Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Max & Erma's - MacArthur Mall, Norfolk VA

Logo Max and Erma's
In the news this week, Max & Erma's Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors, listing between $1 million and $10 million in debts.
Original Post September 3, 2009
I have always found the food court in MacArthur Center to be underwhelming, which is disappointing considering its proximity to my office. When venturing to the mall for lunch there are three places I frequent. I have already reviewed two, those being Nordstrom Café (my favorite) and California Pizza Kitchen. The third is Max & Erma’s. When heading out for lunch this past Tuesday with *Brianna, I told her I was going to finally review Max & Erma’s. She said something to the effect of, “We’ll see how it goes. They can be hit or miss.” This is so true, especially when it comes to service.

Upon arriving we were promptly seated (often there is a wait during lunch hours), but noticed that the place was packed. We were seated next to a rather large party of 10-12, which appeared to be a work group celebrating something. They have a fairly extensive menu. The primary fare is soup, salads, sandwiches, burgers and appetizers, but they also have a nice variety of steak, chicken, seafood and pasta dishes. The menu seems to change a lot. They used to have a salad I loved, the Shrimp Stack that was eliminated with a menu update. I haven’t fully recovered from that loss. If I am ordering an appetizer, I usually get the Black Bean Roll Ups. There is enough in the portion that these could serve as a meal for one too. They are tasty and a healthy, lower fat/calorie option. Our server was prompt, and having been there a gazillion times, we didn’t really need to peruse the menu, but instead ordered right away.

It took roughly 45 minutes to get our order. I knew this was going to happen because they were busy and the large table was seated before us. Oh well. It was really the only glitch in the meal. Max and Erma's SaladI have developed an affection for their Apple Pecan salad, which is mixed greens tossed in a maple vinaigrette, topped with apples, sweet & spicy pecans, dried cranberries, crumbled bleu cheese & a balsamic drizzle. I always get the dressing on the side on my salads, but I especially recommend it on this one. Since it is tossed in a dressing and then drizzled with another…that’s a lot of dressing. I know this is the big trend now, salads mixing fruit, goat or blue cheese and candied nuts. This is a perfectly proportioned salad mix. The pecans are really well done, not overdoing the sweetness, which can fill you up and add calories, and just the right amount of spicy kick. Additionally, the chicken is perfect. A lot of places serve you prepackaged meat, or a dry and overcooked mess. Not so here. My chicken was flavorful and tender.

Max and Erma's dish Barbecue Sandwich*Brianna also ordered one of her favorites, the barbecue sandwich. She swears by it. Her only complaint is that it does not come with Cole slaw. I have to agree with that. How can you even eat a barbecue sandwich without slaw on top? As noted in “…the combination of Cole Slaw and barbecue goes back a long time. Traditional Carolina style barbecue sandwiches are typically topped with shredded cabbage or Cole Slaw. This is probably the biggest reason why Cole Slaw is the number one salad of the American cookout.” If you want Cole slaw with your barbecue sandwich at Max & Erma’s you can order it as a separate side and pay for it. They will not let you substitute it as your side. After trying to get past this with several different servers *Brianna is over it by now, but I still find it annoying. They need to hook up their Southern clientele with some slaw!
Max and Erma
The food at Max Erma’s is consistent. It isn’t going to bowl you over, but the variety offers something for everyone. Service is a toss up, depending upon the day and time you are there. The décor is primarily the hokey, contrived collectibles look that you find in so many chains, with the exception of a few local sport champions’ memorabilia. For some reason they have clung to this creepy looking cartoon couple who I assume are the original Max & Erma couple. They are scary looking and severely outdated. I suggest the company either hire Carson Kressley to lead a make over for those two or completely eliminate them as soon as possible.
Carson Kressley
The Max & Erma's reviewed is located at:
MacArthur Center
300 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510
Max & Erma's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anchor Inn - Virginia Beach, VA

Anchor Inn Logo
The Anchor Inn has been around a while. Its current location is on North Landing Road, down by the Virginia Beach Courthouse. This weekend my husband and I went there with two other couples; comprised of my brother and sister-in-laws. With recent news highlighting restaurants going out of business due to the current economic conditions (Magnolia Steak, The Winehouse Bar and Bistro) I think Anchor Inn is really being smart about offering daily lunch and dinner specials. And by specials, I don’t mean something fancy the chef is preparing. I mean special pricing.

Monday through Friday they offer $5 lunch specials. These come with 2 sides and a dessert. Now that is a deal anywhere. I cannot think of a single place downtown where I can get a lunch for five bucks. My brother-in-law works out that way and says he has become a lunch regular. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday nights, each night having a different special. The special on our night, Saturday, is called “Cheap Date Night”. This is a 3 course meal with beverage for $35. That is $35 for two, not each. The diners get two salads or shared appetizer, two entrees, shared dessert, selected beverages including glass of wine or large draft. The portions are hearty and there are multiple choices.

