Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sub Hub

332 Maryland Ave
Hopewell, VA 23860
(804) 541-0800

                There are not many reasons to go to Hopewell if you do work in town. It is a sad, desolate little town that always seems to get the short end of the stick. But there is at least one beacon of light radiating out of the darkness and that place is Sub Hub. Located off of the traffic circle next to McCay’s Hardware and across from Heretics’ Feed and Seed, it seems like your typically hole in the wall, which it but boy do they have good subs. Not only are the subs delicious and made with actual meat, unlike Subway, they are very inexpensive between six and seven dollars for a foot long.  It is a takeout only establishment and the prices you see on their menu is the price you pay, tax and everything is already added in.
                Last week Harvey (my dog) and I had to run some errands in Hopewell and figured that the only way to make it bearable was to stop by Sub Hub for lunch.  I parked right out front and left Harvey in the car, as soon as I stepped in the door the ladies behind the counter started going on and on but how cute Harvey was. They even gave me a large piece of turkey to give to the spoiled mutt, which he quickly gobbled up. Ordering, I was torn between the Rueben sandwich that my parents rant and rave about and the Italian Stallion. I’ve had both before, numerous times, the Rueben was delicious and I will get that the next time I find myself in Hopewell. But this time I had to get my long time favorite sub in the world, the Italian Stallion. The Italian Stallion is an amazing concoction of thickly diced deli meats with cheese and lettuce covered in their special house sauce, a sort of chunky marinara.
                As always the Italian Stallion was delicious. The meat and sauce was full of flavor and complemented each other very well. I recommend that if you are going to sub hub for the first time or have never tried it , to try the Italian Stallion.  I promise that you will not be disappointed. With that said it is not the only great sub on the menu. As I said earlier the Rueben sandwich is amazing and a lot of people think that their steak and cheese subs are the best anywhere.  If you’re in the mood for a great sub or sandwich go to Sub Hub. No matter what you decide to try you will love it and definitely go back again and again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Big Mike's Burger Shoppe

Off of 460 on the Prince George-Petersburg line lies a dinky, dingy little building with a sign out front that reads “Big Mike’s Burger Shoppe”. I have driven past these little joint numerous times but have never stopped. A few weeks ago my uncle, Corey, came by to grab lunch. After dismissing a dozen restaurants I suggested that we go to Big Mike’s Burger Shoppe. We were out the door and on our way to Big Mike’s.
Big Mike’s is known for their BIG burgers, well actually practically no one knows about it but if they did it would be for their BIG burgers. We fall into the place and it is the most redneck little joint I have ever stepped into; I was immediately in love. There were numerous roughnecks hanging out at the bar drinking beer in their camouflage and overalls getting drunk at noon on a Sunday. Corey and I took a seat in a dark corner next to what appeared to be the first karaoke machine ever made.
After 10 minutes of people just staring at us wondering what we were doing there our waitress  (who was very sweet) came to give us menus. We both got sweet tea which was extremely homemade and an order of loaded bacon cheese potato skins. We received 6 large potato skins with cheese so hot that it was practically molten lava.  Once they cooled off they were quite enjoyable and were served with sides of jalapenos and sour cream. The menu consisted of burgers, a few random sandwiches and wings. You could order just about any size burger you wanted from 1/4lb. all the way to 4lbs. a 4 lb burger with cheese and 18 strips of bacon cost $40.00. While they had HUGE burgers they did not have any specialty burgers or any fun, unusual toppings.  Corey ordered a 1/2lb cheese burger with bacon which cost around six dollars. I ordered a 1/2lb burger with cheese and chili. We split an appetizer sized order of onion rings.
It took a while for our food to come but it was because it was being freshly prepared which I will never complain about. To pass the time we watched Indian Jones which for some reason was being played when there were numerous football games on.  The burgers we received were pretty massive and cooked really well. My burger was loaded with chili which was hidden under a layer of cheese and of course shot out and covered my shirt in meaty goodness. My only complaint about my burger was that it had way too many sliced onions that were hard to bite through. Other than that it was very good but not really out of the ordinary. The onion rings were freshly cut and fried and were very sweet and crispy. For the price we received a lot of them.  Before we left Big Mike, Massive Mike might would be a better name, came out to make sure that everything was good.  It was but even if it wasn’t I would not say it to his face for fear of being made into about 50 4lbs burgers.  
Overall Big Mike’s Burger Shoppe was fun, friendly and very redneck, just my type of place. The food was good and reasonably priced. The burgers were not extremely unique but they were BIG. If you’re looking for a burger adventure this might not be your place but if you want a well cooked traditional burger, Supersized, you will love Big Mike’s Burger Shoppe.  I will defiantly go back for a drink and a burger.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Dockside Restaurant

