Sunday, September 25, 2016

You're the Boss at Burger Boss


Burger Boss
27690-B Santa Margarita Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

I get pretty excited whenever a new burger place comes to town, even though it seems like this happens at least every month or so. Perfect for a burger lover, such as myself. There's a sort of anticipation as to whether the new joint can replace one of my burger spots on my personal, "Mount Hamburgermore." Trademark pending. Most of the time the answer is no of course, but I do always have that sense of anticipation that this new burger is going to be able to dethrone one of my top burgers. Oh you want to know who is currently on my Mount Hamburgermore? Read on then.

Back to the new burger place on the block, Burger Boss.  Burger Boss has burst on the scene all of a sudden, and are planning a very aggressive expansion from what I can gather. They have two restaurants open in the Inland Empire, and have five listed as either coming soon, or already up and running in OC.

Since every burger spot needs a gimmick, Burger Boss actually has two. They are a 100 percent completely customizable burger spot. There's no all ready made burger options here, you build yours from the bun up, adding sauces, toppings, and proteins. Their second twist is that they are featuring grass fed burgers, while all their meats are growth hormone and antibiotic free. They also do not offer real bacon, instead only having turkey bacon at each location. So this would be my first time partaking in this alternate bacon. I was interested to see how this would play out.

The ordering process at Burger Boss is a little different than most places. When you walk in the door, immediately to your right there's two ordering screens where you can build and order your own burger. These machines are not very user friendly. With so many options, each burger takes a long time to build, and the swiping and selecting features are not too easy to navigate through. Also, with only two of these machines in a such a tight area, this part of the restaurant tends to get a little bottle-necked. Seeing our struggles with this machine, our friends Chuck and Stephanie decided to order at the register up front, which also was not a speedy process with the small type on the menu boards, and the many choices of toppings.

After ordering, you give your name and the food is brought out to your table. I'd much rather be given a number, or get the food myself, than having someone carrying my meal and yelling my name in a restaurant. This 50 seat restaurant seems smaller than it actually is, because the layout is kind of off, and people appear to be on top of you while you're eating. There's an odd 4 seat high top bar facing the kitchen, which takes up too much room, and really restricts the flow of the space. Even though I was a little uncomfortable here, and there were some kinks, I was still pretty excited to see how Burger Boss was going to turn out for us.




Up first was Katie's dinner, the Chicken Sandwich ($8.67). She chose to add smoked Gouda, grilled mushrooms, baby spinach, grilled onions, and garlic herb mayo to her sandwich. She enjoyed this sandwich, but would skip the spinach next time, or at least take half of it off. The chicken was moist and the mushrooms were done nicely here. She would not hesitate to get another chicken sandwich at Burger Boss again.




Sorry I did not get real great shots of my Double Burger ($12.36), because I was so excited to try it. I piled on the toppings here; turkey bacon, fried egg, sharp cheddar cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos, along with chipotle mayo. To be honest, I expected a little more out of this burger than what I got. The meat here is very clean tasting, it's not greasy, and even though this was a double, I did not feel sluggish after finishing this. Good quality meat, but it still needed to be seasoned more. The toppings also fell flat as well. This was my first time having turkey bacon, and hopefully my last. It did not have the flavor of regular pork bacon, in fact I couldn't taste it at all. The chipotle mayo had no flavor, and the jalapenos were very weak. When I saw this burger placed in front of me, I thought it was going to be great, but it was just very average.


This was the same sentiment that Stephanie had about her Burger ($7.98). She said it was okay, but she was hoping that the combo of pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, grilled onions, and chipotle mayo was going to provide something in the way of heat, but all fell flat. She felt the meat here was pretty solid, but the toppings are where things went awry.


A simple Burger ($7.98), for a simple man. Our old friend Chuck concocted his burger with Gouda, lettuce, pickle, tomato, and garlic herb mayo. He thought his burger was good, but he did not think it was worth the price.





