Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Biff Burger

While in Florida, we were able to meet up with a cousin and she recommended a place to us called Biff Burger.  Not 5 minutes later and Richie had the GPS coordinates plugged into his phone so we could navigate there.  Pulling into the lot at Biff was fairly intimidating.  Unbeknownst to us, it was Bike Night.  And the bikers were out in full force.  Luckily, they paid us no mind as we walked in the smoke clouded front doors of the tiny restaurant.

"Hey, McFly. I thought I told you never to come in here."

"Did anybody tell you that this is the private club of the Satan’s Helpers?"

The menu was up on a slotted sign behind the ordering window.  They have many special burgers like the Roquefort and Dog-on Burgers, specialty hot dogs, steak sandwiches, chicken, and soft serve ice cream.
The menu was a little hard to read, but really, Richie just wanted a famous Biff Burger anyway.

  Biff Burger actually has a long and doleful history.  Things started off well in the beginning when Bruce and Earl Brane opened the first restaurant in 1956 in Clearwater FL.  They invented a roto-red broiler that simultaneously rotated the beef and toasted the buns beneath, so the drippings from the burger would go into the bun.  That's why they serve the burgers in a plastic bag.   The restaurant soon expanded to the St. Petersburg location we visited and to hundreds of other locations across the South.  The franchises were sold as Port-a-units, with practically the whole restaurant being shipped to the new location.
Sadly, out of all those restaurants, only two remain. 

We ordered at the counter and waited near the pick-up side.  From our small booth, I could see and hear a band playing from the adjoining bar area .

The food came out quickly, and we dug right in.  Richie's Cheese Biff Deluxe burger ($1.70) was small, maybe 2 oz., and he probably could have laid waste to 4 of them if he had known this.

  The burgers are slathered with a special sauce that has been analyzed and scrutinized by fans for years.  Supposedly it contains 27 spices but here is a small batch recipe.  Tastes uncannily like Boozie's sauce

Fries were fresh out of the fryer.  Crispy and tongue singeing.The tater tots were delicious little potato nuggets with a nice crisp bronze shell.  The chocolate shake was pretty standard, prepared with vanilla soft serve infused with chocolate syrup. 

Though considered a fast food restaurant, the burgers certainly tasted far superior to similar offerings.  (Burger King, ahem)  Plus, they have a large menu with unique items forged from time-tested recipes.  Biff is a cool little joint to enjoy with the family.  Just maybe not on Bike Night.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Governor's Pub and Grill

Governor's Pub and Grill, located in Bettendorf, Iowa (3470 Middle Rd) has been around for many years.  They fairly recently remodeled the exterior and now boast a large patio with ample seating.

  They do not, however, have a website or any historical information available.  So it shall remain a mystery as to why it's called Governor's and why Ben Franklin gets his drink on there.

Governor's seems like a typical bar and grill, dim lighting, high seat tables, TVs tuned to ESPN, and a large bar.  However, as well as providing a well-stocked bar, they focus on serving a variety of quality food.  My grandpa was particularly fond of their ribs, of which Richie partook.

I have to admit, service is always pretty slow.  We were not terribly interested in the NBA playoffs on TV (Oklahoma City has a team?), and neither of us wanted to dip into the public popcorn cesspool.  However, it picked up once our waitress noticed us and got our drinks out.  

We started with an order of fried pickles, because, you know, veggies are important.  The pickles had a crispy seasoned exterior hugging the delicious dill. 

I am a creature of habit, and generally always order the pretzel stack.  This time was no exception.  It's a classy way to eat a giant pretzel, sliced in half, sandwiching a good portion of smoked turkey, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, and dripping with honey mustard.  Much more satisfying than nibbling a Super Pretzel while balancing a small tub of nacho cheese in your lap, in a flip-up seat at the ballpark. 

The special that night was their 'famous' ribs, served with a side of onion rings.  Governor's uses a "special" barbecue sauce which I assume is an original recipe, but then again, it could be KC Masterpiece dumped into an unlabeled bucket.

Richie thought they were decent for bar ribs, but nothing like slow cooked and falling off the bone.  the onion rings were good, but count em- one, two, three.  He also noted that the beans were pretty tasty, but sub-par when compared to his own recipe. 

Overall, Governor's is always a pleasant experience, but nothing to-die-for.  Probably a nice stop for the casual drinker.  It seems to be a gathering place for Bettendorf's 'Athletic Booster crowd', so avoid on Sundays during football season.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Waffle House!

Well, we arrived in Florida in one piece, no thanks to our shuttle car driver and his 2fast2furious skills.  A quick search on our phone revealed that a Waffle House was just .3 miles from our lovely (cough) resort.  We stayed at the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island.  Sounds like a place full of magic and wonder, streets lined with gold.  Really, it's an anemic beach town with hotels designed after the 70's Las Vegas strip.  But, it has a Waffle House.

The Waffle House nearest my house is 200 miles south, in St. Charles, Mo.  The last time I ate at one was about 10 years ago in Phoenix, AZ.  It was a deliciously memorable experience I was more than happy to relive in FL.

The chain began in 1955 in a suburb of Atlanta.  A Toddle House manager and his neighbor decided to open a 24-hour restaurant with an emphasis on friendly customer service.  They grew to 4 restaurants and in the 60s, saw a lot of growth along highways and interstates.  Obviously they are known for their waffles (they serve 145 per minute) and breakfast foods, but their menu includes many lunch staples as well.
The menu can be viewed HERE

Pretty much every Waffle House looks the same.  They have the counter with an open kitchen so you can watch the workers sweat into the waffle irons.  You can also hear them yell out their diner lingo and bitch at each other.  We actually visited twice during our stay due to the lack of clean and inviting dining options in the area.  And due to our gluttonous desire for waffles.