700 Jordan Point Road  
Hopewell, VA 23860-8249
(804) 541-2600

                I will not lie, the first few times that I’d ever been to Dockside I hated it. I did not enjoy the food that I ordered, the service was bad and they did not serve sweet tea.  Not too long ago there was a change in management which at first seemed like for the worse, if that was possible.  But recently my parents and brother, who also did not like Dockside, have raving about their “awesome” crab cakes.  They claimed that they were some of the best they’ve ever had, especially in the Tri-City area.  Although I trust my family I did not believe them and did not want to waste my money at a place a “knew” was bad.
                A weekend or so ago lent me the opportunity to try these “awesome” crab cakes without wasting my own money.  Ever since father’s day I promised to take my father shooting in Charles City. The range is only open seasonally so we were not able to go until this last month. So we loaded up the rifles, picked up my brother and headed to Charles City. The range was free and very nice. After an afternoon of shooting we were heading back to Prince George and our route brought us right by the Dockside. Since we had not eaten lunch my dad stopped so that I could try a crab cake.
                The place was totally dead, as it usually is, so we had our choice of tables. We sat next to a large window              . The view of the James River would have been beautiful except for the fact that we were staring directly at the factories on the river which their smoke filling the air. We arrived too late to order crab cake sandwiches because they are only served at lunch which ended exactly 2 minutes before we were seated.  Since we wanted the crab cakes we had to order the crab cake dinner which comes with two grilled crab cakes, 2 sides and rolls for $17.99. This is actually cheaper per crab cake than the sandwich and it comes with two sides.  Since there were three of us we had to order two. For sides we ordered a baked sweet potatoe, cole slaw, french fries and sautéed zucchini and squash. Be warned if you decide to share an entrée at the dockside you have to pay a $3.00 “plate fee” which kind of stinks.  
                I was very happy to discover that the owners, although Yankees, have learned how to make pretty good sweet tea.  After one round, our waitress quickly discovered that it would be easier to just leave the pitcher on the table. It was not long before we were brought our plates. Before us sat four delicious looking and smelling crab cakes and four sides. The waitress offered to get us buns since she knew that wanted crab cake sandwiches but we decided that the fresh baked rolls that were brought out with the meal would more than suffice. The side dishes were surprisingly good.  The sweet potatoes were moist and tender not at all dried out and our waitress was more than happy to supply us with as much brown sugar as we needed.  The french fries were thick cut fries and were ok. The cole slaw was also the thick cut variety with not too much mayonnaise. It had a nice flavor and a good crunch.  It was the zucchini and squash that really stole the show as far as the sides were concerned.  They were sautéed until extremely tender with a nice buttery flavor that did not totally over whelm their actual flavor.  The sides were very good but let me get to the really amazing part, the crab cakes.
                These crab cakes were very large and stuffed with crab meat and very little filler and perfectly pan seared. The searing left a nice crush on the outside of the crab cakes but left the inside moist and juicy.  The crab cakes were large enough that I was able to cut it in half and make two sandwiches. I have to say that using the rolls instead of buns was a great idea and they went perfectly with the crab cakes.  Topped with a little remoulade  sauce, these crab cakes were awesome.
                I was planning on putting the menu for Dockside up but I really felt that there was no point because if you come here the only things that you should order are the crab cakes.  If I am ever in the mood for crab cakes the Dockside will be the only place I go in the Tri-Cities from now on.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

