Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1587 Restaurant, Manteo, NC

1587 Restaurant exterior

Situated within the Tranquil House in Manteo, 1587 Restaurant has a lot to offer. Nikki* and I had talked numerous times about heading over to Manteo to have dinner. We are in the Outer Banks quite often and for a while, we only ate at a few select restaurants because as I have said before, there is a lot of mediocre (fried) food in the area. Manteo is about a 20-25 minute drive from our house and with the summertime traffic, one can easily opt to stay closer to home. Finally, we decided it was time and made a reservation. We had to take a slightly earlier time because the 7-7:30 slot was filled. They obviously did not know who was coming....me.

The Tranquil House Inn is a quaint bed and breakfast that sits on the water in the downtown area of Manteo. Downtown translates into a few blocks, so you will not get lost trying to find the inn. Parking was easy, as a front spot awaited us. We were seated as soon as we arrived and the restaurant only had two other tables dining and a couple having drinks at the bar. The restaurant was pretty quiet until about 8-8:30, but it did fill up then, so that is potentially why they did not have a 7-7:30 time...overlapping risk.
1587 Restaurant sign

I researched 1587 online prior to visiting and when the waitress handed us the menus, a lot of the vegetarian dishes were missing. I was distraught because quite a few things looked delicious and very different from your average vegetarian fare. After fretting, I finally thought I would ask if they would make a vegetarian version of the pasta du jour. Apparently, my anxiety was in vain, as there is a separate vegetarian menu upon request. A great weight lifted off my shoulders immediately, upon seeing all of the wonderfully described selections I had found online. Always good to ask if restaurants have a separate vegetarian menu and especially with 1587’s options, even those who are not vegetarians might find something they want to try. With all of these resurrected choices, I had a hard time deciding, but finally settled on the vegetarian version of the chef’s pasta selection. My rationale was that this was a dish they might not have the next time I journey over to 1587. A tomato cream sauce and a plethora of vegetables, broccoli, squash, peppers, onions and green beans, were served over penne pasta and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. The vegetables were fresh and cooked to perfection. This was certainly a dish that was made to order. Nikki had the same dish, simply carnivore style, with beef tenderloin cooked impeccably. We began out meal with the soup of the day, chilled yellow heirloom tomato, and the black and white truffle mac n’ cheese. The soup was average, not thrilling, but the mac n’ cheese definitely made up for the soup and then some. Very rich, but a manageable portion, a side that can be very boring in some restaurants was turned into an exquisite burst of flavor. Truffle oil makes a dish. Finally for dessert, I chose the seasonal fruit cobbler. Fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries were topped with a homemade granola and served over homemade vanilla ice cream. The waitress said there was no sugar added to the mixture and she was right on when she said that makes the dish so unique. You taste the full flavor of the berries, rather than added sugar.

Other interesting menu selections include roasted butternut squash and Parmesan stuffed homemade ravioli, local tuna steak over udon noodles and white bean ragout. Tranquil House also serves Filet Mignon, braised pork "Osso Bucco" and a boneless half of chicken on their chop menu. Desserts change with the season but there are usually five to six to choose from and you cannot go wrong with any of them.

1587 Restaurant waterfront
Our table was by the window and with Tranquil House being on the water, we watched other diners and inn visitors mingle with the residents who keep their boats at the small neighboring marina. It was very pleasant, as is the town Manteo in general. Make a reservation and then arrive an hour beforehand or take some time after the meal, to stroll through Manteo.


The Tranquil House Inn and 1587 Restaurant are located at 405 Queen Elizabeth Avenue
Roanoke Island, NC 27954. For reservations, call (252) 473-1587.

1587 Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Zen Asian Fusion, Charleston, SC

Zen Asian Fusion Logo

I am particular about take-out. A bad experience locally scared me away from Asian take-out for a good while until I discovered Zen Asian Fusion while in Charleston, South Carolina. Chas* and I did not feel like cooking, but did not feel like going out to eat either. We had done Greek and then pizza recently and needed something new. He had seen a new Asian fusion restaurant not far from his neighborhood and despite my fears, I was ready for a culinary adventure.

Walking into Zen Asian Fusion was like entering a chic restaurant in New York. The decor is ultra modern with an Asian flare. The bar is exquisite with a constant low yellow glow. It catches your eye the moment you enter the restaurant. Sean*, who I assumed was the owner, might be one of the nicest people I have met. He was so pleasant, but not in a sickeningly sweet way. Rather, he was nice, but with a good, slightly sassy, sense of humor and very personable. I would imagine he is a social kind of guy.

I love vegeteable Pad Thai and knew right away that was what I wanted as my entree and Chas decided on his favorite, chicken and broccoli. Crab rangoons and the Thai calamari sounded like good starters and away our order went. We ran an errand and in 10-15 minutes, we were back at Zen and picking up our meal. At home, we excitedly pull out all of the containers and started sampling. Chas loved the calamari, which came with a mango salsa sauce and sweet Thai chili sauce. It was fried, but not overdone and the sauces were very unique. I used them on a few of the rangoons, which were also quite good. The chicken and broccoli was a hit and the Pad Thai was good, but just a tad dry. I like Pad Thai that has more moisture in the sauce. Zen does not scrimp on portions. We had enough food for the next day, which is nice. One less meal to have to plan.

