Monday, November 17, 2014

Kim's Vietnamese

Asian food is one of my all-time favorites. Sometimes, though, I can get a little tired of the same thing, and most Asian restaurants in Topeka offer a variety of the same dishes.  In 2010, Kim's Vietnamese opened on 10th Street and at the time I worked for the Washburn Review so, I wrote a review.  I gave it a good review because it was different, fresh and tasty.

Now, the restaurant has moved to 29th and Kansas but the food is still exceptional.

When I first decided to check it out, I thought it was interesting because it boasted Vietnamese food as opposed to Chinese or Japanese, which we see all over the place in T-town. Vietnamese was new for the area. I was intrigued. (It opened in November 2010.)

Scrumptious pork dumplings
The menu features noodle soups, stir-fries and spring rolls. The noodle soups were new to me so the first time I went that's what I tried. The soups come with different noodles and if you ask the waitstaff to help you decipher which noodle is which they are more than willing to help you out. I think they want to educate people so they know what they're ordering, like what they're offering and possibly they will order it again.  The noodles come in a hot broth -- choice of what kind of broth -- with vegetables and herbs. Check out my previous review (linked above) to find out more about the noodle soup.

If you don't want to mess with all that, Kim's also has stir-fries and other dishes you may be more comfortable with. Recently, I tried the chicken lo mein stir fry, crab Rangoon and pork dumplings.

The new location reminds me a lot of the their original location with tons of windows and lots of plants and foliage. I don't remember seeing any booths, but the tables were comfortable enough. Each table is loaded with silverware, napkins, sauces and anything you may need to eat your meal.

The pork dumplings were inspiring. Inspiring in a way that I wish I could make them myself they were so good. Fried dumplings filled with meat and spices I couldn't even begin to describe. Hot, fresh , crispy and juicy I would order them again and again. They were served with a sweet and sour sauce but they didn't really even need any sauce.

The stir fry was good, with a flavor that was a little different than what I'm used to. I love that. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different but I could definitely tell they used soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and some kind of sweetener, maybe honey. The noodles weren't greasy and they were just saucy enough. The vegetables were cooked thoroughly and so was the chicken. There were carrots, broccoli, onions and cabbage.

My only complaint is I think it would be better if the dish had dark meat chicken. It had white meat and I feel in dishes like stir frys, the white meat chicken gets really dry. Just a personal opinion, I know a lot of people who prefer white meat. But to me, fat is flavor and dark meat always has more fat. I understand if you're watching your waistline, so get this dish, it's got white meat. (haha). But seriously, it was still a good entree I would order again sometime.

I also tried the crab Rangoon, mostly because I just love crab Rangoon. I was glad I gave it a chance. Crispy, fresh and creamy on the inside. Plus, there were chunks of crab that you could actually see inside, unlike how most of the time you're not even sure it's there. Yum.
Crab Rangoon

Our waitress brought us a plate of cold grapes to conclude our meal. She said they don't always give grapes but she was able to get some on sale. It was a nice ending to a fine meal.

I plan to return to Kim's Vietnamese and soon.  Their menu isn't typical of what can be found in Topeka so if you're looking for something different but not overwhelmingly so, check this place out. Like I said before, the staff is willing to help you choose something you will like, just ask questions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Margaritas Jalisco

 I was finally able to try the newest Mexican restaurant in Topeka: Margaritas Jalisco. It's right across from Washburn's campus on 17th Street and has been open for two months. The location was closed for years and I'm happy to see it's finally re-opened and this time as a Mexican restaurant pretty close to my house.

Guacamole Mexicana
The atmosphere is warm and inviting, especially on a cold day. The walls are painted bright shades of yellow and orange. Various shaped gourds are arranged around the room. The building has been slightly remodeled with an added wall in the middle. The bar is still on the west side with booths set up around the rest of the walls and tables scattered throughout the room.

The server brought chips and salsa immediately. The chips were good, not the thin, greasy ones you sometimes get. These were thicker and fried fresh. The salsa was thick and pureed, with a noticeable cilantro flavor that I love.  It wasn't spicy so I could scoop quite a bit on my chip -- I'm pretty sensitive to spicy food and this wasn't spicy in the least, but it still had good flavor.

Chips and salsa
When I try new Mexican restaurants I always like to order the guacamole and this time I chose the Guacamole Mexicana. I must admit, I assumed I knew what I was ordering but when it came out it was something completely different. What I thought I was getting was mashed guacamole with pico de gallo added to it. Nope. What I got was chunks of avocado marinated in lime juice with pico de gallo and grilled jalapeƱos on top. It reminded me of a deconstructed guac and I loved it. The grilled fresh jalapeƱos were crispy on top of the smooth avocado and crunchy tomatoes and onions. If you like guacamole you gotta try this dish, it was one I'll be ordering again.

