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No Bull Burger Purist - Born and raised in NJ, the heart of the tri-state area and home to the oldest (and best) burger joints in the country. I don't need all the frilly toppings, happy servers or trendy decor, just a good burger...

The Crew

The Crew

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Firehouse Subs, Totowa, NJ

Where:
Firehouse Subs
205 US Hwy 46 West Unit E Totowa, NJ
07512 store #1156
http://www.firehousesubs.com/
phone: (973)837-8022

What:
Italian submarine sandwich

Build:
Ham, pepperoni, provolone cheese, salami, lettuce, tomato, onion, dressing, toasted sub roll. 

Comments: 

"Put the fire out Chief"
~Captain Quint

Disappointed. Yet another generic sandwich chain joins the market. I must be missing something, how these sandwich chains are making it is beyond me. There is obviously a market for highly processed cold cut sandwich chains since they keep popping up across the country, but I just don't get it. I haven't researched sandwich shop national sales yet but it's something I will do right after this review is written. For now, I'm just an ordinary Joe in search of a good sandwich that will be kind to my taste buds and fill my empty belly.

The concept, design and execution are pretty cool; helmets and axes hanging on the wall, and the colors and graphics all make for a great visual. But unfortunately it does not compensate for the product.

The sandwiches are like most sandwich chain food – watered down versions of a legit delicatessen. And there are so many sandwich chains to choose from. Here is a list of the top 500 of 2016…

http://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/special-reports/top-500-chains/2016-top-500-sandwich-chains

There are a staggering 500 because the list includes hamburger, taco, Asian, and other chains that serve sandwiches. The link I've provided shows just the chains from the "sandwich" category.
Note, the "rank" column shows their ranking compared to the full list of chains, so you could technically number these 1 through 19 since they represent only the sandwich category.

The demand for these types of sodium-laced sandwiches is mind blowing. I'm convinced the key to a good sandwich is not necessarily what’s in the sandwich but how it's put together that makes winners and losers in the sandwich game. Some sandwich chains, I have to say, are decent, (my favorite being Wawa subs), but how in the world Arby's makes enough money to open their doors is mystifying. Ever have a "roast beef" sandwich there? Talk about mystery meat. Do it, go ahead, do it, you won't.
Back to the Firehouse...
The best description of this sandwich is (yawn) "ho-hum". Check my photos and I'm sure you'll agree.








































Friday, February 10, 2017

PIERRE FOODS - FROZEN ANGUS CHEESEBURGER



Where:
Costco store #149NJ-23, Wayne, NJ 07470
(973) 339-4006

What:
AdvancePierre® Foods Steak-EZE® Angus Cheeseburger

Comments:

I've always believed that fast food has its place in the world – so to all of the food snobs and haters, I’ll start off by saying you're missing out by not trying new types of food products; frozen or otherwise.

With that being said (I'll get this over with quick), these burgers are meant for consumption under certain conditions only. Some of these conditions can be described as:
intoxicated, inebriated, s*itfaced, stoned, tipsy, buzzed, crocked, high, wasted, totaled, plastered, stewed, tanked, potted, lit, juiced, and of course, drunk.

Yes, that is what they are good for... soaking up alcohol in the stomach.

The meat is of the same variety as any frozen Salisbury steak TV dinner. It resembles beef and it even smells like beef. This brand of frozen burger actually has a descent char flavor, but it's all the same mystery meat.
I tried to doctor mine up with some extra cheese and lettuce since nuking the burger per the instructions liquefies the cheese to infinity and beyond.

One thing to note was that I had no adverse gastro effects. Would I buy them again? Probably, since on that rare occasion when I need help dispersing alcohol they will definitely come in handy.

No rating on this since I'm not quite sure it classifies as a burger...

You can read my review of Walmart's frozen cheeseburger offerings from September of 2014 here:
http://billcianciburgerreviews.blogspot.com/2014/09/drive-thru-cheeseburger-shameful-or.html


























Of all the frozen burgers I've tried (not counting White Castle burgers) these, Sandwich Bros. were probably the best. I think being encased in a pita helped retain moisture and flavor...



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mike Mike's Famous Burgers & Shakes, Ramsey, NJ

Where:
Mike Mike's Famous Burgers & Shakes
102 East Main Street Ramsey, NJ 07446
201-818-2446
http://www.mikemikesfamous.com/

What:
The Double Double

Build:
Two beef patties (I'm guessing 5 oz. each), cheese, potato bun.

Comments: 

Finally, a manly man's burger...meat, cheese, bread.

Pros - Flat griddled beef, cheese, potato bun.
Cons - Meat too well done.

What originally opened as Badlands Tacos in Ramsey has been subdivided recently, with the two restaurants sharing the same entrance, seating, and kitchen. The split was perfectly executed, resulting in a feeling of being in two different eateries – it even has a bit of a food court feel.