King's Barbecue

2910 South Crater Road      
Petersburg, VA 23805
Sun, Wed-Sat 11am–8:30pm; Mon-Tue Closed

                      I knew that if I reviewed K&L and did not review King’s right after all of my loyal readers in Petersburg would get upset. This is why last Sunday after a morning full of shopping I took Amanda to tryout King’s “famous” Barbecue.
                      From the start King’s is almost indistinguishable from K&L except that it is open on weekends and accepts credit cards. Inside it looks more like a typical country style restraint than a BBQ restaurant; there just weren’t enough pig decorations to give off a BBQ vibe.  The menu was barebones and kept it simple. It had pork and beef BBQ minced or sliced, barbecued and fried chicken, burgers, and a variety of country style side items. Amanda and I both went for their “world famous” pork BBQ dinner minced with two sides and biscuit for $6.95. It was not too expensive but it did cost more than K&L and it did not come with a sweet tea.  On recommendation from my boss, I ordered onion rings for an appetizer.
                      Our waitress was very good and kept our cups filled with sweet tea. It only took a few minutes for our onion rings to be served. These were obviously freshly prepared with just the bare minimum of batter necessary to cover the thick cut slices of onion. A $2.95 order did not come with very many onion rings but the ones we did get were delicious although a few at the bottom of the bowl were extremely greasy.  Amanda and I knocked out the rings in a few minutes and not long after our BBQ arrived. We both ordered cole slaw as one of our sides because everyone knows you cannot have BBQ without cole slaw. This was the very finely chopped almost soupy king with a lot of mayo. While it’s not my favorite kind, it served its purpose and tasted good. I decided to try out their potato cake as my other side and Amanda ordered the sweet potato sticks even though I warned they were the kind she did not like.
                      My barbecue was minced to oblivion and had practically no flavor so I had to cover it with cole slaw and slather BBQ sauce all over it for it to have some sibilance of flavor. Their BBQ sauce is the exact same as K&L, Virginia version of the NC vinegar based sauce but with more body.  The potato cake had a nice crunchy outside but its inside was extremely dry and unappealing to my taste buds.  After the onion rings, Amanda’s sweet potato sticks were best part of the meal. Amanda did not like them but I loved them. They were the type that are fried on the outside but have creamy mashed sweet potatoes on the inside and are covered in cinnamon sugar. They were delicious and one thing that K&L does not have.
                I love Virginia traditions and I know people will find this blasphemous but I did not love or even really like King’s BBQ. It had a few delicious offerings but overall it was bland and lack luster. I recommend that if you are in Petersburg drive a few minutes in either direction and go somewhere better for BBQ. It might have been the best around 45 years ago but there are other BBQ restaurants in the Tri-Cities that reign supreme nowadays.

K&L Barbecue

5 Cavalier Sq                                       
Hopewell, VA 23860                         
Mon-Fri 11am-9pm                           

Last week I was really feeling some BBQ so I decided to tryout this Hopewell favorite. As you all know I was recently blown away by Saucy’s walkup BBQ in downtown Petersburg and  I wanted to see how this historic landmark fared against the relative new comer.

I started with K & L first and let me begin by warning you, it is NOT open on the weekends and does Not take any form of credit or debit cards so make sure you have cash. Unlike Saucy’s K&L is a typical sit down restaurant and is exactly what comes to mind when you think about a BBQ restaurant. It is decked out with pigs, NASCAR, goofy signs (like “Pigs is Beautiful”) and old license plates all over the wall, kind of like a down home TGI Friday’s. Also unlike Saucy’s they serve a lot more than just BBQ. They serve all sorts of country cookin’ from chicken and dumplins to blackberry cobbler.  I have heard that the chick and dumplins are out of this world but I was there for the BBQ.