The only thing I don't really understand is the green tomato. 
Normally, I order a chimichanga or burrito but tonight I was feeling like something different. For my entree I got cheese enchiladas smothered in a red sauce with bell peppers and pork. It was served with a guacamole salad (small scoop of guac, lettuce and tomato) and rice. The rice was some of the best I've found here in town, soft with just enough seasoning and none of those hard peas and carrots that I usually pick out. This was just rice and I loved it. The enchiladas were stuffed with white stringy cheese (YUM!) and the sauce on top was tangy. I only wish there was more pork because it was so good. The pulled pork was not greasy or overdone and complimented the dish nicely, but like I said before, I wish there was more. I loved the cheese, even though I'm not supposed to eat it. But if I am going to take a chance and eat cheese, it better be good cheese. This made the cut.

The service was fast and friendly. There are specials every day, which, being right across from Washburn University is a necessity. Hopefully students will go there and the place will stay open because I enjoyed it and plan to return.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Que

 After hearing about Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Que for years, I finally made my way there the other night for dinner. In my defense, the last time I tried to eat there was on a Sunday and I found out the hard way that they are closed on Sundays at all locations. Anyway, I finally got to try this famous barbecue I hear so much about.

Half slab of ribs
When we walked in the line wasn't too long and I've heard it's usually out the door. To order, you stand in line and can peruse the menu before you order. We got lucky that we didn't have to wait long.

Well, I've heard about it so much for a reason -- it is some good stuff. I went with my husband (surprise!) and we decided to order a smorgasbord of items -- ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey, coleslaw and smoked chicken gumbo to name a few items. I mean, why drive all the way to Kansas City and not try everything? That would go against our nature.

We always order different items so we can share and try a little of each item. I recommend doing this if you don't know what to get. Everything we ordered was tasty and cooked to perfection. My husband said the ribs were some of the best he's ever had.

Smoked turkey and pulled pork
Speaking of the ribs, they were fall-off-the-bone-tender and smoked just right. They come slathered with Joe's Original BBQ Sauce and more sauce is available on the table. If you're sharing, I'd recommend the full slab because we only got the half-slab and wished for more. Looking back, instead of the turkey, I should have ordered ribs. The turkey was good, don't get me wrong, but the ribs were the star of the show.

Potato salad
The pulled pork was pretty good, but it was overshadowed by the ribs. The turkey was juicy and the smokey flavor was just right.    I enjoyed the potato salad but I picked out most of the celery because I am just not a big fan of raw celery and there seemed to be too much for my taste. I appreciated the hardboiled eggs, though. The coleslaw was good but nothing to write home about, so I won't go on.

Smoked chicken gumbo
For me, my favorite side was the smoked chicken gumbo. Thick, hearty and smokey, it was comforting with okra, rice and chicken. It had just enough spice and wasn't overpowering. The rice was cooked just right, not mushy but tender.

As I said before, everything we ordered was cooked perfectly, the seasonings were right on and I will definitely be back for more. If
you don't know what to order, I'm sure whatever you choose will be a hit. Joe's Kansas City BBQ hasn't seen the last of the Petersons.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hanover Pancake House

For some reason it's been years since I've had breakfast at Hanover Pancake House in downtown Topeka. I used to go there with my grandma for breakfast and lunch and I always remember having good experiences there. I decided to check it out last weekend and I wasn't let down.

The inside is what you'd expect to find when entering a pancake house that's been around forever (I'm not quite sure how many years it's been there). The booths were worn but clean and cosy. The staff was friendly and inviting and we were sat immediately. We got there around 1 p.m. on a Sunday and you could tell it had just been really busy and we were getting there after the breakfast rush because all the waitstaff looked tired but relieved Sunday morning was over -- at least until next week.

The Monterey Chicken Omelette
I ordered coffee and the waitress offered a choice of creamer -- regular, pumpkin, French vanilla and hazelnut -- I got French vanilla. What I like is when you order coffee the server will bring a coffee carafe to the table and leave it there. I like being able to control how often I get more coffee and how much.

My husband and I had coupons for buy one get one free omelettes so that's what we went for. I got the Monterey Chicken Omelette, which comes with chicken, bacon, pico de gallo and Monterey jack cheese and choice of bread. I got French toast, which cost a little more but that was OK with me. It's originally sold with choice of toast but if you want pancakes or French toast it's $3 more. It's totally worth the money for the French toast.

French toast. Oh yum!
The omelette was good, but not the best I've had. I really didn't like the chicken because it was quite dry. I ended up picking out most of the chicken, but the rest of the omelette was pretty good. The eggs were cooked well and came with lots of cheese and pico de gallo, so I wasn't disappointed with the omelette itself.