The fries at Burger Boss are customize-able as well. Both of us couples got the Boss Fries ($3.99) to complete our meals. Katie and I went with chopped jalapenos and onions, while adding their sharp cheddar sauce and thousand island to the top of the fries. Chuck and Steph had just the cheese sauce covering their fries, along with some ketchup and chipotle mayo on the side. We should have just had the fries plain. The cheese sauce was not too tasty, and just like on the burgers, the other sauces failed to impress. The fries were good enough on their own though. Good crunch to the outside, and soft inside, just like a great french fry should be. Next time I'd just get the regular fries, and forgo the boss version.

So, you can probably guess that the burgers here at Burger Boss did not make my Mount Hamburgermore. The burgers were not awful, but they did not pop with flavor, and either did the dull toppings or condiments. I don't really get the whole, "healthy burger" concept. People don't eat burgers to be healthy. When I want one, I'm fine with a greasy, great tasting burger with real bacon. This is kind of like vegetarians eating veggie ham and salami, which is another thing I have never really understood. If they don't like meat, why are they eating vegetables disguised and flavored as meat? Burger Boss should at least give people the option for real bacon, but sadly, I'm not sure that would have saved the boring burgers here. Sadly, these burgers could not live up to my current top four burgers who have taken up residence on my personal Mount Hamburgermore, which currently includes the burgers from The Counter, G Burger, Burger Parlor and Hopdoddy. Looking forward to seeing who'll be able to knock one of these guys off my mountain.

Out of five video games, (because the TV show Bob's Burgers has an episode called Burger Boss, and it centers around a video game), five being best to zero being worst, Burger Boss gets 2.5 video games.

For more information about Burger Boss, head to their website here: http://www.burgerboss.com/#

Burger Boss Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hoping Babe's Hits It Out of the Park


Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse
71800 Highway 111
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

Driving down to the desert brings back some really happy memories for me. When I was in elementary school, my aunt had a condo in Rancho Mirage that we would visit at least once every month, except when I was in fourth grade, and wouldn't let my parents take me out of school, because I had a perfect attendance streak going. Yes, I still have the certificate to prove it.

Anyways, when we would come down here in the early 80's, there was not much in the way of restaurants in Rancho Mirage. There was, and still is Wally's Desert Turtle, but my parents weren't going to spring for that with two kids under the age of ten. So we had to head down Highway 111 into Palm Springs to eat at Las Casuelas, Louise's Pantry, Hamburger Hamlet, or any fast food restaurant they let us kids pick.

Fast forward to today, and this area is all built up. The most prominent shopping and entertainment area in Rancho Mirage is The River shopping complex. It offers many retail stores, along with a movie theater, and 13 places to get your grub on, including Fleming's, Yard House, Cheesecake Factory, and the place we were trying on this afternoon, Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse.

Babe's opened in 2002, and has been serving tourists and residents of the Coachella Valley ever since. They have won numerous awards for their beers, and won a lot of accolades and mentions from numerous magazines for their barbecue. Founded by restaurant icon, Don Callender, yes, the same man who started Marie Callender's, this was one of his last restaurant endeavors before his passing in 2009. If you look closely at the menu, you will notice a few slight nods to his beginnings at Marie Callender's, whether it's the Callender's Corn Bread, or the inclusion of a good variety of pies on their dessert menu. Katie's sister Emily, and her husband Jason grabbed a seat in the bar before we got here, so we quickly made our choices, and this is how the food came out for us.



Not the most photogenic starter we could have chosen, but this Parmesan Garlic Bread was a good start for the four of us. Good garlic flavor flowed throughout this slice of bread, and I liked that they provided ranch dressing without having to ask for it. Even though this was lacking the bright yellow color of the Lawry's Garlic Spread we had as kids, this still tasted exactly like it.



