Thursday, August 30, 2012

Carr Brothers Gathering Place

3100 Jackson Farm Road 
Hopewell, VA 23860

            I have never felt more unwelcome and like a stranger than when I walked into Carr Brothers with my little brother on a cold a rainy night a couple of weeks ago.  As soon as we stepped through the door, every head in the placed turned to give a disapproving stare as if saying “who the hell are you and why the hell are you in my restaurant?” We quickly walked past the bar full of evil glares and made our way across the dark restaurant and took a seat in the far corner.

            Not too long after we sat down, our waiter, the owner, came over to give us menus and take our drink orders.  The menu is not very large but everything sounded good with reasonable prices and there is always a special of the day. Alex ordered the large steak with two sides for $17. I just ordered the special of the day which was a roast beef sandwich with cheese, onions and au jus for $6.  While we waited for our food was talked about life and had a chance to look around the place. It was extremely dark but the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with old sports pictures and posters. There were about 5 football teams that dominated the décor one of which was the Hopewell Blue Devils.  In one corner of the restaurant was an off track betting area with 3 TVs showing horse races.  Everything is Carr Brothers is old and dingy to the extreme. It looks like a TGI Friday’s built in 1960 and never renovated or redecorated.

            After about 20 minutes we had our food, unfortunately for Alex they had run out of T-bones but they have him a huge porterhouse instead.  Even though everything else about the place screamed stay away the food was warm and inviting and very good.  My sandwich was huge and chock full of meat. I was very impressed with it especially considering where it came from. Alex said that his steak was good but a little undercooked.  The sketchiest part of the whole place was that they do not take cards but conveniently have an ATM machine next to the bar.  This pissed me off a bit but I’m not going to lie, it is genius.

            There really is not too much in Hopewell so one cannot be too picky about where to eat. If Car Brothers did not have a “get the hell out of here” atmosphere it might be the most popular restaurant in Hopewell but it does so it scares everyone off. If you are willing to brave the evil glances of regulars and the owner you will get a good meal for a decent price at Carr Brothers, you’ll just feel uncomfortable while eating it.

P&T Kitchen

10837 Hull Street Road 
Midlothian, VA 23112

                A small red sign on Hull Street that simply read “BBQ” brought me to P&T Kitchen.  Located in an extremely rundown strip mall; P&T kitchen cranks out homemade BBQ, Ribs and other southern favorites from an old Chinese restaurant. Most people would drive by the place and never see it; others will see it and never dare venture inside but a very select few of us will take the risk and try out this dinky little place and laugh at the others over the hidden gem we have found. I’m not saying that P&T is the greatest BBQ restaurant around, even though everything they have states that bold claim, nor am I saying that the food is even really all that great, I’m just saying for its location and how it looks it has some pretty good food for reasonable prices.

I went for lunch a couple of weeks ago and was surprised to find that there was a decent amount of people eating there.  Inside the place is a little crappy, it really is in an old Chinese restaurant. The seats are torn and everything looks a little dingy but I did not come for the décor, I came for the BBQ.  The lady behind the counter was extremely friendly and quick to answer a question. I ordered the Lunch rib place which came with three large ribs and a side; I chose mac and cheese, for $8.  As I sat down to wait for my food I tasted their different BBQ sauces, a NC style vinegar sauce and a NC style tomato based sauce. I don’t really care for vinegar sauces but the tomato based one was excellent.

 In no time I had my food in front of me.  The ribs were thick cut and loaded with meat and covered in a tangy sweet BBQ sauce, different than the first two I had tasted.  The meat had a nice smoky quality to them and the meat was extremely tender and fell off of the bone.  The mac and cheese was phenomenal, homemade and cheesy and creamy.  Together the two flavors danced wonderfully together on my taste buds. For being such a dinky place the food was very good. As weird as this sounds but only complaint is that the ribs actually had too much BBQ sauce on them, they were practically swinging in it.  It’s not that the sauce was bad it was actually very good; it’s just that it hid some of the flavor of the meat.