The French toast was the best part of the entire meal. I may just get a platter of that the next time I eat at Hanover's. The slices were brown and pan-fried-crispy on the outside and cloud-fluffy on the inside with cinnamon and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. I slathered on butter and smothered the toast in maple syrup. I ate both slices and wanted more. I would have ordered more but I was pretty full.

If omelettes aren't your preference, there are many other choices on the menu. From your run-of-the-mill breakfast platters to pigs in a blanket, Hanover's is sure to have something you like. Here's a link to the menu:

My only complaint is the chicken was dry, but it didn't ruin my experience and I plan to return and try something else. I mean, it was named Best of Topeka 2014 for the best place to eat breakfast for a reason.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Taste Of The Bahamas

For my eighth wedding anniversary, my husband and I spent a week in the Bahamas on the island of Nassau. We asked a few locals where they would recommend us to eat to get some local cuisine, not tourist food, they all said the same place: The Fish Fry.

The only thing to me is that if that's what they all said, then they probably all told tourists that Fish Fry was the place to go... so wouldn't that make it tourist food? I don't know, but we went there anyway to check it out.

Pulling up, we were a little early for lunch, just before 11 a.m. so they weren't serving lunch quite yet, but the hostess still seated us and we ordered mango lemonade and I just got regular lemonade and water. The waitress seemed to really push the bottled water even though we insisted on tap, but she ended up bringing us tiny plastic cups of ice water that were gone in seconds because it's so hot and humid there. I know Kansas is pretty humid, but this was ridiculous. It felt like 75-80 percent humidity while it was around 91 degrees. The waitress wasn't quick to refill our waters, either.

The restaurant seemed outdated, but most things on the island were that way so it just felt local. There was a lot of construction going on all over the island. Everywhere we went there were buildings halfway built and crews building. Even next to our hotel there were at least two other resorts being built. I spent some time watching them work at the tops of high buildings on cranes. Scary. Anyway, it was like the entire island was in the process of updating. The restaurant included.

The lemonade was extremely sweet and I couldn't even drink the entire glass. The mango lemonade was even sweeter. All the drinks I got while on the island were sweeter than back home. My husband and I decided it was because they used real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. When I bought a bottle of Sprite, I looked and sure enough, it was made with real sugar and even had "Sprite Bahamas" on it. Crazy how much difference the real thing makes.

Conch fritters. Yum.
Service was pretty slow for being one of two tables that we could see were eating lunch.

For an appetizer we ordered the conch fritters, which are pretty popular in the Bahamas. Conch is a shell fish that seems to be used in everything there, and it's pretty good. (See video below). Although it seemed a little chewy sometimes, I think that's just the nature of the fish. These conch fritters reminded me of hush puppies with chunks of conch throughout. They were served with a sauce that was creamy and spicy and reminded me of Sriracha hot sauce. The fritters were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and the fish wasn't overpowering either, they really blended in. The chunks would kind of pull them apart and eating them could get messy, but they were worth it.

I ordered a fish sandwich. There didn't seem to be much on the menu other than a Conch burger, fried fish and burgers. The fish sandwich was tasty: fried white fish, lettuce, tomato, (I took the onion off), with a side of fries. I put tartar sauce on it, too. The fish was crispy and the bun was soft, although it was a little greasy. I mean, it was fried, but it wasn't a fish steak, it was pieces of fish so it seemed to be a little greasier than if it were just one piece. I couldn't eat the entire sandwich, the portions were pretty good size, there was a lot of fish.

I would say it was a good fish sandwich, but I was a little disappointed, honestly. I was expecting some fresh fish tasting of the sea. This fish tasted just like any fish I could order back home. The only exciting thing, to me, was the conch fritters because I couldn't order them anywhere else. I was also hoping to try other types of fish than just fried, but that just didn't happen, they didn't really have much of a selection.

Because it cost $20 each way to get anywhere in Nassau it was hard for us to want to try any other restaurant while we were there -- especially while staying at an all-inclusive resort where we didn't have to pay more for food. So, I was a little disappointed.

I would probably try to find a different restaurant next time I visit Nassau. Fish Fry was good, but I am curious to see if I could find some fish that isn't fried.

If you're not sure what conch is, or how they prepare it, watch this video of two fisherman in the Bahamas.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Taste of Colorado

I took a trip to Longmont, Colorado for my friend's wedding. Of course I had to try a local restaurant, but I decided I was going to drive over to Boulder and check what they had to offer there. Boulder is only about 30 minutes away.

When I got to Longmont, which is about 45 minutes north of Denver on the east side of the mountains, I didn't feel like eating my turkey sandwiches on white bread any more, I wanted real food. (I always bring food in a cooler to save money on the trip). I decided to check out the Mexican restaurant called 3 Margaritas, next door to the hotel I was staying in. The lady at the front desk said it was good, and I didn't have to drive anywhere. After driving eight hours I didn't want to drive any more.

