Thursday, March 31, 2011

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Five Guys Burgers and Fries is well-known chain throughout a good portion of the country. The couple who began the restaurant in 1986 had 4 sons and soon added a fifth, hence the name, Five Guys. It began in Virginia and soon expanded to locations around the D.C. area, garnering a cult following. Franchising soon followed, and Five Guys can now be found in 40 states. Of course Iowans are about 5 yrs behind, so we don't have one...yet. It is, however, getting closer.

Being foodies...well more like, 'fast foodies,' both of us had heard of Five Guys a while ago and even ate a similar restaurant called Meatheads in Schaumburg. During a trip to Peoria we discovered an empty store space with signs in the windows proclaiming the impending opening of Five Guys. A couple months later, Richie was able to make the trek to Peoria to try it out, but I could not. :(

There are few unique attributes of Five Guys. The menu is deceptively simple, serving just burgers, fries, hot dogs, and Cokes. However, they claim that their burgers can be served in 250,000 different ways.
Their beef is never frozen- in fact, stores do not have freezers. They do have coolers to keep the meat fresh. Lastly, they use peanut oil, so everything is trans-fat free. I'm sure that was on Richie's mind when he ordered.

The interior of the restaurant is very clean and open. Customers order at a counter and can watch the cooks perform in their open kitchen. When your number is called, bounce up with anticipation and try not to drool on yourself as you pick up your food.

Hungry diners can choose their own unique combination of toppings and sauces.

Fries are fresh cut and can be salted or seasoned cajun-style.

Richie's double burger was overflowing with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, mayo, and bbq sauce. The burger was well done but still juicy and flavorful.

Fries are served in ample amounts and Richie raved about the Cajun seasonings.

Check out these thick potato fingers.

Five Guys does it right, by focusing on making quality food, rather than a variety of food. Of course when you do this, you can't please salads or chicken on the menu, so leave your skinny bitches at home.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blue Cat Brew Pub

In the mood for a hearty meal, we decided to cross the bridge and roll into the District of Rock Island. Not being an obnoxious alcoholic who rents a party bus for every birthday, I had only been to the District once before, to see Everclear play. No one can fault me for that.

Although we weren't entirely sure of our final destination, I did have the Blue Cat in mind as a possible Greasy Joint. I parked in the first lot I found, and lo and behold, it was right across the street from Blue Cat. The air smelled of seafood, not appealing to me, but still 10x better than it would smell 4 hours later when vomit and smoke would float down the streets.

The restaurant and brewery opened in 1994, just 2 years after the District was conceived. They filled a vacant space in an older two story building on 18th street. There are two levels to the building, we were escorted upstairs to a small dining area with cozy booths. The atmosphere was dark, but not dingy. Candles adorned each table, providing a light glow around the room.

Our waiter served us right away and handed us menus that were surprisingly large and diverse. This isn't typical bar food. It's "fancified." The menu has salads, seafood, barbeque, dinners, sandwiches, burgers, and pasta. It also includes many of their handcrafted ales, some of which rotate throughout the year, or are seasonal only. I'm not going to pretend to know anything about beer, so here's a link to more info.

After much consideration and internal debate, I ordered a Hawaiian-style chicken breast sandwich with a side of beans and rice. Richie went for some 'que, and ordered the beef brisket with mashed potatoes. I couldn't resist adding an order of pub fries fused together with gooey cheese.

Our fries came out quickly, hot and smelling of decadent bacon, which was precariously chopped and sprinkled on top. So we overindulged on our appetizer, leaving little room for our entrees. No bother. Richie made room and I got a box to go.

Both our orders were slathered in barbecue, but mine was a teriyaki flavor, very light and sweet. It was a perfect complement to the grilled pineapple.

His brisket was engulfed in a viscous black sauce with a molasses flavor. The meat was slightly chewy, not quite as melt-in-your-mouth as one would receive from an actual barbeque joint.

The beans and rice had nice kick to them, both of us enjoyed the flavor. Richie's potatoes were a nice texture, but tasted overwhelmingly of butter. Though his plate was left without a crumb, Richie did proclaim that he should have ordered a burger. I was pleased with my picks, particularly the pub fries.

I think we will make a return trip in the future and try something new. Definitely an ideal option for alcohol afficianados looking for a classy place to dine and drink.

Blue Cat Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 14, 2011

Short's Burger and Shine

Short's Burger and Shine opened in 2008, however, it's history began in 1920. That's when H.D. Short opened his shoe shine in that location. As the menu explains, for over 50 years, Short ran a successful shoe shine business. The current owners of the bar and grill got permission from the family to name the business in his honor.

Though dark and narrow like most other Iowa City bars, Shorty's has a classy feel to it. The booths and bar are dark wood and the bare brick gives it a charming antique-y feel. We came in around 1 p.m. and were able to score a roomy booth.

Short's is all about serving local foods. The beef is bred in Columbus Junction and prepared in Riverside. (For vegetarians- The cows live blissfully ignorant lives in Columbus Junction until they're murdered in Riverside). They don't mention the chickens' origins or where the black beans are cruelly harvested for their veggie burgers. Whole potatoes are slaughtered daily for fries.

The service was fast and friendly. Each item on the menu was named after a county (chicken), city (burgers), or junction (black bean burger) in Iowa. The burger creations were truly spectacular and we spent a good deal of time just reading through the menu like it was a smutty romance novel.

Eventually, we did have to wipe our chins of drool and choose just one. Richie, of course chose a big ass burger, the Dundee, and I chose a chicken sandwich, the Dickinson, hold the mayo.

The Dundee is probably the most indulgent burger on the menu. All burgers are cooked medium well, and this one was saddled with sauteed mushrooms, thick cut bacon, garlic aioli, fried egg, and golden American cheese.

The Dickinson is a spiced blackened chicken breast with rich provolone cheese and crispy slabs of bacon. It's normally served with a slather of chipotle mayo.

The fries were abundant piles of pretty dark golden sticks. They were well seasoned and slightly soggy from grease. Though I'm not fond of fried foods, I found myself slathering these in ketchup and shoving fistfuls in my mouth.

Richie used the famous Short's Sauce on his fries. The sauce is a vinegar base mixed with pepper and tomato paste. Definitely kicks those fries up a notch.

Both of us left quite content and full to the brim. Even the buns were tasty, very soft and filling. It feels good supporting a local business that, in turn, supports local farmers and grocers. Even better when the food is best we've had all year.