If you’re ever on Hull Street and have a hankering for BBQ you should stop and grab at bite at P&T Kitchen. It will not blow your mind like some of the other BBQ joints that I’ve reviewed but it does have good food served by good people.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hardee’s Memphis BBQ Thickburger

                As you all know, I love Hardee’s. I really do not eat fast food but when I do I eat at Hardee’s, especially when they introduce a new sandwich.  They’re latest creation is the Memphis BBQ thick burger. It is A 100% Black Angus Beef Thickburger®, Pulled Pork, BBQ Sauce, Crispy Onion Strings and cheese,  all on a Seeded Bun.  It looks delicious and has all over my favorite things on it so I had to try it.
                It comes in three sizes large, giant and monstrous. I got the small size I could get which is a little thick burger.  Of course it looks nothing like it does in pictures but it smells and tastes delicious. All of the flavors are fully represented in each bite. .  The burger was very juicy, the onion strings remained crispy and everything tasted of sweet and smoky BBQ sauce. Of course the pulled pork is not the highest quality or really smoked but it tastes good and was not a mushy paste like I read in other reviews.  This was one of the top three best burgers I have ever eaten at a fast food restaurant.
                If you like burgers and BBQ you will enjoy this sandwich but just don’t enjoy it too often because even the smallest one is like 700 calories. With that being said, it is delicious and even the smallest size is more than enough to fill you up.  Once again Hardee’s has made a delicious sandwich for the masses; sadly it is still not enough to drag the lemmings away from McDonald’s and their travesty that is their menu.

Sylvia’s Grill

4310 Puddledock Rd
Prince George, VA 23875

            It is impossible to drive down Temple Avenue and not see a Sylvia’s Grill sign these days. Since taking it over the need owners are doing everything they can to bring business down a road that 99% of people will never drive down. Recently, I drove down that road and I am very glad that I did.

            I pulled up at about 6pm and found the owner Jimmy Jackson inside cleaning up and preparing for the next day.  When I asked him if he was still serving food, because the place looked closed, he said that as long as someone’s there and a customer is hungry, they are open.  The place is barebones and appears to be part bait and tackle shop but it is equally welcoming.  The menu at Sylvia’s is very simple but more often than not that’s the sign of a great place.  They serve hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese and BBQ with cole slaw, onion rings and fries as sides. The prices are very good and the food is definitely homemade. I ordered onion rings and a chili dog. As I sat down and talked to Jimmy I found out that the BBQ was homemade so I had him fix me up one of those as well.

            We talked for a while and Jimmy is quite a character and a very nice guy. I’d honestly go just to talk with him and give him some patronage.  Even with him having to turn everything back on, I had my food in no time and it was all very fresh and delicious. The onion rings were nice and crispy. The hot dog was plump and juicy and covered in delicious homemade chili.  The BBQ sandwich with cole slaw was also very good especially with Jimmy’s homemade BBQ sauce.  While I don’t typically like very minced BBQ and cole slaw I really liked this sandwich. I got all of that for $8, talk about a deal.

            After I was done Jimmy took me out back to show me his smokers and the baby back ribs that he was boiling in coke, getting them ready to smoke the next day. I can’t wait to go and try them out, only on Fridays and Saturdays though.  Jimmy was more than hospitable, extremely nice and fun to talk with.

            Don’t judge a book by its cover fits perfectly for Sylvia’s Grill.  From the outside and the inside for that matter Sylvia’s is not much to look at. The building is old, dumpy and is part bait and tackle shop but it is filled with great food and friendly people.  There are not many places that I would go to just to give patronage to the owners but Sylvia’s is that place but it also serves very simple very good food.  The next time you’re looking for a bite to eat in Colonial Heights skip the fast food and the large chain restaurants and see if Sylvia’s is open, even if it’s not they might still serve you if they’re there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tony’s Barbecue