Three Margaritas was your typical Mexican restaurant that can be found here in Topeka, or really any other city for that matter. The only thing special that I found on the menu, was the Burrito Colorado, and the server recommended it, too. So that's what I got and it wasn't bad, I ate the whole thing. It was shredded beef cooked in a spicy red sauce inside a flour tortilla with guacamole, beans, cheese, sour cream and green chili. I did not like their chips and salsa, though. The first bowl was so spicy I could hardly eat it, and the second bowl, when I asked for something mild, tasted like tomato sauce, so I didn't eat much of that, either. If you like spicy, you'll like the salsa, I'm just a wimp, I guess.

The Burrito Colorado was smothered in a green chili sauce, sour cream and cheese. Inside, the shredded beef was just spicy enough to be toned down by the creaminess of the toppings. Since I didn't like the salsa, I used the chips to eat most of the toppings mixed together. Other than it being a tasty combination, I didn't really get the "Colorado" part of it. Then again, I'm not from there, so who knows. My server wasn't too chatty so I didn't ask him.

After eating Mexican, I wanted to get a taste of the region. I went back to my hotel room and looked up restaurants in Boulder. I found a list of the top 10 spots, and tried to go with one that wasn't going to cost me over $35 an entree. I found a little diner called Lucile's, a creole/cajun breakfast nook found in an old Victorian style house in a residential area.

Fresh squeezed lemonade
The tables are packed inside, reminding me of restaurants in New York City, but it has a down-home country feel. The napkins are swatches of random fabric, and the walls feature local newspapers and playbills.  The wait was almost 30 minutes at noon on a Saturday, but the review I read said that would be the case, so I wasn't surprised and ready to wait. The host said there was a community table with no wait so I said "What the heck?" I was immediately sat and even got to meet some locals while I ate my meal.

I ordered freshly squeezed lemonade because my table mates recommended it and had just waited on it to be made. For lunch I ordered breakfast: eggs, potatoes and a biscuit. Everything about the meal was memorable. The biscuits come out first, square and cut from a cake pan, fluffy and buttery and hot. They are so big, too, I had to slow down so I would still be hungry for the rest of my food. There is strawberry jam on the table and I tried that, too. It was sweet and I enjoyed it, but the biscuits were so good on their own, I only just tried the jam.

My potatoes and eggs came out soon after. The potatoes were so good that I bought the creole seasoning they used and tried to make them myself at home. They were soft and smothered in Lucile's own creole seasoning. I wouldn't say they were fried, but they weren't boiled either. I think they may have been steamed or sauteed like I did them at home, only adding water every so often to soften them up. The seasoning was just a little spicy, but it was sweet,
too. I was pretty full from the biscuit but the potatoes were so good, I practically finished them off. The eggs were a perfect over medium, which is usually hard to come by -- I usually get over easy when I order over medium. Yeah, I'm picky.

I stood in line to pay and the service was brisk. Nine people were in front of me to pay, but I only stood there for about 10 minutes. I only paid $11 for the meal and I tipped a few bucks, too. I figured that since the other restaurants on the top 10 list averaged $35 for entrees that I had fared pretty well.

I saw that Lucile's has locations in Denver, Longmont, Littleton and Fort Collins, also. The one in Boulder was the original restaurant that was opened in 1980. When I return to the state I will definitely be returning to Lucile's Creole Cafe.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Another Chinese Buffet In Topeka

The University Chinese Buffet at 21st and Washburn

I can't say I got my hopes up because I didn't. I figured The University Chinese Buffet at 21st and Washburn would be just another Chinese buffet in Topeka, and I was right. But, that being said, it wasn't a bad Chinese buffet, it just wasn't surprising. The most surprising thing? The variety of ice creams they offer for dessert. Yeah, seriously.

Upon arriving I noticed the restaurant was opened up more than it was when it was a Mexican place. But the decor was the same and the owners didn't change much. I did like that it was more open, especially for a buffet.

My (first) plate.
The food was your typical Chinese buffet food selections: kung pao chicken, lo mein, chicken and broccoli, crab Rangoons, egg rolls, sushi and rice. There's fresh fruit and salad, and I was impressed they had in-shell shrimp cocktail. It's not every day buffets offer that. I have noticed that newer Chinese buffets incorporate sushi as this one did. I didn't try any sushi but it looked like they used cooked fish and vegetables so you don't have to worry about raw fish sitting out on a buffet, if that bothers you. It doesn't bother me, I just wasn't feeling sushi that night.