I ordered their special, which included a BBQ sandwich (pork or beef and minced or sliced) with or without cold slaw, a side and sweet tea or unsweet tea for diabetics and northerners for $4.95. BBQ is usually quite expensive and I thought that this is a pretty great deal. I of course chose minced pork topped with slaw and a potato cake as my side item. When they say potato cake they are not talking about the think pan fried German type. Their potato cake is pretty much a patty of deep fried mashed potatoes. I know it might not sound delicious but it is.  They also have other standard sides such as green beans, french fries, collard greens and baked beans but the potato cake is by far and away the best.

I was served my meal in a matter of minutes by a very nice waitress who kept my glass perpetually full of sweet tea.  The sandwich was on the small side but had a nice toasted bun and a decent amount of BBQ on it with the perfect amount of cole slaw. The BBQ itself was very finely minced, did not have that much flavor and was not at all smoky. I topped it with K&L’s famous BBQ sauce, a Virginia variation of North Carolina’s vinegar based sauce. I was not in love with the sauce because I prefer a tomato based BBQ sauce but this one was better than a typical NC style sauce. It added a nice flavor and some moister to the dry sandwich which ended up tasted quite good. The potato cake was cooked to perfection with a nice moist inside and a crunchy outershell that held in all of the goodness. To make it just that better, I used it to mop up the cole slaw and BBQ mixture that dripped off my sandwich.

While not as good as Saucy’s,  K&L is a nice standard BBQ restaurant with a down home feel which I will gladly go back to anytime someone suggests it or when I get the hankering for BBQ while in downtown Hopewell.  It was a good meal for a great price; just don’t forget your cash!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Saucy’s Walkup BBQ

Bollingbrook St & 5th St
Petersburg, VA 23803

About a month ago Groupon offered 2 deals for Saucy’s, one was 2 sandwiches, 2 drinks and 2 sides for $8 and the other was $10 for $20 worth of food. I bought one of each because I knew that I could never go wrong with a BBQ Groupon. I was right! There are numerous good BBQ restaurants in the area but Saucy’s has hands down the best BBQ in the Tri-Cities; the only other place close is Alamo BBQ on Church Hill in Richmond.  Saucy’s is not really a restaurant; it is a converted storage container painted yellow with two large smokers behind it and two picnic tables in front and a large circular order window. What it lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for in character, service and flavor.
This last Tuesday, I met Amanda, her sister Andrea, her Grandmother and our 3 dogs to pick up Saucy’s and then go for a walk down by the river in Petersburg. I decided to use my $20 Groupon. Unlike the last time I used one, there were no gimmick this time. I could use it for anything that I wished and if it happened to go over $20.00 all I had to do was pay the difference. I decided to go for the “Container” $18.95, which came with a BBQ chicken quarter, 1/3 rack of ribs, ½ lb of pulled BBQ (I chose pork), 2 buns, 2 sides (I chose potatoes salad and baked beans) and 2 drinks. I added a side of cole slaw. With taxes and an extra side I paid $2.60 on top of my Groupon. For all of the food I received this was a really great deal.
After a rather adventurous trip by the river we headed back to Amanda’s Grandma’s house to dig into our great smelling BBQ. The first thing I dug into was the ribs. The ribs were slathered in their rib BBQ sauce which started out sweet but finished with a little bit of a kick. While the ribs were perfectly cooked with a nice smoky flavor and a great crust they were a little on the skimpy side. There was not a whole lotta meat on the bones but the meat that was there was delicious and full of flavor. I moved onto the BBQ chicken. Although, I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ chicken it was extremely moist and fell off the bone.  While it did not have the same smoky flavor as the ribs the sauce provided the perfect flavor and was some of the best BBQ chicken I’ve ever had.   I then moved onto the pulled pork BBQ. There is nothing else in the world like pulled pork, most places in the tri-cities cheat and only offer minced or sliced very few go the extra mile and take the time to hand pull the BBQ. The pulled pork was fleshly smoked and chock full of flavor. It came coated in a sweet BBQ sauce that went well with its smoky flavor.  I topped the pulled pork with cole slaw and it was amazing. The cole slaw is of the thick cut variety with large crunch piece of cabbage and carrots with the right amount of mayo and seasoning. This was some of the best cole slaw I’ve ever had on top of some of the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. Awesome!
As sides I ordered potato salad and their three bean trio. The potato salad was the low point of the meal, very plain and lack luster. It was the only thing that tasted like it could have been bought at a grocery store.  The three bean trio on the other hand was a definite highlight. I was expecting some sort of baked bean trio but what it was was completely different and better than any baked beans I’ve ever had.  It consisted of cut green beans, pinto beans and navy beans in a scrumptious sauce that blew me away.  Saucy’s serves three different types of BBQ sauces their zesty chicken sauce, their regular tomato bases sauce and a jalapeño mustard based sauce.  They used to have an extremely amazing sweet coffee based sauce that was my absolute favorite but have since stopped making it because it took a lot of time and not very many people asked for it. Every time I go I still ask if they have it just to see because I keep hoping they will bring it back.
Saucy’s walkup BBQ container has the best BBQ in the Tri-cities. It is one of the few places around that serves Ribs, brisket, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, chick and beef. Not only does it do it all, it does it all really well. My one complaint about Saucy’s is that it does not have sweet tea only canned sodas because everyone knows that nothing goes better with BBQ than sweet tea. I would recommend that if you like BBQ you need to go and try out Saucy’s I guarantee that you will love it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Howlett’s Tavern