207 North 3rd Street  
Richmond, VA 23219

            As many of you may know I am a BBQ fanatic. I have made it my goal to not only review restaurants in the Tri-City area but also review all of the BBQ restaurants that I can find.  I have walked by Tony’s Barbecue a hundred times while interning in the General Assembly but I had never had the chance to stop in and try it out. I happened to be in Richmond on Monday and decided to pop in and grab a quick sandwich.  I was happy to see that it was still open but I was upset to find out that it has recently been reopened under new management.
            To put it bluntly, as it stands right now, Tony’s is a little dumpy.  It honestly resembled a crack house.  The new owner explained to me that he is working to fix the place up and it is a work in progress.  In have to say while the place was dumpy the owner was incredibly nice and friendly and we talked while my sandwich was being made. They actually did not have a working card machine so he called up his other bar, had them run the card and then had someone run three blocks to give me my receipt to sign for only $3.24. That IS service!  No matter anything else about the place, that was amazing and really showed how good the people are that work there. 
            Because they are just setting up the menu is very small, simple and cheap there are 8 combos and they all cost $5.  It has a burger, Cajun tacos, Cajun wings, BBQ ect. I ordered a pork BBQ sandwich with slaw, it cost $3.24. Honestly, I was not in love with the sandwich. The BBQ and cole slaw tasted like it was pre-made and store bought. It did not taste bad it just wasn’t anything special.  With this being said I can only imagine the place getting better with time.  I probably will not go back because Alamo BBQ, the best BBQ spot in Richmond, is less than 5 minutes away but I do wish the new owners the best and hope that Tony’s Barbecue flourishes in the future because there can never be too many BBQ restaurants.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Knock Out Burgers & Philly Steak

Southpark Mall

               Amanda and I spent last Saturday morning watch Steak Paradise on the Travel Channel so by lunch time we were both starving and desperately craving meat. We felt that having an actual steak might be a little much and the show did highlight Philly cheese steaks in Philadelphia so we decided to split a cheese steak for lunch.  I first drove to Sub Hub in Hopewell, a place that has amazing subs, only to find out much to my chagrin that it was closed.  After brain storming for a couple of minutes Amanda suggested that we try the cheese steak place in the Mall, Knock Out Burgers & Philly Steak.

            I’ve seen this place a thousand times but have never tried it out. I was very excited to see that they actually had cheese wiz to put on the subs to make them really authentic.  We split a large original cheese steak with cheese wiz, onions, sweet peppers, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  To be short and sweet, it was nothing like Pat’s or Geno’s in Philadelphia.  I don’t know what it was but it had a very strange flavor to it, I think that it must have been the sweet peppers. I think I would have actually liked it more if it just had meat, cheese and onions; the rest seemed to through it off.  I was also not in love with the roll that it was on; it was neither soft nor crunchy but was in some weird unappealing middle place.   I will say though that for the price it was very large and more than filled both Amanda and I and unlike some places in malls they gladly provided free refills on soda.  

            Overall, I knew that it would never compare to the two powerhouses in Philadelphia but I was hoping for something on par with the now closed Great Steak and Fry Company that used to be in the mall. But Knock Out Burgers & Philly Steak fell well below there as well. It seems that the best places to grab a cheese steak in the Tri-Cities is either Sub Hub in Hopewell or Jersey Mike’s in Colonial Heights, both of those places have awesome Cheese Steaks; but if you know of somewhere else in the Tri-Cities that makes an awesome Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich please let me know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brass Monkeys Bar and Grill

12211 Jefferson Davis Highway 
 Chester, VA 23831

             With all of the UNO’s in the Tri-City area closing down new places have slowly begun to take over the old locations. The UNO’s in Colonial Heights has become the Tilted Kilt and the one in Chester has become Brass Monkeys.  Brass Monkeys is your typical large chain bar and grill but with a bit more of an edge.  They serve just about everything under the sun, have TVs everywhere and are decorated with a sports and beer theme. The waitresses at Brass Monkeys seem a little rougher and more biker chickish dressed in jeans and bandanas. 