A few months later, Chas and I decided we should venture over to Zen again and see our friend, Sean. I wanted to try something from the vegetarian sushi selection and the peanut avocado roll mixed two of my favorite foods. The avocado salad seemed like a winner and instead of the Pad Thai, I ordered the vegetable fried rice. Chas sought the crab calamari again and this time chose the shrimp and broccoli for his entree. We placed our order and ran to the movie store to kill a few minutes. Sean had the order ready when we returned and was as cheerful as ever. Once home and settled, we enjoyed our meal. The salad must have had an entire avocado topping lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. The fruit was as fresh and perfect as it could be. To continue my avocado theme, I enjoyed part of the peanut avocado roll. That is probably one of my top two favorite sushi variations to date. The salt of the peanuts meshes particularly well with the fruit and rice. I like Zen’s fried rice over their Pad Thai. The rice had a lot of flavor and was not dry, which fried rice can often become. Chas enjoyed the shrimp and broccoli and his now favorite calamari. Again, we had enough food for another meal.

I would like to eat at Zen my next visit. The restaurant has an allure and I would imagine service is up to par with the owner’s customer-centric personality. Prices are reasonable. Our bill both visits was somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 and we walked away with a large amount of food.

On our second visit, we asked Sean how business was. He said slightly down for the weekend, but with other things going on in town, he was not dismayed. A few larger business groups were in that week and he was glad word was spreading. I do hope he makes it. The restaurant business is never easy and if anyone makes it, someone like Sean should be that person.


Zen is open daily and serves lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner daily and Sunday brunch. In Charleston, Zen is located at 2037 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard. There are also locations in Connecticut and New York.

Zen Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 27, 2010

Famous Uncle Al's - Granby Street, Norfolk

Famous Uncle Al's Logo
It was National Hot Dog week and Laine and I decided this was the perfect time to review Famous Uncle Al’s Famous Hot Dogs. Tucked in a seemingly small spot on Granby Street, Al’s does a heck of a day business. Office folk are constantly ducking in and coming out with a brown paper bag filled with a breakfast sandwich, one of the many dogs, a sandwich or fries and sometimes a few of those items all at once. I’ve seen many of that brown bag enter our office in the morning hours. Laine and I wanted the full experience so we opted for the dine-in option. I had no idea there were so many tables in the back of Al’s. You enter and immediately order and if you choose to stay, you jockey for a table or wait for a server to seat you. Ordering is easy because the menu is straight forward. I had heard the egg salad was a hit and ordered that on toasted wheat with some cheese fries and a drink. Jumbo sodas are $1.79 with all the refills your heart desires. Music to our ears.

It was pretty packed when Laine and I arrived and upon ordering, we spied an open two-top, which I pounced on it while Laine waited for our food. Our meals came out within five to seven minutes as Al’s staff kept things humming along at a slightly crazed pace. My source had not led me wrong and the egg salad on wheat was just right. Thankfully, Al’s does not make the all too frequent mistake of putting too much mayonnaise in their egg salad (hate that) and it is seasoned perfectly. The cheese fries were decent. I have complained about cheese whiz before but remember, that involved nachos. Nachos should have real cheese, end of story. I have no problem with cheese whiz, or processed cheese product as my childhood friend and I lovingly referred to it, on fries (we used to love to create our radioactive dish or Velveeta and Pace Picante Salsa to eat with our chips (her) and pretzels (me) while watching General Hospital and MTV after school - those were the days). I sampled one of Laine’s onion rings and while the flavor was pretty good, they could have been crispier - fry them babies up! For about $8, my meal was perfect for this Friday. I noticed a few things I would like to try the next visit, the grilled cheese and either Cole slaw or the sweet potato fries. Laine and I will report back, as always.


For National Hot Dog Day (7/23/2010) this Al's location ran a $1 hot dog promotion. What better day to give them a try? We arrived minutes before the noon rush and they were already hopping busy. However, we were waited on almost immediately, found an open table quickly and had our food in less than 5 minutes. I have to say the service impressed me. Everyone was very nice, very apologetic about any wait (which we didn't have), and the server checked on our table about 2-3 times. Nice!

I love the snappy dogs and today mine was as good always. The onion rings were not the best I've had here. These were a little squished up when they arrived, but they still tasted good. Alex got egg salad and cheesy fries. The egg salad looked great and she concurred. I've had theirs before and it is one of the best in town in my opinion. The cheesy fries were just okay. They could have been cooked a minute or two longer to get a tad crispier.

Overall we were pleased and would recommend this Al's location without hesitation.