Since we had just finished a big family breakfast a few hours before, Emily and Jason decided to split these Pulled Pork BBQ Sliders ($14). These were pretty good sized, and filled with plenty of pulled pork, which was dressed with a sweet barbecue sauce. I'm definitely more partial to the meat coming out bare, so you can add the desired amount of sauce yourself, plus I sometimes feel restaurants try to hide their lackluster meat by drenching it with sauce. The pulled pork here was a little inconsistent. I had a few bites of this, which were flavorful and moist, but others were dry and rather bland. These big sliders came with two sides, and they picked the coleslaw and fries. The fries were pretty basic, run of the mill fries, but the coleslaw at Babe's contained a little twist. Don Callender reportedly had quite a sweet tooth, and it was his idea to add golden raisins to this coleslaw. I'm not really a big raisin guy, but this did kind of make this otherwise average slaw come to life.




Not usually something Katie and I do all too often, but we decided to share a meal between ourselves. Is the world coming to an end? Anyways, we had the one and only combo offered on the Babe's lunch menu, the Baby Back Ribs with Boneless Beef Short Ribs and a Hot Link Sausage ($21). The best of the bunch was the Hot Link. It really popped with a mildly spicy flavor, although it did have an odd texture to it. The short rib was predictably tender, and might be a little too fatty for some of you out there, but I didn't mind it. The ribs sadly were just average. Lots of meat on these, but the meat was a little tough in some places, while other parts of the rib were tender. The barbecue sauce was definitely on the sweeter side, and I was happy to see that they did not over sauce these ribs, even though I still would have rather of had them served sans sauce. We also got the pretty solid coleslaw here, but went with the baked beans for our other side. These were just okay as well, with an overly sweet sauce that kind of just sat there.

Babe's was decent barbecue, but nothing more than that. A quick Yelp search shows that this area does not really have a lot of choices when it comes to barbecue restaurants. There are four options in the Palm Springs area, including this, and no other spots in Rancho Mirage, so Babe's is really your only option around here. Again, the meat and sides we had here were fine, but nothing blew us away, and we'd probably try other restaurants when we were back in town. Service on this visit was a little spotty, as it sometimes is when you sit in the bar, and the bartender has to wait on you as well. With a full bar for early happy hour on this Sunday, he had a hard time keeping up. Maybe taking one of the servers from the nearly empty restaurant would have helped this guy out. I'm glad to see all the dining options that have sprung up since the early 80's, but I'm hoping for more barbecue spots in the future for this area.

Out of five desert bighorn sheep, (because that's the official animal for the city if Rancho Mirage), five being best to zero being worst, Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse gets 2.5 desert bighorn sheep

For more information about Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, head to their website here: http://babesbbqandbrewhouse.com/home.php

Babe's B-B-Que Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This Deli Is No Mirage


Sherman's Deli and Bakery
73-161 Country Club Dr. 
Palm Desert, CA 92262

Katie's family likes to do things together. They gather for every holiday, they see each other at least three times a week, and they even like to take vacations together. Foreign concept for some, including myself. Last year the ten of us went 26 miles across the sea to visit Catalina. and for this years family excursion/extravaganza we went the opposite direction, and headed to the heat of the desert, Palm Springs.

What to do when it's 107 degrees outside in August? Well if you're Katie and I, you show your advancing age by slathering yourself in 100 SPF sun block, and aided by a list of addresses of celebrity homes, you get some much needed space form the rest of the family. We saw the homes of Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Liberace, and Peter Lawford's former residence, a historical house because this is where it was reported that JFK first met Marilyn Monroe. Yes, now we really do seem old. All this running around in the desert sun really built up quite an appetite, so we met up with Katie's parents and sister at Sherman's Deli in Palm Desert.

I had done some research before we came out this way, weeded out all the restaurants that close for the summer, and was pretty impressed with the reviews of Sherman's, which was pretty near to where we were staying. Sherman's is definitely a Palm Springs institution. Founder Sherman Harris at one time had five restaurants in operation in the Coachella Valley, including running the concessions and Alpine Restaurant at the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway. His deli across the street from The Spa Hotel in Palm Springs was a magnet for old Hollywood stars, like Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Bob Hope and others.