When ordering, me being me, I promptly told my husband I was not going to be a cheap date. He didn’t bat an eye. I had a hankering for the steamed platter featuring crab legs and shrimp, which was not one of the cheap date night selections. He skipped the shrimp and went for just the crab legs. It’s pretty hard to screw up either of these unless you overcook them, which they didn’t. We started out with the raw oyster appetizer. I thought these were just okay. Not bad, but not very plump or “meaty”. One couple got the crab dip appetizer. The portion quite large and we all were invited to share. It was delicious.

I find the interior very reminiscent of old Virginia Beach. There are all types of fish mounted here and there, round wooden tables, an open bar area and primarily nautical accessories. The server was great; very warm and friendly. After eating, our server brought the crab eaters each a finger bowl. I have to admit that I was expecting something more like an individually wrapped hand wipe. Anchor Inn really isn’t fancy and this surprised me. The one negative I have is climate related. We were seated close to the front door. It was cold, wet and windy last Saturday night. Every time someone entered or exited the restaurant we got an arctic blast of air. It was uncomfortable.

Finally, I have to talk about the restrooms. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a fancy place. I know that in some very high end establishments there will be a porter in the restroom who may hand you a towel, or offer a spritz of perfume, etc. Other locales may offer some of the amenities, but in a self serve manner. Perhaps they may display a nice basket on the counter with a variety of items to choose from. Well, Anchor Inn has its own take on this. Located next to the single sink is some sort of cart or shelf upon which several full sized toiletry items are located. Several perfumes and lotions, a full sized bottle of Scope mouth wash, and a full sized can of Arid XX deodorant.Arrid XX canister Even now as I sit here and write this it is making me giggle. The Scope was pushing the limit as there were no little cups or anything offered for dispensing it. The deodorant I found hilarious. I was really kicking myself for not having my camera with me. My brother-in-law confirmed for me, upon request, that the men's room did NOT have deordorant. Interesting....

Overall, I enjoyed myself at Anchor Inn. The food was all good, the service very nice and prices are great. They have a children’s menu for kids 12 and under. All of these items are $5 except Fried Shrimp, which is $8. Again, very reasonable pricing. It is definitely the type of place you could bring children for dinner, although I didn’t see many there. The restaurant was mostly full during prime dinner hours, so I would recommend calling ahead and making a reservation on weekends, especially if you have a large party.


Winter Specials

Anchor Inn
2484 North Landing Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Anchor Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Burtons Grill - Virginia Beach

Burton's Grill Exterior
I haven't tried this restaurant yet, but they are running a great wine promotion. I'm not sure how long it will last, but it is an excellent deal!

The Glass is Half Full
Burtons Grill Offers 1/2 Price Wine Selections Every Sunday!

(Virginia Beach, VA) – Burtons Grill, located at 741 First Colonial Road in the Marketplace at Hilltop, Virginia Beach, VA, is launching their new “Glass Half Full” offer, a 1/2 price wine list available every Sunday, all day long. Come in to Burtons Grill and sample wines from their large wine selection for only half the price. While the price is half off, the glass is still full!

WHAT: “Glass Half Full,” 1/2 Price Wines at Burtons Grill.

WHERE: Burtons Grill at 741 First Colonial Road in the Marketplace at Hilltop,Virginia Beach, VA.

WHEN: Every Sunday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm at Burtons Grill.

Burtons Grill 1/2 price wines include all wines sold by the glass, inventory reductions and special purchases. Wine selections change weekly and all items are subject to availability. For more information please visit:

If you have been here previously or decide to give it a try, let us know!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Uno Chicago Grill - Norfolk VA

Uno Chicago Grill Logo
Several times throughout my life and careers, I have found myself working in the Janaf / Military Circle section of Norfolk. Sadly, there is not an abundance of lunchtime dining options in that area. When Alex and I decided to meet out that way for lunch recently, I remembered one of my former favorites, Uno Chicago Grill. Several years ago when I was working out this way, my friend *Brianna and I started a Tuesday lunch ritual, and Uno was where we usually ended up. It had been well over 2 years since I last dined there. There always used to be a wait, but not so last Friday. (A sign of the times?) I knew Alex had already procured an outside table. The hostess immediately knew who she was and walked me out. A man I assumed was the owner also greeted me and said something along the lines of, “Have a nice lunch”. Hmm…so far so good!

Those of us out and about on a lunchtime work hour know it is vital that the restaurant you choose be efficient so you can get in and out in your allotted time. Uno has a great Ten-N-Ten lunch menu. Ten lunch items in ten minutes, all served with all-you-can-eat soup or house salad. Included in the mix of ‘tens’ is both a Deep Dish and Flatbread pizza pre-selected for each day of the week. I think Uno offers a lot of variety in their menu. Even the kids menu has more than the usual suspects, providing 5 side options from fries, to steamed veggies and fruit. They are exceptionally good about posting nutritional information on their website, including sections with breakdowns of meals by calories, sodium, protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, saturated fat and dietary fiber. Wow. There are further sections for vegetarian, gluten free options, even food allergy information. Bravo! I don’t really expect or want this from private restaurants, but I wish more chains would provide it. This location has a rather large bar area and some interesting cocktails, not that I ventured in at lunch, but it was noted! Brianna and I frequently ordered what is now called “Shrimp and Crab Fun-Doo”. I am not a fan of cutesy names, but this is an excellent hot crab dip. A very hearty portion is served with garlic baguette slices. This can easily be shared by 2, 3 even up to 4 people.
Uno Chicago Grill Salad
On this sunny Friday I opted for the chopped Mediterranean Grilled Shrimp salad. It’s not on the Ten-N-Ten menu, but came out rather quickly. I was happy with the presentation. I have to admit, I like my food to look “pretty”. There were hearty sized grilled shrimp which were lightly seasoned and cooked to perfection. All the ingredients were present and fresh. They even remembered to put the dressing on the side (something California Pizza Kitchen misses about 75% of the time).