Uncle Al’s is located at 155 Granby Street and is open 7am-3pm Monday through Friday. They suggest faxing or calling in larger orders, so if you are having an office breakfast or lunch (recommendation), this might be a better option. You can call in single orders as well, if you do not feel like waiting on location.


Famous Uncle Al's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bobbie B's Deli - Granby Street, Norfolk

Bobbie B's Deli exterior
So many restaurants, so little time. How did we miss this one for so long? Bobbie B's Deli was a wonderful surprise. Located down at the "other end" of Granby Street, it's well worth the walk. They was not an empty table when we arrived last Tuesday at lunch time. A lot of folks get their food to go, and a girl parked at a 4 top while waiting for her order gladly gave it up. Bobbie B's Deli interiorBobbie B's is not fancy. I am pretty sure no one paid a designer to help with the decor. There is a little "shrine" to NASCAR behind the register, and a couple of bobble head figurines on the counter. You order at the register, grab a seat if you can, and they call our your number when it is ready. They use Dietz and Watson meats. All the ingredients from the bread, to the veggies, to the meat are very fresh. Prices in this place are beyond reasonable. And.....drum roll please...cheapest soda in town! (If you have reading us for awhile you know I have a thing about over-priced sodas. We non-coffee drinking people need our caffeine too!) $1.45 for a super-sized large with free unlimited refills while you dine in.
Bobbie B's Deli dish Ranchero Chicken Wrap
I ordered one of the daily specials, Ranchero Chicken Wrap, and it came with a side. I selected the cucumber salad. The salad was a little different than your typical cuc salad, adding red onion, pimento and chunky cucumber. I liked it very much. The wrap was wonderful. It had a sneaky hot sauce that I didn't really recognize until I was almost through the first half. By the end of the wrap I was really feeling it, but in a good way. I am not really a fan of "hot" spice, but I liked this wrap and didn't leave a crumb. Bobbie B's Deli dish Reuben Our Friend Brianna* ordered one of my favorite deli sandwiches, a Reuben, replacing the sauerkraut with Cole Slaw. Of course, this means it really wasn't really a Reuben anymore, but it still looked great. There was a nice, thick layer of corned beef. They didn't grill it either, another Reuben requirement, but toasted it instead. Brianna said it was delicious.

Once again, Alex and I got sucked into buying dessert. Why did they have to put cake, Red Velvet cake at that, right next to the register? I have no idea where they get their cakes, or who baked this but...WOW. Alex and I have been privy to some bad cake recently. It is such a let down. This cake was dynamite! The center layer was not icing, it was cheesecake, then the traditional white icing was on the outside. I couldn't even wait until after taking the picture to take a bite!

So two thumbs up, only because I don't have three thumbs. Print of their online coupon, bring it with you and a friend, and get half off the second meal. I also have to mention the menu typo (intentional perhaps) that lists "Cold Slaw" as one of their salads. It got a few good giggles in the office.


I have passed Bobbie B’s without going in more times than I can ever count and now I am sorry I did not investigate sooner. Laine, Brianna* and I were leaving another restaurant in the vicinity and made a point to put this deli on our to review list. A day came when it was under one hundred degrees and we decided to make the journey down Granby Street.

Bobbie B’s is a no frills type of locale but the kind of establishment that has regulars; businessmen and other office folks, police officers and some young adults who live downtown. Bobbie’s has sandwich selections along with a build your own variety. I had previewed the menu online, as I usually do with a new spot. This prevents me from dawdling in my decision making. We approached the counter and I knew I wanted the vegetarian sandwich with avocado, sprouts, tomato, onions, cucumbers and provolone on wheat. Sandwiches come with a side and between the Cole slaw and the cucumber salad, the nice girl at the counter preferred the cucumber salad and I went with her recommendation. As I waited, I contemplated some of the other downtown deli vegetarian sandwiches, which have not always impressed me. I have to say I did not have high expectations and was waiting for something mediocre. Bobbie B's Deli dish Vegetarian SandwichFortunately, I was proven very, very wrong. My number was called and my sandwich looked like a picture, the ones that never match the actual food you receive. The bread was toasted and the vegetables fresh, even the tomatoes. So many times, when I order a sandwich, the tomatoes are so pale and tasteless. I was tickled with the cucumber salad as well. Homemade with just the right level of tang, this side was an excellent choice. All sandwiches come with a pickle as well. For $5.25, that is a steal. The large sodas are $1.45 and you can have all the refills your heart desires. This price is the best yet.
Bobbie B's Deli dish Red Velvet Cake
Laine and I saw slice of homemade red velvet cake and decided we must split a piece. I think is the best red velvet cake I have ever had. It had a layer of cheesecake in the middle and then the cream cheese icing. The cake was moist and we both could not believe the price, $3.