Now there are only two locations of Sherman's Deli left, this one, and one in Downtown Palm Springs, right near the Hard Rock Hotel. Sadly, Mr. Harris passed away eight year ago, but his cuisine lives on, as his children now run the business. They must be doing their father proud, as we had about a twenty minute wait for lunch at 1:30 on a recent Saturday afternoon. The parking situation at this end of this awkward shopping plaza, which also features Bristol Farms and Papa Dan's Italian Restaurant can be a little tricky, but we persevered and found a spot.

Once inside Sherman's, the front of the restaurant is dominated by a huge bakery case, which featured numerous baked goods, which were hard to resist as we waited for our table. Once seated, the menu at Sherman's, along with any good delicatessen, can be a little overwhelming with all of their choices. They offer tons of sandwiches, appetizers, full on dinners, soups, salads, and as if all that was not enough, they offer breakfast all day. We made our choices as quickly as we could, and waited for our food to arrive.



It's almost a sign that when you're in a deli, and they serve you a platter of pickles and kraut, that you're in for a real treat, and I was hoping that was going to be the case at Sherman's. I'm not really a big pickle fan, but everyone else enjoyed these. The kraut was more to my liking, and I had more than my fair share, but I had a big sandwich on the way out for me, so I stifled my cravings for the kraut, and waited for my sandwich to arrive.




Both Katie, and her sister Emily got the lite lunch special, which comes with your choice of soup or salad. Emily, to no ones surprise went with the Garden Salad option.  This was a pretty big side salad, which included mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, cucumbers, and some very good herb encrusted croutons. She only ate half, (surprise, surprise), but shared the rest with her husband Jason. Also not shocking, Katie had the Matzo Ball Soup. She calls this Jewish miracle medicine, something that will cure whatever ails you. She really enjoyed this version at Sherman's. It was a very traditional preparation as the matzo ball rested in a chicken broth with sliced carrots and celery. I thought the matzo ball here was just okay on its own, but was made much better with the inclusion of the chicken soup.



Knowing Katie's dad Dennis for over seven years now, I've noticed that he really has an affinity for Chili ($3.65), and he held true to form here by ordering a cup at Sherman's. This chili looked pretty tasty, with plenty of beans and cheese added, along with a mound of chopped white onions. In these seven years, I've also become accustomed to him not really being too descriptive when it comes to his food, but he did say this was a decent bowl of chili, but not the best he has had.



Entrees were out next, and we might as well stay with Dennis's choice, the Hot Corned Beef ($14.75). This basic sandwich was not what Dennis had ordered though. He had said he wanted pastrami, we got charged for pastrami, but this was definitely corned beef. Unfortunately, this was a pretty dry corned beef. This sandwich definitely needed some cheese and maybe some thousand island to help this out. Dennis was not too excited by this sandwich, and after allowing me to try the corned beef, I see what he means. One positive note though, the potato salad was probably one of the best I have had. Good smooth texture to it, with a great flavor. If this sandwich had been mine, I might have even added the potato salad to the sandwich to make it better. It was that good.


Jason was the only one of us to take advantage of Sherman's all day breakfast policy, and he sure was happy that he did. He could not stop raving about this Corned Beef Hash and Eggs ($12.95). He felt that this is the best version he has ever had of corned beef hash. It was crisped on the grill, and had an excellent meatiness to it. He missed the boat by not getting his eggs served with a runny yolk, which always makes things taste better, but he was completely satisfied with this meal. This also came with some seasoned potatoes and his choice of toast. Glad to see Jason so happy with his meal.


Next up, with an assist with the excellent hand modeling by my mother in law, was the Chicken Albacore and Egg Salad Sandwich ($14.95). This sandwich was served open faced, with plenty of garnishments placed around so Lynn could customize her sandwich. I'm not a big fan of tuna or egg salad, but she seemed pretty pleased with this plate. I thought this was an odd combo. She claimed that the tuna was fresh, and the egg salad was dressed simply, exactly how she enjoys it. She selected coleslaw as her side item, and was pretty excited by it.