While we were seated, the man I formerly tagged as being the manager came out and sat at the table next to us with some friends/acquaintances. While he was there the table’s food came out; a great looking burger and a sandwich. Shortly afterwards a fresh plate of fries followed. The diners looked perplexed. The manager had placed another order of fries because the ones served didn’t look up to par to him. Interesting…. He did it in such a nonchalant manner, yet I was impressed (and eavesdropping as you can tell). I like that attention to detail. I believe it is what can take a good restaurant to great, or an average restaurant to failure.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to give kudos to our server, Robin, who was very professional and efficient. She also had such a great attitude. Everything happened with a smile. It’s nice to see people happy at work and doing a great job. I used to wait tables and know firsthand that it can be fun, exhausting, rewarding, irritating, hilarious and heartbreaking…all in one shift! Considering everything you have to handle in a restaurant’s work day, you better like it, because it can get tough out there!

The Uno Chicago Grill reviewed is located at:
5700 E Virginia Beach Blvd
Norfolk, VA 23502
(757) 466-0923
Uno Chicago Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 1, 2009

White Fences - Irvington, VA

Giant Corkscrew
During our weekend getaway to the Tides Inn, we decided to hop in the car and see what the great metropolis of Irvington and its surrounding areas had to offer. It doesn't take me long to get stir crazy, no matter how beautiful the surroundings. While cruising down rural route whatever, with the windows down and the radio blasting, a gigantic corkscrew really grabbed my attention. Hey, this looks like my kind of place. My husband agreed. We had just stumbled upon White Fences vineyard. We decided to check it out. At that moment having a glass of wine seemed an excellent idea.
White Fences exterior
White Fences Vineyard is, of course, surrounded by a ... white fence! We drove down the short road and pulled into a drive where we found a small building with a large screened-in front porch. No cars were parked out front. We meandered up the curved walk way, stopping to casually scan the plaques they had peppered along the side. Each plaque provided some educational information about wine, grapes, the vineyard, etc. Upon reaching the front door we saw a set of bicycles and a young couple relaxing on comfortable looking chairs sipping some wine. So far, so good.
White Fences Vineyard
Inside is a fairly small retail space with a smattering of wine related accessories and gadgets, in addition to counter space. We were promptly greeted and asked if we were interested in a tasting. White Fences offers two labels currently, Meteor being their main label. There are 6 Meteor wines, one of which (Firefly) is sold out already. We were offered 7 tastings for $4 and you get to keep the glass. What a deal! I have to be honest and let you know that I have never, and I mean N-E-V-E-R, tasted a Virginia wine that I liked. Granted, I haven't tasted them all, but I've had enough to be sufficiently wary. Several of the wines were particularly sweet, which is not really my preference. I was, however, pleasantly pleased with Meteor Glow, a Chardonel wine. It was slightly oaky, and crisp. Quite excellent! My husband, a fan of the red, preferred Meteor Bright Red. No surprise here. He loves his Merlot, and this is a blend of Chambourcin and Merlot grapes. We each got an extra glass of our favorites and strolled the grounds enjoying the gorgeous weather of that late summer day. While we were there they had a steady flow of customers. A family of 5 or 6, a couple and two ladies looking for a bottle of Glow. They had tasted it at a local restaurant the night before and wanted more!
Lucy Stomping Grapes
White fences is the host of the "Irvington Stomp", an event we had missed by just one weekend. It celebrates their annual grape harvest and also sounds like a good excuse to just hang out with family, friends and fellow wine lovers. This past year local musician Robbin Thompson performed (now that is a blast from the past!)and they have various activities for children and adults. You even get the opportunity to stand in barrels and stomp on grapes. There have to be some comedic moments from that.

I was excited to have my first happy experience with a VA wine. I would recommend stopping by this vineyard anytime you are in the area, or close by. I suggest you call first, as I'm not sure of their fall/winter hours. The wines are good, the people are friendly and the location is a little slice of heaven. As they say at White Fences "Stay amazed. Make wishes. Enjoy your wine."
White Fences
White Fences Vineyard & Winery is located in Irvington, Virginia, about 3 hours from Washington, DC, 1 hours 15 minutes from Richmond and 1 hour 30 minutes from Norfolk.

For information about The Irvington Stomp click HERE