I am very excited to have Bobbie B’s as another casual option where prices are more than reasonable and the food is solid. This strikes me as the place where a take-out would be as good as a sit-in meal. They have soups and salads, which we spied on other diners’ tables and which looked like something we will try the next time around. Sandwiches come ‘double-stacked’ for a small fee, if you are ravenous and other sides include potato salad, mac n’ cheese and fruit salad. Desserts are homemade and change daily. While Bobbie B’s does not have servers per se, the staff there is friendly and fast. The gentleman who refilled my drink three times did not seem annoyed at all.

The group having lunch around us included office types, a few police officers and a young couple, who gave us the table they used to wait. Bobbie B’s is small, so you may have a wait a few to grab a seat, but this is the type of place that moves patrons quicker than other establishments. I would imagine they have a lot of to-go and catering business and Bobbie B’s also serves breakfast until 11am.


433 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 23510-1913
(757) 623-7444
(Look for the chef statue out front.)
7:30 AM until 11 AM


Bobbie B's Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Havana - Granby Street, Norfolk, VA

Havana Exterior
During these times when many people are experiencing economic challenges, we have seen a lot of restaurants adapt their menus and offerings. I know many people at work have started packing lunches, if not everyday, then at least 2-3 times a week. An $8 dollar lunch here, a $15 dollar lunch there adds up fast. So, what’s the deal with Havana? When Alex and I visited this week, I thought they gave us the dinner menu by mistake. It turns out there is only one menu, and it is pricey for what you get. Unlike the rest of the world, Havana is a business that does not have a website, or I’d recommend you check out the menu online.

Alex and I stopped in for Nachos and a drink before a Norva show recently. We sat right up front in the window seat. From about 7PM-8:30PM on a Saturday night, they were deserted. Maybe 2-3 other tables were dining. We saw plenty of people stop and peruse the menu in the window and just keep walking. This is not a good sign. Havana used to be hopping back in the day. No more? They are locally famous for their Nachos, which we had that night. They make a decent margarita too.
Havana Sign
This week we hit them for lunch. Again, they were deserted. There were three other tables dining. A board out front marked up with $7.99 lunch deals greets you. This must be the new going rate in town. The 219 also offers a $7.99 to-go, brown bag lunch special. (I guess for only $7.99 they won’t let you sit inside and be served?) There were a large number of options on the Havana board, mostly meat and sandwich/wrap options. There were no salad or vegetarian offerings. Since there are no entrées on their menu priced close to $8, these were where I focused my attention.
Havana dish Side Salad
Our server was accommodating (she was not busy). I asked the price of a soda and was told $2.50, so I got water. I am officially boycotting the purchase of soda anywhere that charges over $2. It’s robbery! I ordered the Jerk Chicken Wrap special with a side salad. The side salad was small, put nicely presented. The produce was very fresh. There is no choice of dressing offered; it arrives tossed in light vinaigrette. They are not heavy handed with the dressing, which I appreciate, but the dressing has a very strong garlic flavor. Lucky for me, I love garlic, but I have to admit this was bit too much even for me.
Havana dish Jerk Chicken Wrap
The entrées arrived quickly. No fancy presentation for $7.99. You get your basic white plate and your wrap. After two or three bites I determined that there was absolutely zero jerk flavoring in my chicken. If you have had it before you know that jerk is a bold flavor, even a mild use would be discernable. The chicken was fresh and tender. Overall the wrap was very good, if I’d ordered a chicken wrap, which I did not.
Havana dish White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding
I had been seated facing the dessert menu board, which is not a strategically good location for someone with a 24 hour sugar jones and weak resolve. Top of the board was bread pudding. Really? How can I say no? Alex and I decided to split one. The board was outdated, but our server told us the new bread pudding was White Chocolate Raspberry. Even better! I love white chocolate. It did not disappoint! The price of the dessert was $6.50, which I find reasonable.

In summary, the pros of Havana’s are great service, good food. The cons are limited options for lighter eating and overpriced selections. The last one is what will keep me from going back.


I have no qualms about paying for good food, but when I see $18 for the tuna bite appetizer in Norfolk, Virginia, I have to wonder what the manager was smoking when they priced the selections. As Laine noted, the $7.99 special board did not offer a great variety. I would have thought they would have a daily salad special since the cheapest salad on their menu is $12 and it is not a ‘meal’ salad, but more of an appetizer. In the past, I have had the spinach salad and enjoyed the taste, but I know for a fact it is small...again for $12. There was one fish special, salmon, but everything else had chicken, pork or beef. Norfolk is pretty vegetarian friendly, but Havana has not caught on with their specials, it seems. I would gladly have ordered the Vegetarian Nachos but they are pretty large and heavy and it was lunch time. This was not a day for that kind of meal.
Havana dish Vegetarian Quesadilla
I settled on the Vegetarian Quesadilla...for $11. That seemed pricey. Some of my other favorite haunts have quesadillas for about $8; a wonderful spinach and goat cheese version at Tortilla West runs $7.95 and it is filled heavily with spinach and goat cheese. Back to Havana’s meal. I was a little wary since I was paying $11 for a quesadilla and had pretty big expectations, but fortunately for Havana, I was delightfully surprised. My dish was filled with black beans, red and yellow peppers, red onions and cheddar cheese. A light sour cream was drizzled artfully on the corn tortilla, next to the guacamole, dice tomatoes and shredded lettuce. My dish tasted as good as it looked but I still feel that $11 was high for a lunchtime quesadilla.