The first trip, I ordered the ridiculously large All-Star Special.  It featured a waffle, hashbrowns, eggs, toast, and ham.  I opted for a strawberry waffle which the waitress dutifully admitted was infused with artificial strawberry flavoring.  No matter.  It had an essence of Frankenberry that took me back to my childhood.

Hashbrowns were greasy, eggs were greasy, ham was greasy.  Not complaining, just stating the facts.  I did, however, blot my eggs a little bit before I dug in and punctured the yolk.

On our second visit, I was feeling slighty more health conscious, so I ordered scrambled egg whites and chicken breast. Again, I blotted the chicken which was dewy with griddle oils.

 Richie ordered over-easy eggs, toast, a plain waffle, and hashbrowns "all-the-way."  they have many different disgustingly rich options for decorating your hash, and all-the-way includes, well, all of them.  Don't be deceived by the photo, under the  exorbitant amount of breakfast gravy and the crunchy top stratus mingled many mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, ham, and cheeses.

Both of our waffles were cooked impeccably, with nary a burnt crust or undercooked bite.

Round two:  Chili cheese omelet and hashbrowns all-the-way. He obviously likes the hashbrowns.  

I might not be so enthused on Waffle House's greasy selections if I had easier access to one, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meals.  It's a fun change of pace from the Midwest's Village Inns and IHOPs.  Plus, the waffles, though made in what looked to be a standard waffle maker, were pretty much perfect.

Oh Waffle House, I hope to rendezvous again.  Until then, we shall lust for you from afar.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Joe's Pizza

Happy Joe's is such an institution in the Q-C, one that I have grown up with, that it seems silly to even write about it. The pizza chain was started in 1972 by "Happy" Joe Whitty. I have enjoyed many birthday parties at various locations and always happily ate my Little Joe and free Birthday sundae.

Through the years, I have grown up with Taco pizza, which is, supposedly, the original. They use their thin, slightly crispy crust and coat it with a layer of refried beans. Taco seasoned beef and sausage is scattered on top, blanketed with cheese, and decorated with a green and red confetti of lettuce and tomatoes. The best part, in my opinion, is the crunchy top layer of broken taco flavored tortilla chips.

Now my true favorite from HJ's is the Happy Joe's Special. The Special is dotted with small chunks of Canadian bacon and camouflaged in a layer of sauerkraut. I don't even like sauerkraut, but it seems to complement the sweet pizza sauce and salty ham.

 Crispy, yet chewy crust

However, dear Richie doesn't seem to be a fan of pizza that does not include pepperonis. So last night, I ordered a pepperoni pie to satiate him. Their pepperoni pizza always includes an ample amount of the greasy meat.

I also really enjoy their cheese blend. If you look closely, you can see the beautiful meshing of yellow and white cheeses.

Happy Joe's pizza is slightly addicting. I can be only marginally hungry, yet still inhale 3-4 slices. I think it has something to do with the amount of sugar in their sweet sauce.

I don't think Richie is as big a fan as I. Perhaps the sauce is too sweet for his sour attitude? Irregardless, I will order HJ again. But I recommend a visit to a restaurant for their bountiful buffet or for a low-key birthday party.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jimmy's Pancake House

The best meal of the day, by far, is breakfast.  The food is rich, heavy, and full of added sugars, but you have the whole day to work it off.  Anytime I hear of a place that serves breakfast all day, I begin to salivate and daydream of eggs, crispy bacon, and syrup drenched pancakes.  Obviously a place named Jimmy's Pancake House really got my engine running as I envisioned a flapjack heaven run by a friendly, slightly overweight guy in a paper hat.

I finally got to see what it was really like after a late morning doctor's appointment and ultrasound where I discovered that  the baby girl in my belly was craving a greasy mess.  So we headed into Bettendorf and found the small cafe on 18th street.

Jimmy's is very clean and very green inside. Like, literally, bright green.   We found an empty table and received prompt drink service. The waitresses seemed to know all of the other patrons. Pretty soon, they'll be yelling RICHIE! when we walk in and a witty exchange about HT customers will ensue.

The majority of Jimmy's menu is breakfast. That's what I like to see. At a pancake house, you most definitely want to try the pancakes, even if they make your stomach swell and arms itch. So I ordered poached eggs with ham, hashbrowns and blueberry pancakes.

Can't really complain or rave about the eggs. They always taste the same. The ham was thick cut and lightly fried. Hashbrowns were plentiful, light, and fluffy. They were a departure from the usual diner style nests of grease. However, I prefer the crispy greasy potato piles.

Richie went all out with a Mexican skillet. Covered with scrambled eggs, the skillet smuggled in chorizo, onions, peppers, salsa, and hashbrowns. Based on his empty plate,I'm going to guess that he enjoyed the spicy breakfast explosion. But no worries, he left room for the mini mound of pancakes and syrup.

So what about the piece de resistance, pancakes?! I would deem Jimmy's Pancake House to be worthy of their name. The flapjacks were classic beige cushions with a slight sweetness from a dusting of powdered sugar. Mine were delicately dotted with an ample amount of fresh tart blueberries. We both flooded our plates with maple syrup, though they may have offered other flavors, I was too enamored to ask.

The pancakes were the perfect shade of golden brown, and the texture was delicate and spongy. Pretty much what God's pancakes would taste like in heaven.
In a few years, the griddle will be nice and broken in and Jimmy's will get that homey coffee smell ingrained in the walls.  Then it will become an official greasy joint.  For now, it is a pleasant cafe with hearty breakfasts and fresh lunches.  But be prepared to wait for a table!

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