On to the Double Double...
I've never had a burger actually burn my lips the way Mike Mike’s Double Double did. Never in all my years of eating burgers have I experienced this and it was awesome, just awesome. On my next visit, however, I'm going to ask them to take it off the grill just a tad sooner. Although I can put up with a Five Guys-style well done burger as long as it's tender and juicy (I'm a medium rare guy at heart), this puppy was done quite a bit more than that.

With that said, I know there's a very good burger to be had at Mike Mike's, so I'm not discouraged. After all, we were their first customers of the day…perhaps the cook has a warm-up period??
Another note – I've become accustomed to the fast-casual burger restaurant craze where the blends of ground meat range from chuck, flat iron, brisket, short rib, aged, etc., with delicious complex burger blends becoming the norm. I admit I'm getting a bit spoiled, so when I sampled what I believe to have been an old-fashioned home style single-grind burger, I was a little taken back. Mind you, I did not feel disappointed. For me, the single-grind was, shall we say, "unexpected.”
In any event, it was good – good-old-fashioned-good. And yes, still juicy enough to drip over my hands. Double American cheese is always necessary with two patties, and the super fresh potato bun was perfect, albeit the generic supermarket variety.

I'm never a fry guy, but I tasted my friend’s Cajun spice curly fries. They were not overly seasoned, just right, and served hot and crispy.

The flavor of my vanilla shake was great. I even detected a pinch of malt, but the consistency was more thin and watery than it should have been. I'm not complaining, this is just me reporting what I ate and drank... the shake was delicious nonetheless. Oh, and did I mention the place is very clean? It was.

The Double Double gets an 8.8\10 on the BC rating scale.

Mike Mike's, I'll be back...




The coolest special boards...




























Cajun seasoned fries were great, not overpowering.




























Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Houston's, Hackensack, NJ

CRAPY PHOTO ALERT!
Where:
Houston's
1 Riverside Square Mall #181, 
Hackensack, NJ 07601
http://www.hillstone.com/houstons

What:

THAI STEAK & NOODLE SALAD marinated filet, avocado, mango, pancit noodles (also available with crispy chicken) 24
GULF COAST STYLE FISH SANDWICH crispy filet, onion, Thousand Island dressing, and a field greens salad (limited) 20

Comments: 
The service and quality are not what they used to be...

This is not a one-off rant, we've always enjoyed going to Houston's, and frequently, until last week (27-Jan-2017).

I made reservations for an 8 p.m. dinner four days in advance, and was told over the phone to allow for a 15-minute grace period for table prep. No problem, that gave my wife and I a chance to hit the bar for one of Houston's martinis with olives that are hand-stuffed with blue cheese. After announcing our presence, I made my way to the bar and ordered two martinis. The bartender told me it would be a few minutes because they hand-stuff the olives. Again, no problem. Here comes the weird stuff...

The bartender immediately turned and went to the other end of the bar and began making our martinis. He poured the contents of the shaker into our glasses and brought them over to me. I salivated at the sight of the ice chips floating around and on top of my vodka.

After 10 full minutes of waiting for olives, our martinis were now just about room temperature. After another 15 minutes, we were called to our table and we left with olive-less warm martinis.

The wait staff who transitioned us from bar to table were very nice as usual and carried our drinks to our table for us. Yet there was still no attempt to rectify our drink situation and after a long week of work we were so looking forward to our martinis. They eventually did come out just as we were ordering our food but our martini rush was totally gone. One more thing to note, on all our previous visits, Houston's always pampered us by stopping by our table with a frozen martini glass straight from the freezer and pouring the remaining contents of our drinks into it. An awesome refresher and one of the little details that gave Houston's service a 5-star rating. I normally wouldn't rant about a bar drink, but the height of the bar Houston's has set for its customers was nowhere near being reached, and that hurt.

The steak in my wife's Thai steak & noodle salad was so salty, it was inedible. But the real kicker was the spiciness of the dish. Mind you, my wife and I are third-generation Italians in this country and spicy food and hot peppers are a part of our culture, so for us to push a dish away because the level of spice makes the food painful rather than joyful...you know it's overdone. And why not mention the spiciness on the menu? A subtle little pepper icon at the very least? Something? Nothing.
By the way, still no offer of compensation of any type for the forgotten olives and warm martinis (warm martini + no olives = $16 ea.).

Next up (Houston's, you should be ashamed of this one):
The fish sandwich.

I paid $20 for a fish sandwich no better than a fast food restaurant’s. Don't believe it? Check the photos. I asked our waitress who was about 18 years old, and who knew nothing of food beyond the microwavable type, if the fish were cod since the menu does not mention the species of fish and she said no, it is grouper. Awesome, I love grouper. But my excitement was short-lived.