I have had a few desserts from Havana and they have always been homemade and delicious. The bread pudding was no exception. The board advertised a Reese’s Cup version and because the servers had not updated it, I was initially let down because I wanted to try the Reese’s, as I have never had that in bread pudding. Lucky for me, the white chocolate raspberry flavor was stellar and my slight disappointment quickly disappeared. $6.50 is about the going rate for a dessert, so that price was right on.
Service was good and our food arrived quickly, but as Laine noted, they were not busy, so this was not a big plus for Havana, rather what was to be expected. I hope they typically drum up better lunch and dinner crowds than Laine and I saw.

The Vegetarian Nachos are indeed my favorite item on the Havana menu. When Laine and I ordered them before the concert, they were fresh and provided enough for the two of us to share (we ordered the larrger size, as there is also a small). I requested extra cheese and they do charge $2 for that, but they did not skimp, so the charge was legitimate. There is nothing worse than paying for extra and receiving the standard amount of anything. The number of people dining that evening was about equal to the number we saw at lunch. That is worrisome.

A few years ago, you had to stand in line at Havana to get in at night. It was packed to capacity, known for great martinis and very, very lively. I hope they see some of that business because they do have good food, fun music and a cute space. As I mentioned above, as did Laine, Havana’s major lunch error is their menu. They need a separate lunch menu with lunch prices. Most people are not jumping to pay $18 for a salad or $15 for a sandwich in Norfolk when they will have to tip on top of prices in that range. Their specials board was priced correctly, but the variety was lacking. These small changes would make Havana a great lunch place and draw a much bigger crowd than Laine and I saw...and we are the experts.

255 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA‎ 23510
(757) 627-5800

Monday - Friday 11am-2am
Saturday and Sunday 5pm-2am

Havana on Urbanspoon

The Amber Lantern - Chesapeake, VA

The Amber Lantern exterior
Last Saturday evening I enjoyed a relaxing dinner which included excellent service, great food and a sunset over the inter-coastal. Jackpot! I had been hearing good things about the Amber Lantern and have wanted to try it out for a while now. It was such a beautiful day Saturday that my husband and I really didn't want to waste any of it by being inside. Good restaurants with scenic outdoor seating are few and far between around here. Amazing, considering that we are surrounded by so much water.

Some stroke of genius made me remember the Amber Lantern, and with the backup of my trusty iPhone, I tracked down the address and plugged it in the GPS. I love technology:) The restaurant is at the Top Rack Marina. When you arrive you see a big warehouse (the marina), next to a big, square, ugly building (the restaurant). Unperturbed, we followed the signs that lead you around the corner and up the stairs to the second story level where the restaurant is situated. It was relatively early when we arrived, and we opted to eat inside because the sun shining on the western exposure deck made it rather hot for al fresco dining. We started out with our usual cocktail; Jack Daniels Manhattan straight up. Note to bartender: Your bar is now on a very short list of restaurants I have found that really know how to make a fantastic Manhattan. Most bars completely butcher this simple concoction.

For our meal, we shared the Blue Mussels appetizer, which was prepared perfectly. I followed up with the grilled salmon special and my husband had the crab cakes. The presentation was lovely and the food was delicious. I am not a big cooked vegetables person, but they had an interesting mixed vegetable medley with peppers, squash and edamame. I loved it. My accompaniment was couscous with cheese and peas. It was perfect. My husband ordered crab cakes with garlic mashed potatoes and the same vegetable mix. The crab cakes were very good.

We were too full for desert, but the table next to me ordered a monstrous piece of coconut cake. Maybe next time! Since it had cooled down, we decided to move out to the deck for an after dinner drink. I watched the sunset while sipping a chocolate martini. Life is good. I love being on the water, and was pleased to find a place with good food and ambiance. The view is a bit industrial in places, but overall it is very relaxing to watch the boats come in and see the sunset over the trees. Service was great all evening, and they had become quite busy by the time we left. I will definitely be back. For all you boaters, there is free docking for restaurant patrons.

The Amber Lantern
5532 Bainbridge Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23320
(757) 227-3057
Serving Dinner Tuesday - Sunday 4:30PM to 10:00PM, Closed Mondays

*note* Image from http://www.virginia.org
Amber Lantern Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kebab Shack - Granby Street, Norfolk, VA - NOW CLOSED

Kebab Shack Exterior
The Kebab Shack or ‘K Shack’, as I now endearingly refer to it, is a new found treasure for Laine and I. Tucked away in a small spot on the 300 block of Granby, the K Shack is a narrow space that used to be a no frills deli or pizza spot. It reminds me of a small secret that you find in a large city; nothing fancy, but great cuisine.