I got my favorites: vegetable lo mein, white rice, chicken broccoli, sweet and sour chicken, egg roll, crab Rangoon, sesame chicken and some fried rice (pictured at the right). Everything tasted good, but the lo mein didn't seem hot enough to me, temperature-wise. I thought maybe it was because I had left my plate sitting for a minute, but when I went back for the fresh batch they put out, it still wasn't piping hot. Not sure if the steam table was messed up or what, but I thought I'd mention that. Everything else seemed up to temp, so it struck me as odd that it was the one dish that was luke-warm. Fluke, maybe?

I scream, you scream.
As I mentioned before, I was excited about the ice cream selections. Usually, at Chinese restaurants they offer vanilla soft serve, and who knows if it's any good. Here, at University Chinese Buffet, they have a variety of ice cream to choose from. strawberry, chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip and for those of you who like traditional, they also have vanilla. I am not supposed to be eating dairy but I went ahead and tried some strawberry and mint chocolate chip. As a person who's worked in food service most of her life, I have to say I appreciated that the ice cream wasn't rock hard. It was soft and easily scooped so you didn't have chip away at rock hard ice cream. I've had to, and it's awful.

The buffet line the woman was complaining about.
Overall, I enjoyed the buffet. I will go back in the future since it's only a few blocks from my house. If you're looking for a large variety, go to King's Chinese Buffet, but if you're happy with the classics, this place is for you. I don't mind not having a million items to choose from because I usually get all the same stuff anyway.

I also wanted to mention that I went at 8 p.m. on a Monday night, when they close at 9:30 p.m. All the food was fresh, the cook was putting out new, fresh food on a regular basis and the waitress, even though she was cleaning up for closing, was attentive and helpful.

There was a lady at the buffet who was complaining about the selection, but I couldn't understand what she was complaining about. The lo mein needed replaced, (which they did like 3 minutes later) and everything else was full and looked fresh. I guess I just don't know what she was meaning. Her family sat there for another 20 minutes, then left. As if they were waiting for something and never got it. So... I guess for some the buffet wasn't worth it, but to me, I thought it was.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taco Bell Breakfast -- No Surprises

This morning I decided to try Taco Bell's new breakfast items. I wasn't too impressed.

Sausage, egg and cheese A.M. Grilled Taco
There are only a few items on the menu, so far but I am sure they will continue to add more in the future.  There are four entree items that you can order with a choice of bacon or sausage with sides consisting of potato hash browns and/or a 12-pack of Cinnabon Delights, which were already on their menu. There is also Tropicana orange juice and coffee, which they don't have packets so they pour it in themselves. I don't know if I like that because I want to control what's in my coffee. I don't like leaving it up to some person I've never met to decide how much creamer I need, especially in a drive through, like I was at the time. Regardless, I ordered the coffee.

The coffee reminded me of the bold roasts from other fast good joints like McDonald's and Hardee's -- strong and in need of a lot of cream and sugar. It was okay, but I am not a fan of Starbucks if that tells you anything. This coffee was strong, and it made my stomach upset, which sometimes happens with certain coffees, including Starbucks, which is why I brought it up in the first place. Next time, I'll probably just get the orange juice.

I ordered two of their breakfast items -- the Breakfast Burrito and the A.M Grilled Taco -- both with sausage. I didn't see the hash browns on the menu when I was ordering or I would have ordered one of those but it didn't stand out so I missed it. I've had the Cinnabon Delights before and they were too sweet then so I knew they would be too sweet in the morning.

Sausage, egg and cheese Breakfast Burrito
The Breakfast Burrito was nothing surprising. The tortilla was soft, stuffed with eggs, cheese and sausage. There was a lot of cheese so if you love cheese, this will be the item for you. The A.M. Grilled Taco was again, nothing surprising. It consisted of scrambled eggs, cheese and sausage stuffed into a soft taco shell that was grilled on a flat top. The grilled tortilla gave it a little extra flavor but nothing too exciting.

I want to go back and try some of their pricier items like the Waffle Taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap sometime soon. Those items seem to be a little more dynamic and probably why they cost more than $1.50 each.  I wanted to try more than one thing so I went for the cheaper choices.

Honestly, I was disappointed. Taco Bell is supposed to be like Americanized-Mexican fast food. These items had no zest, flavor or appeal. There needs to be something taco-y about each item and all I see is eggs, sausage and breakfast meat offered in a few different ways -- in a tortilla, in a grilled tortilla and a waffle. Jazz it up a notch, Taco Bell.

So I guess the point of Taco Bell doing breakfast is to compete with McDonald's breakfast. One of the taco joint's ploys is they are staying open a half hour later for breakfast than the burger place. I don't know if they will be successful, personally I love me an egg and sausage biscuit from any place, Micky D's, Hardee's and even Burger King. I see TB sticking with burritos and crunch wraps, though, so who really knows what's going to happen.