Festival Park Plaza
Chester, VA 23831
(804) 930-1034

*** Due to a recent experience at Howlett's Tavern, where I had a great time, had great service and excellent food, I hereby change the overall rating  from one star to three stars. I even think that I will revisit there in the furture.

            Last week I bought a Groupon for Howlett’s Tavern. I paid $25.00 for 1 appetizer and two entrees (a $55.00 value).  So this Tuesday, after a very stressful weekend, Amanda and I decided to use my Groupon and unwind a little. Little did we know that we would leave twice as frustrated as when we entered.
            Walking in Howlett’s, located in the Chester Village Green, it was well decorated and very inviting. The soft lighting and candles on each table created a very romantic atmosphere. We were seated and the hostess lit the candle on our table. It had all of the makings of a very pleasant dinner. Our waitress and a trainee arrived at the table quickly to take our drink orders.  I explained to them that we had a Groupon, so that there would hopefully not be any confusion.
            In a matter of minutes our waitress was back with our drinks and a loaf of delicious bread.  Because the Groupon included an appetizer we ordered fried calamari. I ordered the surf and turf with prime rib and the so called “Best Crab cake in Chesterfield County” with cole slaw and onion rings. Amanda ordered the New York Strip with steamed broccoli and onion rings. After we ordered, Amanda’s best friend Amy Sordellett walked up, she just happened to be eating at Howlett’s and noticed us. I had to use the washroom so I excused myself and let them catch up. When I came back Amy had rejoined her family. This was the end of the pleasant part of the evening.
            Our food arrived rather quickly. We received our Steaks and sides but did not have our Calamari yet. When, I asked the waitress what happened to our appetizer she informed me that I had not ordered an appetizer( I knew that I had because it was part of the ) but she would gladly put an order in for me. She apologized for me not ordering an appetizer at first. I was a little upset about this but let it blow by since we would still receive what we paid for though be it in the wrong order. 
            I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the food in just about every aspect, save the onion rings but honestly it’s almost impossible to ruin onion rings. My prime rib was very large but extremely flavorless. If it had not been for the au jus sauce it would have had no taste. The “Best Crab Cake in Chesterfield County” was the biggest lie I’ve ever heard. Not only was it not the best crab cake in Chesterfield County, it might be one of the worst crab cakes in the county.  It did not have jumbo lump crab meat but thin stringy pieces held together by a lot of filler and then deep fried. I would bet the crab cakes at Captain-D’s taste as good if not better.  Talk about false advertising. The cole slaw was very creamy and tasted of nothing but mayonnaise. The onion rings were the only part of the meal that was enjoyable. They were large, with a thick cut onion and a perfectly fired exterior. When we were half way done with our entrees, we were served our calamari appetizer.  Not only was the calamari served late, it was also extremely chewy so much so that some pieces were almost inedible.  It was served with marinara sauce and a white sauce both of which tasted excellent.
            Normally after such a lack luster meal I would be very upset. But I thought to myself, it wasn’t very good but at least Amanda and I both ate for $25.00 or so I thought. I knew something was amiss when the waitress came to the table to explain the bill. I knew that I had to leave a tip and pay for Amanda’s glass of wine but what she told me blindsided me.  She informed me that the “surf and turf” was not one entrée but a steak with a crab cake added on and add-ons do not count on the Groupon so I had to pay an extra seven dollars for the “Worst Crab Cake in Chesterfield County.”  To add insult to injury she also explained to me that there is an automatic 18% gratuity added to Groupons. Neither of these were explained to me until I received the bill. So on top of the $25.00 I paid for the Groupon, I had to pay another $25.00 for a total of $50.00.
            I should have saved this one as a Halloween Special because it was that ghastly, horrible and terrifying. Not only will I will never go back to Howlett’s Tavern but I will actively tell everyone I know to never frequent the establishment.  The food was bland, the service was horrible and they totally ripped me and everyone else who ever uses a Groupon there off.  Please never go to Howlett’s, I know it advertises very good specials and from the outside it looks very nice but it is truly a terrible restaurant with very low scruples.  You’ve been warned!!!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leone's Italian Restaurant