We arrived a little after noon and the only delay was our deciding what to order. Prior to seeing the menu, I planned on ordering falafel, but after seeing the menu, I rethought my initial decision. A vegetarian sampler caught my eye. Two grape leaves, a side of hummus, babaghanoush, sheperd salad, white bean salad and Mediterranean eggplant served with pita. All sounded great...except grape leaves. To date, I am not a fan. I asked the gal at the front if I could have something else, falafel or tabouli, instead and after checking with one of the cooks, she said yes and tabouli was the replacement. Fine by me. I was excited about my choice which only set me back about $10, and that included my $1.59 soda (deal!). You place your order, pay and then either grab your soda, juice or water from the fridge or for a better deal, grab your cup (plastic dine-in or disposable take-out) and fill your own soda from the fountain. I prefer a fountain soda to canned or bottled most days, especially if you fill it yourself and refills are aplenty.
Kebab Shack dish Vegetarian Sampler
We sat ourselves in a booth and within five to six minutes, our food arrived. We ordered separately, so it came out likewise, but still within a minute or two or one another. My platter was extremely (very, very) generous and everything looked fresh and delightful. Our food was served on real dishware, which was festive and a nice change from plastic baskets, which are popular at casual lunch places. Each plate was different, some Mediterranean themed, some striped and some polka-dotted. I enjoyed the dishes as much as my meal. My hummus was full of taste and I was ecstatic, as some can be bland (another local restaurant that I do not prefer is guilty of this). This hummus had tons of flavor, as did the tabouli, white bean salad and sheperd salad, which consisted of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, red onions and Kirby cucumbers in a light olive oil vinaigrette. The pita pieces were warmed, which was another plus. Every sampling was stocked full of taste and undoubtedly fresh. When I ordered, I could not remember if I liked babaghanoush and upon trying, decided I do not, but that is no fault of the K Shack. I think I will try to substitute something for that when I order the sampler again (if they do not mind, of course). I devoured my meal, but it did not leave me feeling too stuffed, which is good since we had to go back to work. I could not believe my meal for $10! I cannot wait to go back to the K Shack and try another item on the menu, red lentil soup and the falafel pita, possibly. From the sizes of the portions, I think any of the appetizers and soup would easily constitute a meal.

We had time to refill our drinks, sit and chat after eating, which shows how fast our food arrived and how fast, and happily, we consumed it. The folks come to clear your dishes as you finish and I would too, if I were them, to get those pretty dishes back in their hands. I think Laine and I have a new spot to add to our regulars list and of course, we will report back after the next visit.

The Kebab Shack is open daily from ** to **. They will put together take-out meals as well, so grab a menu on your way out the door.

Kebab Shack Interior
On the front of their to-go menu it reads “We owe it to ourselves EAT HEALTHY”. Ah yes, I love guilt free calories. Growing up, I wasn’t served foods with any kind of interesting ethnic background or seasoning. I was raised on straight up, plain Yankee cooking: A meat, a starch, a vegetable. I didn’t have my first taco until I was about 25. I cannot recall my introduction to Mediterranean cuisine, but I have been a fan ever since. I enjoy the seasonings, flavors and combinations. In the Mediterranean lifestyle, meals are not just a time to eat, they are festive gatherings of family and friends. The food is the centerpiece, meant to be shared and savored. In my experience, Mediterraneans are always very proud of what they put on the table. Compliments are welcome (and expected). Complaints or dislikes on the other hand, I have learned are best kept to yourself.

Lucky for me, no complaints on our visit yesterday. First thing I noted was that the staff was very friendly. There is an open counter looking directly into the kitchen. A couple of kitchen staff said hello along with the counter girl. I was hungry and everything looked so good. I settled on a Schawarma pita; a mixture of lamb and beef seasoned with Mediterranean spices and grilled on a rotisserie Skewer. These come topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, shredded red cabbage and a garlic white sauce. In addition, I ordered White Bean Salad, which caught my eye. You might expect them to have a gyro, but don’t look for one on the menu. It isnt’ there. No worries, there are plenty of other options.
Kebab Shack dish White Bean Salad
The food arrived in a timely manner. Even though you are given a number when ordering, if they aren’t busy, they will carry your food out to you. Nice touch. The food was so delicious. I have already done some research and made notes on how to duplicate the White Bean Salad. It was so good! The Schawarma was very tasty. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the pita used. The flavor was fine, but it didn’t hold up to the different liquids of the sauce and vegetables very well. Not that it fell apart, it didn’t, but it got limp and rather unstable. I notice that the side servings of pita were different, and looked like they would have better served the sandwich too. It came with a little side of something green that I couldn’t quite figure out. It smelled of cilantro to me, so I dumped a dollop on my pita. Why would anyone in their right mind do that? After a big bite I quickly determined it was H-O-T. Note to self: Do not do that again.
Kebab Shack Schwarma
Our friend Brianna* joined us again, ordering the same sandwich as me, with a Baba Ghanoush side. I think I ate more of her Baba Ghanoush than she did. I loved it. I agree with Alex that it is a little different that what I have had in the past, but I really enjoyed it. Kebab Shack Baba GhanoushAll pitas are $5.99 or you can get them as a wrap for $6.99, adding a dollar to all for Beef Kabab. They don’t have any side accompaniment; fries, side salads, etc. are a la carte, ranging from 2.99 to 3.99. This will make your average sandwich meal around $10, plus a drink. Kebab platters are probably a better “deal” at $7.99 - $8.00 for most, coming with a small salad, rice and pita bread. Considering that everything is fresh and made there, I find the prices very reasonable. Portions are generous. I recommend you check it out! For a limited time, all TCC students receive 10% off with a valid ID.