Either way, now Taco Bell has breakfast, or "Firstmeal". Are you going to go try it? Or do you prefer to stick with lunch and dinner and get your breakfast elsewhere? Comment below and let me know.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Noodles and Company is Vegan friendly

Here it is, the newest restaurant in Topeka.

Tonight I got the chance to check out Noodles & Company for their soft opening.

Before even going I checked out their menu online to plan what I was going to order. Just some background -- my doctor has told me to stop eating all dairy because my gall bladder is giving me some problems. It may be that I'm lactose intolerant but we aren't sure. I've also decided to cut down on how much meat I eat since many dishes I eat have both meat and dairy in them.

What I liked about Noodles is they have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Click this link for a list of options.

Anyway, I ordered the Pasta Fresca with no cheese -- it comes with a choice of feta or parmesan. I also added some tofu, just to try it out and I was glad I did. I would recommend it even if you've tried tofu before and hated it because that happened to me, but I decided to go for it.

Pasta Fresca from Noodles & Co.
At first I thought they may have put meat in my noodles but it was just their firm tofu, which had a rich, meat-like texture and flavor that I enjoyed. It caught me off guard! It was grilled and firm but not chewy, it reminded me of lean pork. The sauce was made with balsamic vinegar, white wine and olive oil. It comes with spinach, tomatoes and onions and a hint of roasted garlic, all tossed together with penne pasta noodles. I enjoyed my dish but I do wish there were more vegetables because I was left with a bunch of noodles and no vegetables when I was finished. I may have eaten more if there were more toppings, but I am not a fan of just eating noodles and sauce.

I liked that the tomatoes weren't cooked to a pulp. Sometimes when I eat pasta dishes with tomatoes they like to cook them until they are mushy and not good anymore. Here, they were pretty uncooked so I liked that. The spinach, on the other hand, I wish would have been cooked a little more so it would have wilted a bit into the pasta. Instead, they were fresh spinach leaves in a cooked dish, which seemed a little awkward to me. I still enjoyed the flavor, I love spinach, it just seemed weird to me.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience. The place was packed and the line was long, but the staff did a good job accommodating their guests. The manager was guiding the long lines, including the drink like, which got a little long while they were filling the ice. He walked around and began filling up everyone's glasses with ice so the line would run a little faster, which worked. I thought he handled the situation well.

Noodles & Company opens tomorrow, March 17th, which is also St. Patrick's day. Hopefully Topeka will show up and continue to support this new addition to Top City. I enjoyed my visit, did you? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for reading Tasting Topeka. If you have any restaurants that you would like me to review, please comment below. Thanks and happy tasting.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Papa Keno's Really Has Slices Bigger Than Your Face!

Today was the grand opening for Papa Keno's, a pizza place from Lawrence.  I don't usually review restaurants on the day of the grand opening, but this place impressed me so I thought I would share.

Two slices of pepperoni pizza.
For some reason I didn't listen to their motto, "Slices as big as your face." I ordered way too much. One slice could easily fill me up, but I ordered six. Two pepperoni, two Italian sausage and two hamburger, one each for me and my hubby. Needless to say, it was too much food and we will have leftovers tomorrow. Lesson learned. The guy that handed me my pizza said, "Whoa, you got a lot." Yeah, thanks.

What I enjoyed was the thin slices that were baked alone, not as a whole pie. Cooking it this way gives the edges a slightly crisp texture and some of the cheese seemed to bake like a crust, which I enjoyed. It wasn't burnt, but cooked just right. (You can kind of see what I am talking about on the left side of the left slice of pepperoni).

They cut the slices into squares, and I thought that some of the sections were as big as normal slices of pizza at other places.

 The thin crust was welcome. It was chewy but crisp at the same time -- I didn't feel like I was eating a cracker with pizza toppings.

I found out via Twitter that Papa Keno's uses whole milk mozzarella on all their pizzas and make their dough from scratch every day. Yum.

Two hamburger, two It. sausage
There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy. At first, before I saw the sizes of the slices, I thought it seemed overpriced. But when it came I totally understood, and feel I paid for what I got.

The wait was worth the pizza and I plan to go back soon. I look forward to trying their various pizzas, salads and sides. Tonight they were only doing single slices because their ovens aren't big enough to hold all the slices and whole pizzas. The line was long the entire time I was there, from about 7 p.m. until 7:45 and the staff was working hard the whole time. For a grand opening, everyone seemed to be on top of everything, as I waited 40 minutes and they told me the wait would be that long, and the pizza tasted amazing.