5234 Oaklawn Blvd
Hopewell, VA 23860

This dreary little restaurant is one of Amanda’s family’s favorite places to eat. It seems perfectly at home sandwiched between an ABC store and Tops China in the desolate Crossings shopping center in Hopewell.  If the location does not scare you away the interior of Leone’s just might.  With a large finger print covered mirror on one wall and faux wood paneling with faded beer advertisements and pictures of what appears to be Italy on the other it has all of charm of an abandoned house. The only cheery decoration in the whole establishment is a sacred heart of Jesus picture way in the back of the restaurant which seems eerily out of place.
Leone’s tries to pull off the same scam as many other Italian restaurants in the Tri-Cities, Hispanic people pretending to be Italian. I really don’t think that this has any bearing on the quality of the food, although my favorite Italian Restaurant, Pino’s, is run by actual Italians, I just thought that it is funny.  Honestly, you have to respect any person or family willing to open and operate a restaurant especially in these trying economic times.
Leone’s menu is just about the same as any other Italian Restaurant in the area but it lacks specialty Italian entrees that make others stand out. It is especially lacking in the seafood department. But it does have all of the classics like spaghetti, lasagna, various pastas and subs and pizza. It is all done decently but nothing stands out or has any sort of “WOW” factor. The prices are competitive, but there are far better Italian restaurants in every direction.
Last Saturday night, Amanda’s parents invited us out to dinner and since we were already out with nothing else to do we figured it would be nice to have dinner with them. Since Amanda adamantly refuses to eat at El Nopal, her mom’s favorite restaurant, we went to their other favorite restaurant, Leone’s.  While I always enjoy spending time with her family I never really love eating at Leone’s.  It has never been inedible or totally disgusting but it’s just very average Italian fare.
This time I ordered a calzone and added pepperoni, it was $7.95 plus $.99 for the pepperoni. The calzone arrived quite some time after Amanda and her family received their dishes. The calzone was about the size of a medium pizza flipped in half. While it was pretty large it was very thin and did not have a lot of fillings. It was filled with mozzarella and ricotta cheese and the pepperoni I added. If I hadn’t the pepperoni it would have had practically no flavor at all.  I will say that it was accompanied by a large saucer of marinara sauce which was more than enough to last the whole calzone, which is unusual. Although it was a sufficient amount of marinara sauce it was watery and tasted canned and premade.
I’ve had the same experience with Leone’s every time I go there. It has all of the standard Italian dishes and is edible but nothing stands out as great or even really good. If there were no other Italian restaurants within 20 minutes I would go Leone’s on my own accord but since there are far better Italian restaurants within five minutes in either direction I will gladly drive the extra few miles for a great Italian meal. With that being said, I’m sure I will be going back to Leone’s in the future; not because I want to but because it is one of Amanda’s parents’ favorite restaurants and because I love her and them I will keep going back.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Longstreet’s Delicatessen