Kebab Shack
319 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
Mon-Thur 10:30AM-10PM
Fri-Sat 10:30AM-2AM
Sun 12PM-10PM

Kebab Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dog-n-Burger - Norfolk, VA

Dog-n-Burger Interior
Alex and I have a list of all local restaurants that we pull out whenever we are uninspired about where to eat lunch. It has been a while, but last week the list came out. We narrowed our options down from 2-3 choices to Dog-n-Burger. Sometimes you just want a good hot dog (if you're a carnivore like me). Alex has been several times, but this was going to me my first venture to this Ghent staple. I have driven past it too many times to count, and it is always fairly busy. Since on street parking is often difficult, I felt fortunate to snag a spot near the corner of 20th Street.

Dog-n-Burger Coke Machine
Dog-n-Burger is in no way fancy, and that's exactly how it should be. There is a vintage coke machine greeting you at the entrance for some reason. The line was short, only two girls ahead of us, but one of the girls managed to make ordering as complicated and lengthy as possible. Once up, I placed the uncomplicated order of a #2 Beef Dog Combo, which is a 1/4 lb. "Hebrew National" beef hot dog, fries and large drink for $4.25. Nice price! You have to pay for drink refills, which irks me. Restaurants pay pennies for fountain drinks. Gimme a break. The menu offers the kind of variety you would expect: Hot Dogs, Burgers, Gyros/Pita, Philly Cheesesteak, and several "BBQ" options. If you are up for it, you can get a full rack of ribs with two rolls and two sides for $17.99.

I moved on down the line and quickly received my order. Orders are served in a brown bag, with the sandwich/dog/burger wrapped in waxed paper. As I said, not fancy. The similarity in packaging gave me a momentary Doumar's flashback.Dog-n-Burger Patio We opted for outdoor seating in their covered patio area, as there was a semi-cool breeze and they have overhead fans. They have additional outdoor seating in a fenced in area, featuring picnic tables with festive red and white umbrellas. The hot dog was excellent. They offer a good number of toppings, but I settled on the classic combination of mustard and relish. I also loved their Crinkle fries. They had just the right amount of crisp. Not a bad way to spend a lunch hour.
Dog-n-Burger dish Hot Dog and Fries
If you know me, you know one of my favorite places in town is No Frill Grill. Those geniuses also own Dog-n-Burger, a small hamburger and hot dog joint near 21st Street in Ghent. People always ask me, “What in the world do you eat at DnB?” since I am a vegetarian. Well, I will tell you. They have a veg burger and also a veg pita. The pita is very similar, if not the same, as the veg pita at Frill. This pita is also featured at the Stockley Gardens Art Festival, but under a different brand. Lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, shredded cheese and pepper Parmesan sauce are wrapped in a warm pita. I requested the sauce on the side, but this was a mistake. Have it just as it is normally served, otherwise, it is slightly dry. I added a side of coleslaw to my wrap and that coleslaw somehow ended up on top of my wrap. I said side but the gent who took my order put it in the wrap (weird). It did not ruin it, but I asked for my side after I discovered what had occurred. I want what I ordered. I did not order a soda because there are no refills and they put a lot of ice in the cup which says ‘rip off’ to me.
Dog-n-Burger dish vegetarian pita
Started in 1969, DnB is a step back in time with the old Coke machine and the diner style napkins, which are actually terrible, but you let it go here. Laine and I decided to sit outside in the shade, which is a lot less cramped as the inside. I had to keep my paper bag and napkins from flying away in the breeze, but all in all, I enjoyed myself. I know what to do next time (get my sauce on the pita) or try the veg burger and try one of the Brownies by Sheila. DnB has chocolate and blonde brownies that look out of sight. An evening or two, I have walked up to DnB and ordered the cheese fries. Now, in another entry I complain about cheese whiz style cheese, but actually, it goes on these fries quite well (and is what DnG serves on its cheese fries) and when you can eat for $5-6, can you really complain? If a dish is over $6 and comes with cheese whiz, I am not as forgiving.

Dog-n-Burger is open 11am-9pm Monday through Saturday, but note they close at 8pm most winter days. I found this out when I showed up at 7:55pm and the guys look quite annoyed but still served me.