The sandwich was served open-faced with a 4-inch tall pile of their homemade coleslaw on the bun top. I didn't understand why they presented the sandwich in this way until I scraped all of the coleslaw off the bun and reassembled the sandwich. I cut it in half to photo the autopsy shot and low and behold my filet was less than a 1/4 inch thick! It was much more reminiscent of that sewer fish tilapia, than grouper. The filet was so thin in fact, that it was difficult to see where the coleslaw ended and the fish began (see the photos). And check out the fish-to-bun ratio... it's off the charts in favor of the bun. Honestly, a fish sandwich from Wendy's is far superior to the crap Houston's is serving.
I find it hard to believe I'm writing a full-on rant about what has been our favorite restaurant up until last week. This was our go-to place to splurge on a good meal, good drinks and the best service around. No more. It's become just another restaurant in Jersey where wondering if the meal will be as good as the last is a roll of the dice, a flip of the coin. Just another place on my "not to be trusted,” "never going back" list. What a shame.






















































Monday, January 23, 2017

ITALIAN TABLE TRATTORIA, RIVERDALE, NJ


Where:
Italian Table Trattoria
92 Rt 23 N, Riverdale, NJ 07457
http://www.italiantabletrattoria.com/menu/
973-248-9900

What:
Spiedini Alla Romana Skewers– Fried Mozzarella, Caper Anchovy Sauce.

Pizza - "The Works" – Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, Black Olives, Pepperoni, Meatballs, Sausage, Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce.

Chicken Parmigiana - Parmigiana– Lightly Breaded, Baked with Mozzarella & Pomodoro Sauce, Spaghetti.

Cheeseburger -Topped with french fried onions and American cheese on a brioche bun.

Comments:


Italian food yes, burgers no. 

The pizza and Italian offerings at ITT were a sliver above the average pizzeria\Italian restaurant; I wish I could say the same for the burger. But in fairness, and in keeping with my golden rule; "never order a steak from a seafood restaurant", I may have been asking for too much. 

The pizza was very flavorful and fresh albeit served a bit further from out-of-the-oven hot as we would have liked. My wife said her chicken parmigiana dinner was also good. But according to www.NJ.com's Pizza Patrol, there are an estimated 3,000 Italian pizza restaurants in New Jersey which makes "just good" food, a weaker competitor.

With that said, this was by no means a bad meal, in fact, excluding my burger, we all left quite satisfied. Our waitress could have been more attentive, however everyone was very nice and cheerful.  

On to the burger...

I was pleasantly surprised when our server asked me how I wanted my burger cooked. Didn't expect that for the mere reason that you don't hear it much anymore. Nice.
The brioche bun was excellent, it didn't appear to be a phony potato bun imposter and although the burger was a bit too thin, the burger-to-bun ratio was okay thanks to the fresh bun which compressed easily. The burger also had a wonderful beef aroma and I was stoked until I began eating and found my medium rare order to be well done. Quite well done in fact. I did the one thing I hate to do (and almost never do at a restaurant), I told our waitress. Since we ordered a pizza for the table, I had something to eat with my family while I waited for my burger correction. 

The pizza, like my wife's chicken parm, was also good, but it too, was "just good" with no stand-out feature(s) to make it stick in our memory's enough to want to repeat the experience. Again, (IMHO), in a state littered with these types of Italian restaurants, you have to be doing something unique to create a memory. 

In a few minutes my second burger was served and it was,,, (drum roll),,,

raw and barely above room temperature.

I was devastated, but I was in no way going to send this one back so I ate around the edges which were a step above raw. 

Here comes my rant:
It stands to reason the two slices of cheese were no where near melted, and for the life of me I'll never understand why some restaurants stoop to the level of including an extra cost for American cheese on their menus.  I'd completely understand an upscale restaurant offering some type of $40\pound imported cheese at an extra cost, but to ask for extra money for 2 slices of processed American cheese? I'm sorry, that just sends a bad signal. (Just figure the cost of the cheese into the price of a regular burger, then you're always ahead of the game and nobody's the wiser.) BTW, when I'm placing 2 slices of cheese on my cheeseburger, they are always placed above and below the burger to encase the meat and cut down on melt time. Again, my opinion.

Lastly, and what I was most excited to write about is the Spiedini. Yes, the Spiedini gets a huge OMG! This was not only the stand-out dish of our visit, this was a stand-out dish for any dining experience. The bread-to-cheese ratio was spot-on, the doneness of the bread was perfection, (crisp and dry, nothing greasy) the lemon and capers made the sauce perfectly tart and rich, and nothing was over salted. Perfection!!!! This was one of the dishes we ordered for the table to share, but I so wanted to gorge myself with it. Be sure to check the photo!


In closing, my intent for this and all reviews is to share my experience and add constructive criticism where needed. If all dishes served at this establishment were at the level of the Spiedini, reservations would be required on a nightly basis. 

I'm hoping for much success at the Italian Table Trattoria and I'll be back with my family soon.