I Went Back For Round Two

House salad with ranch dressing
The second night I went to Papa Kenos I knew to only order one slice of pizza. This time I got a meal -- one slice of pizza with two toppings, choice of breadsticks or salad and a drink. I got the salad and it was a basic iceberg salad mix with tomatoes and cucumber with your choice of dressing and there was plenty of it. It was actually quite large, I was surprised. My friend ordered the same meal only breadsticks instead of a salad and there were quite a few of those, too. I would say if two people went the best thing would be to order a salad with one meal and breadsticks with another meal and split the two and have a feast.
One slice with tomatoes and pepperoni

The breadsticks were good, but nothing too special. I liked them dipped in marinara but I would say alone, they are a little plain. But still good.

The meal is a good deal. You get a huge slice of pizza, a good amount of whichever side you choose and a refillable soda all for $7.50 plus tax.

Both times I went to Papa Keno's I enjoyed my visit. The pizza is good, the service is friendly and the price is right.

To check out their menu, click here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monsoon Grill - YUM!

I finally checked out the new Monsoon Indian Grill.

I went there on a Sunday night for dinner and there were quite a few people eating. The atmosphere is dim, quaint and relaxing. The service was good and our waitress was helpful with the menu. If you've never been to an Indian restaurant, you will need help with the menu, trust me.

For lunch they offer a buffet but I went for dinner so it's only a la carte, but that was OK with me because I already knew what I wanted to order.

I ordered the Chicken Tikki Masala with some naan bread. You can choose if you want regular, mild or spicy for any dish -- I chose regular because I just wasn't sure what their spice was like because I had never ordered anything before. My friend ordered the Tikki Masala skewers in spicy and he was sweating profusely and I think he looked uncomfortable. I, on the other hand, had no problem eating most of my dish.

Here's my rice and Chicken Tikki Masala.
My entree came with white rice, which I like to mix with the Tikki Masala sauce and pile it on my naan bread and eat it that way, kind of like a burrito. The chicken wasn't dry, which sometimes it can be since most cooks think: "Well, it's going in a sauce anyway..." NOT true. Even though a meat is smothered in sauce it is still easy to tell if that meat is over cooked and dry. This chicken was not.

I have to say, I enjoyed the dishes - like the plates and silverware. The bowls were interesting, with a tall handle-like piece that seems to me would cause the dishwasher a headache. The plates were rectangles with decorative lips in the plate that make it look crooked. The silverware was sturdy and heavy, unlike some places where I have been able to bend my fork or knife in the process of using it.
These are simosas: baked pastry filled with peas, potatoes and lentils. 
The naan bread was amazing. The cooks make it by throwing the dough on the side of an Indian-style oven -- tandoori -- and letting it bake until it falls off. What makes naan bread special is that it's usually made with yogurt instead of milk or water. At Monsoon the bread was fluffy on the inside and a little crunchy from the grill on the outside. I ordered a second helping because it was so good.

I look forward to returning for the lunch buffet. From what I hear they have different items on the buffet daily. If you have never eaten Indian food I would recommend checking out the buffet -- that way you can try a bunch of different dishes and figure out what you like, and what you don't like. From my experience, you will like more than you don't like!

Normally I post a map to show where the restaurant is located. Unfortunately, Monsoon Grill is so new they don't have a place on Google maps, yet. But just FYI, it's located right behind Chipotle Mexican Grill on Wanamaker Road in Topeka.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Quinton's Serves A Surprisingly Tasty Burger

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 I've been to Quinton's many times but I have only ordered food a couple times -- I think three.

I checked it out the other night with some friends and has an alright experience.

I always like to get an appetizer and that night I was pretty hungry so I wanted soup and an app. The waitress apparently didn't understand the concept of appetizers because I had to explain it to her, while she was looking at my friends with confusion. After I told her I wanted a bread bowl of potato soup she immediately walked away and my husband had to call her back so he could order his wings. I think she may be used to people coming in for drinks and not people eating a meal.
Bread bowl potato soup.

The soup was creamy and cheesy, but I remembered my complaint from the first time I ordered it -- there isn't enough. I realize they have portion sizes I just wish they would take out more of the bread and put more soup in because I don't eat much of the bread. Plus, the soup is yummy so of course I wanted more -- they should take that as a compliment.

I ordered a burger, but not their plain, regular, boring burger. I got their Bistro Burger. I must say I was impressed. I wasn't expecting to get what I got, but in a good way. The burger has a green apple slaw, pickled red onion, smoke Gouda cheese, baby greens and Quinton's special honey mustard sauce. They even asked me how I would like my burger cooked - medium. The flavors blended well and so did the textures. The soft burger and bun with the crunchy slaw and greens went well together, and the melty Gouda cheese and pickled red onion held it all together. The green apple slaw contrasted with the honey mustard and Gouda to complete a flavor balance that I loved. I ate the entire thing. My only complaint was that there was a little too much sauce and my bun was soggy, making it difficult to eat.