            I went for lunch one day a couple of weeks ago. I was warmly greeted by the hostess and was quickly seated.  The music was pretty loud so everyone spoke loudly so the place ended up being quite noisy.  While the hostess was extremely nice my waitress acted as if my being there was an inconvenience to her. I saw here exactly 2 times while I was there, once to take more order, once to bring me my food and then I had to flag down another waitress who graciously brought me my check.  So needless to say I was a little more than unimpressed by the service.
            I ordered the BlackJack Burger, a 1/2 lb. Black Angus burger in our house blackjack sauce with melted Swiss and lettuce, tomato onion and may for $9.95 and I upgraded my fries to the River City Onion Rings for an additional 95 cents.  For all intensive purposes the burger was just a burger, nothing special. It was a pretty big burger but it tasted just like any other. The onion rings were ok as well but not special by any means.  I did see a person get their 1lb bacon wrapped hot dog and that looked pretty good and another person got the FAT BOY BURGER a1/2 lb. black angus burger in between two grilled cheese sandwiches topped with a fried egg, bacon, lettuce and mayo. They also serve a crab cake burger which is a burger topped with a crab cake for 12.95. For the life of me I have no idea why I ordered the blackjack burger and not one of these other monstrosities. But I think even they would not have been all that great. I feel that Brass Monkeys suffers from the same malaise that other chain restaurants suffer from; it tries to do everything and masters nothing. 
            Other than the service, nothing at Brass Monkeys was horrible but nothing was great either.  I could practically replace it was any other chain restaurant like Friday’s, O’Charley’s, Applebee’s or Ruby Tuesday and barely tell a difference except for a few minor things.  With that being said Brass Monkeys does have half off burgers and dogs on Mondays and does a Craft Beer Wednesday.  But even with those I will still probably not be going back to Brass Monkeys. It wasn’t my scene and the food was not good enough to bring me back.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Turner’s BBQ and Catering

1901 Anderson Highway
Powhatan, VA 23139

                Who would ever guess that nestled next to a gas station in a rundown strip mall in Powhatan County hides one of the greatest sandwiches I have ever eaten? But Turner’s BBQ and Catering has just that.  Every other month I go to Powhatan and Amelia for work and I just so happened that today I had a hankering for BBQ. Not knowing where a good BBQ was in the area I asked my friends on Facebook and I was lucking enough that my awesome cousin April told me to check out Turner’s.

                Like I mentioned earlier Turner’s is located in a dilapidated strip mall attached to a gas station on the Powhatan/Chesterfield line.  Inside the restaurant screams redneck. The walls are literally plastered with Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR, stuffed turkeys and deer. Where these things are not there are pigs in their place. While old and little cluttered looking the restaurant was clean well maintained. I step up to the counter and am greeted by a smiling face waiting for my order.    The only place I see a menu is taped onto the counter directly in front of the cash register.  While not a big deal it did make for a couple of awkward minutes standing in front of the cashier trying to decide what I wanted to order.  I finally decided on a beef brisket sandwich with onion rings and a drink. It came out to just over $9. I grabbed by bottle drink and took a seat at of the 5 tables in the restaurant. While I was waiting I sampled a bit of the BBQ sauce sitting on my table and it was incredibly good, obviously homemade; sweet with a little bit of tanginess to it. Within a couple of minutes I had a monstrous brisket sandwich and about 8 onion rings sitting in front of me. The sandwich was huge thin slices of brisket topped with extremely minced cole slaw piled high in between a fluffy white hamburger bun. I immediately grabbed the bottle of BBQ sauce sitting next to me but as I lifted the bun I noticed that there was already sauce on the sandwich so thank god I decided not to add any extra sauce.  

                As soon as I took my first bite I discovered that I stumbled upon something great. The sauce that came on the brisket exploded with a sweet flavor that perfectly complemented the smoky meat.  The flavors were perfection. The sauce soaked into the buns so that the whole sandwich was infused that delicious flavor of the sauce.  This sandwich would have been a perfect 10 except for the fact that the brisket was not a tender as I had hoped. I was by no means tough but it also did not melt like butter the way some brisket does.  But with that being said this sandwich was still phenomenal and ranks as the greatest thing I have ever eaten in Powhatan county and one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. 

                I cannot wait until the next time I’m in Powhatan because there are a few more things on the menu that I am dying to try after having that monumental sandwich. If you are ever in Powhatan or North West Chesterfield for that matter stop by Turner’s BBQ and Catering because lord knows I will. I may even inquire about them catering my wedding.