Both Katie and Emily ordered the Lite Lunch Special ($13.95), which included the soup and salad above, along with their choice of a half a sandwich. As fate would have it, they both ordered Turkey, and loved it. The turkey was peppery, moist, and sliced thin. It came with plenty of produce, deli mustard on the side, and some very solid rye bread. This was a great lunch for lighter eaters.




Of course I had a big dilemma as to what to have at Sherman's. So many choices, and I knew I only had one chance to make the right selection. A lot of pressure, but I'm happy to report that I got it right. Quite simply, this Grilled Reuben ($15.95) rocked. One of the better sandwiches I have had in some time. Let's start with the pastrami. It was spiced nicely, had a little fat included here, which added even more flavor, and it was moist. The Swiss cheese melted into it wonderfully, the tang from the sauerkraut really balanced this sandwich out, and the toasted rye added a nice crunch, while maintaining the integrity of this magnificent sandwich. Probably one of the top Reuben's I have had. This was a legit sandwich, and right up there with some of the greats. As if the sandwich was not enough, the cottage fries that came with this were fantastic as well. These little fried discs of spuds might not be to everyone's liking, but for me they invoke a memory of when I was a kid, and we'd go to breakfast at this restaurant in Anaheim Hills called Betsy Ross, which later turned into MacArthur's. Both places had these same kind of potato chip/french fry mash up, and I loved them then, as I do now.



I should have put a dollar bill next to this Sticky Bun ($6.75), that I got to go, so you could see how big this really was. It was almost the size of my head. I got this sticky bun because they sold off the last cinnamon roll about ten minutes before I got to Sherman's. This sticky bun was good and buttery, but really needed some added sweetness to take it to the next level of greatness.

I have to say that I was pretty impressed with my meal Sherman's. Yes, I was not really into the corned beef, I thought the sticky bun needed more, and the matzo ball could not stand on its own, but the rest of the meals here really shined, with my Reuben taking center stage, and nailing it. A month later, and I still look back on that sandwich with fondness, and that says something since we are out to eat almost every night. If you're a fan of classic delis, and find yourself out in this area, this is a definite must try. I did not catch our servers name, but he was right on top of all of our needs, and kept things moving along smoothly. Prices might seems a little high for sandwiches, but well worth it for pastrami of this quality. Eating here made this family trip a little more tolerable. Just kidding family.

Out of five roadrunners, (not only because this desert community is full of them, but also because the College of the Desert, which is nearby, has this fast running bird as its mascot), five being best to zero being worst, Sherman's Deli and Bakery gets 4 roadrunners.

For more information about Sherman's Deli and Bakery, head to their website here: http://shermansdeli.com/index.html

Sherman's Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Another Fast Casual Fish Option in Aliso Viejo


Fish District
26541 Aliso Creek Road
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

It used to be that you had to get all dressed up, get a sitter for the kids, and fork over half or your life savings to have a seafood dinner. Not so anymore. Almost every large strip mall has a casual fish restaurant occupying it. There's California Fish Grill, Spike's Fish House, Baja Fish Tacos, Rubio's, Wahoo's, about a hundred poke places, with many more on the way, and my favorite fast causal seafood-centric restaurant of all time, Slapfish. My uncle was really talking up one of his favorite fish spots, so we decided to join him at Fish District in Aliso Viejo.

Fish District has been open in this spot, sandwiched between Panera Bread and T-Mobile, since February. This part of the large Town Center shopping complex is thankfully a little less hectic than the rest of the center, so parking and getting around this area is a breeze. From what I can gather, this is Fish District's fifth location, with three of them located in San Diego county, and the only other OC outpost is in Irvine.