302 N Sycamore St
Petersburg, VA 23803

 This last Saturday Amanda and I were in downtown Petersburg at the Festival of Grapes and Hops. The Petersburg Chamber of Commerce did a very good job with this event. There were a lot of different wineries from around the state offering tastings.  Virginia truly has some awesome wineries. The only critique I could give is to have a few more breweries and food vendors next year. After a very good time and many, many “tastes” of delicious wines and beers we decided that we needed to get something to eat to help us sober up a little.  There are numerous delicious places to eat in downtown Petersburg but we felt that Longstreet’s would do the best at sobering us up.
Longstreet’s Deli is a very rare eatery; it is as good of a bar as it is a restaurant.  I can go to Longstreet’s for either lunch or dinner or for drinks and have just as good of a time either way.  They have a pretty good selection of beers on tap including some of my favorites, Woodchuck cider, Blue Moon and Shock top. During lunch it is more of a deli than a restaurant. You have to go to the back and order from a smaller menu than there is for dinner. No matter what time it is a waitress still waits on you bringing your food or refilling your drinks.  Both the lunch and dinner menus have a very good selection of sandwiches, Paninis, burgers and salads. In addition to the lunch items, the dinner menu also offers pizzas, pastas, and entrees.  No matter what your taste is Longstreet’s will have something you will enjoy.
Because it was not quite dinner time, Amanda and I ordered off of the lunch menu. Amanda got her usual, the salad plate. As lame as it sounds, the salad plate is actually a very good deal and is quite tasty.  It comes with salad, chicken or tuna salad, pasta or potato salad, fruit and a dessert for about $7.00. Amanda loves it and almost never orders anything else.  I decided to go with the Italian Panini but asked for it without olives and with Italian dressing instead of pesto. They were more than happy to accommodate me.  I chose from a wide variety of sides to accompany my Panini, everything from pasta or potato salad to onion rings and homemade chips. I went with the frips, very thin French fries.
            It was not long before we received our meals, just long enough for us to know that our meals were freshly prepared. As always, Amanda was extremely pleased with her selection even though they were out of chicken salad and she had to eat tuna salad. She said that the tuna salad was actually better than the chicken salad. My Italian Panini $7.97, was also very delicious and made exactly how I ordered it without olives and Italian dressing instead of pesto. It was nice and crispy on the outside but the meat, cheese, and peppers inside were still juicy and moist. What I was most impressed with the ideal amount of Italian dressing they used. It is very easy to under or over use Italian dressing but they managed to do so expertly.  The frips were also cooked perfectly. Thin and crispy but not burnt. Amanda is a French fry diva. They have to be the perfect crispiness for her to eat them.  This time they must have been cooked to her liking because she almost ate all of my” frips.
            Longstreet’s Delicatessen is always a fun, enjoyable, and delicious time.  It has great food, a very fun vibe and reasonable prices. The only flaw that the restaurant has is the picture of President Obama on the wall.  If it was just the President staring at me it might be enough to keep me from frequenting this delightful establishment. Luckily it is of President Obama with the owners inside of the restaurant. I can’t blame them; I don’t care what your political leanings are, if  any president came into your restaurant to eat you would put their picture up on the wall too.  With that being its only major fault, I highly recommend Longstreet’s Deli to anyone. Go for dinner and stay for a few drinks and socializing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