The French fries were incredibly disappointing. My husband loved them but I thought they were overdone, hard and too crispy for me to enjoy. I think they were just overcooked, as opposed to just being bad fries. I bet they would be good if they were cooked the way I like them to be.

Prices at Quinton's are typical and they run drink specials. Usually, if you go at night it's more of a party scene, especially on the weekends. The atmosphere is that of a bar and mostly young college students or business partners grabbing a beer hang out there.

For their menu CLICK HERE.

Although it's not the first place to come to my mind when someone asks me where I want to eat, I do plan to return in the future.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tasting Lawrence - Dempseys Burger Pub

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 The other day I tried a new, (to me), burger place in Lawrence. I was pretty impressed and would have to say I enjoyed it more than The Burger Stand.

Their menu wasn't a typical burger menu because they like to add fried eggs and other ingredients like shallot marmalade and foie gras mousse. I can't think of any other place that offers those ingredients, and I like it.

When I went, I ordered the Egg Burger, which comes with a fried over-easy egg, Gruyere cheese and bacon all on top of a burger cooked to order. I loved it. The egg was runny and flowed over the burger and melting with the Gruyere cheese, which is like Swiss cheese but better - and the crispiness of the bacon was perfectly contrast with the softness of the egg. The bottom bun was only a little soggy, which made it a little difficult to eat as I got halfway through the burger, but because it was soggy with the runny yolk from the egg, I didn't mind that much. It was pretty messy, though.

The fries were crispy and seemed to be house-cut, but who knows, they could've been frozen. I don't really care, they were good. What I liked was that they serve different dipping sauces with each burger, for the fries. Served with the Egg Burger was the Old Bay and Tomato Coulis Aioli which was a little sweet with a hint of spice. An aioli that I enjoyed, but it wasn't served with my burger, was the Sriracha aioli -- just spicy enough but you could still taste the Sriracha without it being overpowering. I liked dipping my fries in that one.

The atmosphere is that of a sports bar. I went on a Friday night so there were a lot of college students hanging out, having a beer or two. It was loud from people talking and the music was turned up a bit, so don't plan to go if you're on a first date. The service was good, although I tried to pay the bill and she ignored me so that my brother-in-law could pay, but that's not a huge problem.

Prices were about what you would expect, $7 to $9 for a burger with the fries coming separate for as little as 99 cents. Wings, sliders and fish and chips are also offered, so if you don't want a burger, they have you covered.

Check out their MENU to see what other sauces and items they offer at Dempseys.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Royal Buffet - A lot like Mr. Stirfry

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I went to Royal Buffet and must say, it's a lot like Mr. Stirfry.

Even though there are many similarities, like the sauteed green beans, dessert and fruit bar there are many differences I noticed, as well.

I went to Mr. Stirfry on an almost regular basis because my husband, Ryan, loved it so I remember a lot about it and was able to compare the new Royal Buffet with the old, Mr. Stirfry.

One difference I noticed what that instead of serving the white rice in a steamer, separate from the actual steam tables where most of the food is heated, they put it on the buffet with the rest of the items. This is a bad decision, I think. When the rice sits in the steam table it becomes chewy and inedible -- unlike when it's in its own personal rice steamer. I wasn't happy with this change, although very minor, it affected my dining experience in a negative way.

The crab Rangoons are much better because they have more flavor. They definitely look different and the way they taste are much better than many other Asian buffets around town. They reminded me of the money bags at Tuptim Thai, little fried pockets of seasoned cream cheese. I couldn't tell if there was anything added but the filling seemed to me to be sweet, unlike others that are crabby. Maybe they aren't technically "crab Rangoons" but that's what I call them.

Another positive change was the vegetable lo mein. Back when it was Mr. Stirfry, it was like they used spaghetti noodles and not many vegetables. At Royal Buffet, they use the flatter noodles that are usually associated with lo mein, and used plenty of vegetables. The noodles were cooked al dente, whereas in the past they seemed to be mushy and old. They were saucier and I could put them on my white rice and let the rice soak up the extra sauce.

The beef and broccoli was much better than before. Before, at Mr. Stirfry, it was chicken and broccoli and very peppery. My only complaint was that the broccoli wasn't cooked enough for me but I realize they cook them that way on purpose, assuming they will be sitting in a steamer for some time, which ends up cooking the food more. I must have gotten a fresh batch because my broccoli was still pretty crunchy.

I didn't try the hibachi but it seemed to be just like it was before.

Their ice cream machine was out of order and instead they served little containers of ice cream. It was good, nothing special.

Overall, I felt like the food was more appealing, fresher and tastier at Royal Buffet than it was when it was Mr. Stirfry. The owners are different than the owners of Mr. Stirfry and Royal Buffets can be found in Wichita and other states in the Midwest.