The menu as you would expect is seafood driven, with options including tacos, bowls, plates, wraps, sandwiches, and more. Ordering is done at the counter, and then the food is brought out to you. The menu board type above the register is a little on the small side, so I grabbed a paper menu and made my selections from that. The restaurant itself is pretty spacious, with plenty of tables, which are nicely spaced apart. It's a bright dining area, with white tiled walls, light wood flooring, and plenty of overhead lighting. Enough with the atmosphere, let's see how the food treated us.



My aunt Hiroko got the East Hampton Clam Chowder ($3.50) to start with. From my vantage point across the table, this looked to be a runny version of a clam chowder. It did not appear to have too much chunk to it, but there were no complaints from my aunt with this.



A little rift on one of my favorite items at Slapfish, Fish District also has their own version of Chowder Bacon Fries ($6). This unfortunately was not as good as the one at Slapfish. As I had seen from across the table, the chowder here is very runny, and in need of thickening. Positive points for the fries staying crisp under the weight of the toppings, and there was plenty of bacon included here, but that was about all I could say about this starter. Not awful, but when compared to others, it was not as good.



My aunt and uncle are not big eaters, so it was no surprise that they split this 2 Piece Fish and Chips ($9). Again, I did not try this, but it looked pretty good from across the table. It had a good looking batter around it, and lacked the usual greasiness that sometimes accompanies fish and chips at other places. Again, no complaints from them with this plate.






Much like when I'm at a barbecue or Mexican restaurant, I almost always get a combo meal, so I can try as much of the menu as possible during one visit. There were no combo plates here at Fish District, but I selected three different tacos to try; the Traditional Fish of the Day Taco ($4), the Battered Fish Taco ($3), and the Marinated Skirt Steak Taco ($4). Not good news for a seafood restaurant, but the steak taco was the best of the bunch. The steak was tender and came with plenty of greens, tomato, and sauce, which the menu said was Sriracha, but I know it wasn't. Whatever it ended up being it boosted the flavor here, and made this an above average steak taco. The battered Fish Taco ($3) was my next favorite. The outer casing had a nice crunch to it, while the inside was moist and flaky. The taco could have been made better with the inclusion of extra sauce, and less greens. The weak link here was the Catch of the Day Taco ($4). I did not take note of what this fish was, but it was pretty plain tasting, and the sauce and greens did not save this. The tortillas on all of these did their job of keeping everything together, but not much else in the way of taste. I'm definitely asking for more sauce on future visits.


Closing out our entrees, Katie selected the Fish of the Day Plate ($15). This comes with two sides, grilled fish, and your choice of sauce. On this particular day, Mahi Mahi was the chosen fish, and Katie could not have been happier with this plate. She loved this grilled fish, which was flaky, fresh, and made even better with the lemon-tarter sauce provided with this. She completed her meal with quinoa and asparagus as her side items. Both got glowing reviews from her, and she loved the healthy aspect of this meal, which eliminated any guilt that she usually feels when she eats out. She's excited to make a return visit to Fish District for a repeat of this meal. 



My uncle Jerry raved about the dessert at Fish Camp, so we tried their one and only offering, the Bread Pudding ($5). This bread pudding came out scalding hot, was topped with nuts and a whiskey sauce. I liked this, but wish that the sauce had a little more sweetness to it.

Fish District ended up being fine for what it is, but it will not replace Slapfish, or any of my other go to spots when I'm craving seafood. I'm excited that there's another seafood casual restaurant around, but I thought the food here was kind of average. There was not really anything here that popped, with the exception of the steak taco. Everyone we encountered at  Fish District was nice and made us feel welcome. This is another seafood restaurant option that won't break the bank.

Out of five drumsticks, (because my favorite fictional fish of all time is Jabberjaw, and on that 70's cartoon, he played drums in his band, The Neptune's), five being best to zero being worst, Fish District gets 2.5 drumsticks.

For more information about Fish District, head to their website here: http://www.fishdistrict.com/
 
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