger on the tortilla, but what was there had a great flavor. And the peppers on top of everything also added to it. I really liked it, but I think I had set my hopes REALLY high. Hahaha. Great concept, however!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Aku Aku Tiki Bar – Orland, Florida

When I’m out of town, I generally do some research on food places and if I can find one, I try to get to whatever tiki bar is in the area. Orlando (surprisingly) doesn’t have a lot of tiki bars, but apparently, we picked the best one. It’s set off the main street, so it’s easy to miss, but we tracked it down on a slow night. There were only a couple of people inside, so the bartender (Joe)(the most amazing man on the planet and a hell of a bartender) made sure we were well taken care of.

Joe recommended drinks for us and told us about all these fabulous off-the-menu drinks that they bring to cocktail contests and win with, but haven’t gotten around to putting them on the menu. If you go here, ask them about some of their incredible drinks they have back behind the bar that they don’t really have a lot of names for.

I can’t tell you a lot of the names of these drinks, mainly because Joe kept them flowing. He would tell us about a drink and it sounded really…uh…unusual (I’m being tactful). But then he’d offer to make us a sample (shot sized) to convince us. And EVERY one he made was better than the last. He had one he made with soy sauce and maybe brown sugar that was amazing, but the best one of the night was something involving a banana-infused rum and some sort of chocolate/coffee-hinted drink. I know I was expecting something sickeningly sweet like 99 Bananas, and it wasn’t that at all. It was made with like dehydrated bananas dropped in rum and took a lot of effort. Joe really knows his craft and I’m glad he was our bartender that night.

The place filled up with upstairs residents (Aku Aku is on the bottom floor of an apartment building, so the residents use it like their living room and Joe knows all of them by name), and became a lot more hopping, but Joe took time to come hang out with us and sit around and talk music with me. I’m sure I have a photo of the 13 or 14 rum drinks we had, but I can’t find it. Thankfully, D.Rough was driving home and making sure I celebrated my birthday properly. I assure you I will go back to Aku Aku every time I’m in Orlando. It’s in the top 5 tiki bars I’ve been to in my entire life. Thanks for KILLING IT, Joe.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frenchy’s – Clearwater Beach, Florida

D.Rough and I took a little beach vacation for my birthday this year and ended up on the Gulf side of Florida. Clearwater Beach has a great little set of related restaurants called Frenchy’s – Frenchy owns like 8 restaurants in the area and they’re all different atmospheres, but all with delicious food. We popped in and had to wait a bit for a table since it was pretty packed (mainly with boaters from the marina next door). 

We grabbed a couple of cocktails since we were on vacation and scoured the menu. We knew we needed fried food, and thankfully, that’s a big part of the menu here.

We got some conch fritters and a couple of Kalik beers – our staple diet from when we were in the Bahamas. It brought back some good times… sigh.

We decided we needed to split an order or garlic crab fries and a fried grouper sandwich. I’m glad we did, since all of the portions are pretty generous. It was just about the right amount, and tasted great. 

The garlic crab fries are garlic fries with crab meat on top - REALLY great!

The breading on the grouper sandwich was fantastic, but still let the fish flavor come through.

Top 5 things about Frenchy’s
1. Conch fritters
2. They have Kalik!
3. Garlic crab fries
4. Fried grouper sandwich
5. Really nice servers and staff

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s pretty crowded and loud
2. I hope you’re in the mood for fried (thankfully, we usually are…)
3. If you’re anti-chain, this may not be your place, since they own MANY restaurants in a one mile radius
4. Nothing else is bad!!!!
5. N/A

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Shish – St. Paul, MN

TattooBoy and I needed to get some breakfast after a hard night of after-partying. I had been wanting to check out Shish in St. Paul, and he was game, so we headed over. The menu is on large boards hanging on the walls, so it was pretty easy to figure out what we both wanted. They’ve got a lot of Middle Eastern-leaning dishes, but also a wide variety of more traditional American items for those less adventurous (no judgment). I was drawn to the Chaksuka, and TattooBoy went with a serious Turkey and Cheese Omelet. 

While we waited for our food to come out, TattooBoy had a great view of the fancy cake display case, so it was only a matter of time before he caved…

My Chaksuka looked fantastic, and better yet, it TASTED fantastic. It was a cast iron pan full of grilled sweet red peppers, roasted roma tomatoes, garlic and onions, and an egg. It came with a bunch of accoutrements like kalamata olives, feta, pineapple slices, pepperocinis, tomatoes, fried potatoes, and a ton of pita triangles. The people here do not want you to leave hungry EVER.

TattooBoy was really happy with his omelet with turkey sausage and cheese, but that certainly didn’t stop him from grabbing a piece of incredible pistachio cake. Which made me think, “I should get something to bring home to D.Rough!” I’m glad I did – that Bailey’s cake they made here was top-notch!

There were a bunch of things I’d get on the menu here, so I look forward to going back here.