El Nopal

4118 Oaklawn Blvd.
Hopewell, VA 23860

        Last Saturday, my mother, brother and I decided to go out to lunch in Hopewell as a pre-celebration for my brother’s 20th birthday on September 20th. After some very brief contemplation (there’s not much to eat in Hopewell) we decided to go to K&L. Since K&L, like most of Hopewell, is stuck in the dark ages we first had to go get cash from the bank.  Because Hooray for Hopewell was going on, there were 10 cars waiting in line for the ATM.  After a good 20 minute wait and with $40 in hand we were off to get lunch from K&L. But to our surprise, (I’m sure most of you will say “Duh!”) K&L was closed. Undeterred, we decided we felt like going to SubHub anyway.  As we pulled up to SubHub a large “CLOSED” sign hung laughing in our faces. Once again, we were off in search of a decent lunch in Hopewell, a seemingly fruitless task.  My mom then suggested we drive up the road to the 15th Street Café which was surprise, surprise, closed. Since we were downtown, we figured that we might as well check and see if Mim’s restaurant was open. As I’m sure you guessed; it was closed.  
After striking out five times, my mom said “I know where IS open.” She would not tell my brother or me where she was thinking because she did not want to jinx it.  We pulled up to a very familiar restaurant, El Nopal. It was OPEN. So we jumped out of the car, half starved.   El Nopal is a very stereotypical Mexican restaurant. When I say stereotypical, I mean extremely stereotypical - from the murals on the walls to the blaring Spanish music.  But no matter what, El Nopal provides reliable Mexican cuisine and is almost always open.
A host seated us under a huge Mexican themed mural in booths covered in the extremely bright and colorful poncho style fabric.  In a matter of seconds, we had tortilla chips, white sauce and salsa on our table and had already ordered drinks.  The staff at El Nopal is quite pleasant. They are fast and friendly and speak pretty good English, though some are a lot better than others. The chips at El Nopal differ from trip to trip. Sometimes they are warm, crunchy and taste fresh but today they were cold and stale. This did not matter too much to us after we dipped them into the mysterious but delicious white sauce, which they call Blanco sauce.  Blanco is white is Spanish, so the mystery surrounding this sweet concoction remains.  If El Nopal stopped serving the white sauce I do not believe that I would frequent the restaurant any longer, it is just that good.  The salsa on the other hand is very watery and too spicy for my taste.  I have been known to mix the two with rather delicious results though.  I call that pink or Rosado sauce. I can’t swear if any of the appetizers, chips and dips, are made fresh in the restaurant but I would venture to say that they are not.
While munching on chips, we browsed El Nopal’s expansive menu. While El Nopal may not be the greatest Mexican restaurant in the world it does have one of the largest menus I’ve ever seen in one. It has every Mexican dish you could ever imagine and much to my delight it has a huge seafood selection. I must admit that I have a weakness for shrimp, scallops and crab meat. It does not matter if I’m at a Mexican, Italian or Chinese restaurant my eyes and stomach are always immediately drawn to the seafood section. Today was no different, I ordered the Burrito Del Mar.
My burrito was stuffed with jumbo shrimp, scallops, onions, peppers, squash and zucchini; smothered in cheese sauce and served on a bed of rice and beans with lettuce and sour cream on the side. The shrimp, scallops and vegetables were all cooked well, pleasantly seasoned but nothing really stood out as truly excellent. Overall, it was a tasty burrito and for $7.95, on the lunch menu, it was a pretty good deal; but I also felt that it was quite run of the mill and could probably be found at any Mexican restaurant with some being better and some being worse.  I do enjoy that most entrees at El Nopal can be covered in your choice of sauce.  I always order mine covered in cheese sauce.  I feel that while adding flavor it does not completely overwhelm the other flavor in the dish, like other Mexican sauces can.  This is especially important with mildly flavored seafood dishes. 
My burrito really sums up El Nopal as a whole. While it is good, reliable, convenient and better than most of the other Mexican restaurants in the Tri-Cities (I’m talking about you, El Corporal and Don Jose) it is not amazing.  For these reasons, if you are in the Tri-Cities and hankering for Mexican food I recommend eating at El Nopal. You will neither be disappointed nor blown away but you will be full and have eased your cravings for a reasonable price. 
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