2001 Manteo Street
Norfolk, VA

Dog-n-Burger on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 11, 2010

456 Fish - Norfolk VA

456 Fish Logo
The walk down Granby Street feels longer when it is 100 degrees out and sunny. Tuesday was the first day 456 Fish was open for lunch and we wanted to check it out. They had a musician and hostess standing out front in the heat trying to attract attention and get diners to come inside. They were both really peppy and friendly, regardless of the weather. When we first entered, right after the noon hour, there were only 3-4 tables seated. By the time we left, they were fairly full.

The interior is modern and calming, using dark wood on the walls and a running water room divider to add to the ambiance. It was a cool oasis on a hot summer day. I was mildly disappointed in the lunch menu. Nothing really grabbed by attention. I think the salad choices are very pedestrian. I suppose they are famous for their potato chip crusted Crab Cake, but I wasn’t really in the mode for a $14 sandwich. I settled on the Chicken Panini with caramelized red onions, Manchego cheese and sweet basil aioli on Foccacia Grilled for $8.99. Sandwiches come with a pickle and choice of one side. White Truffle Potato Salad sounded good to me, so I added that to the order. My beverage of choice was un-sweet tea. They gain some serious points on their tea. It was good and strong. It was cold too. You know how some places have just made their tea and it is still hot, melting all your ice? Drives me nuts! This tea was perfect and the server kept it coming. My glass was never empty.
456 Fish dish Chicken Panini
The sandwich was good. The chicken was plentiful and very tender. They were very light handed with the Manchego cheese and Aioli. I appreciated it with the Aioli, but would have like a tad more cheese. I noticed they had hearty portion sizes on all the orders coming out of the kitchen. The potato salad was excellent, and beautifully presented.

I liked 456 Fish and will go back, but I’d like to see them jazz up their salad menu first. Salads range from $6.49-10.99, sandwiches from $6.99-13.99 and Entrees are $9.99-13.99.


Finally, another formerly nighttime-only restaurant open for lunch! I saw the sign as I drove home one day and our friend, Brianna, saw an email advertising lunch at 456 Fish starting July 6th. We arrived on the first day of the new meal time and were seated quickly. The restaurant was not full, but almost half of the tables filled by the time we ordered. I have been to 456 during dinner just a few times and while the food was decent, I thought some was overpriced (three scallops for $13 seems high when that is all you get, as in not even some greens). I went in ready for an overpriced lunch. Lucky for me in my prepare for the worst, hope for the best thinking, 456 surprised me. The menu was quite reasonable, but I was slightly dismayed at the lack of dishes without meat or seafood. Most restaurants in any decent sized city have a couple of dishes that consist of only vegetables. 456 Fish dish Baked Grilled Cheese SandwichThe only options on 456 Fish’s menu were a caprese salad and a baked grilled cheese. I worried that the salad would not be substantial, so I went with the grilled cheese. Sandwiches come with your choice of side, such as fries, pasta salad and a few others. I chose the green beans because I needed to have something green on my plate. They do have a crab cake, tilapia, a turkey sandwich and some other fare.
Our food did not take long and while the three cheeses in the grilled cheese made it more flavorful than your everyday version, the bread was not crispy, actually a little too un-grilled. The green beans were cooked to perfection and hopefully, countered some of the cheese in my meal. I hope they branch out a little on the menu...a vegetable panini or pasta primavera possibly? You can do so many different things with vegetables. Our waitress seemed on cloud nine, but was friendlier as the meal went on. She was cognisant of refilling our beverages and I would rather have someone who scores high on attentiveness and seems out there than someone who acts like they are listening and leaves you stranded with an empty glass the entire meal.
I will go again, but I do hope they make some additions to the menu. My sandwich was under $10 and that did please me.


456 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 53510

456 Fish on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Croakers - Virginia Beach, VA

Croakers Interior
My favorite thing about Croaker’s is the sign out front. It still says “Don’t forget 9/11” and has ever since, well, 9/11. I know that statement doesn’t forebode well for their food, but it is the truth. I have eaten there at least a half dozen times and have never left raving or complaining about the food. Ambiance is a big part of it. Croakers is small. The main dining room is like a galley, with two smaller rooms branching off. The décor is a little ridiculous. My 6 year old loves it, if that tells you anything. However, it is always crowded and usually there is a line with a wait, so not everyone is as blasé as I am.

Croakers parkingTuesday night we had 6:30 reservations, and that was a good thing. The wait was already 45 minutes. They get a decent sized crowd early on from senior citizens who inhabit the multitude of condominiums up and down Shore Drive and like to eat at 5pm. (Please note: I am not making fun of them. I am jealous. I want to be retired and live on the beach. I already prefer eating dinner early.) Their parking is sparse. We lucked out and grabbed a spot behind an employee who posted a sign on his/her bumper letting you know it was okay to block him in. Thanks Buddy! Without that we would have been on the side street somewhere.

Once seated it was pretty obvious that the servers were slammed. We had a nice, beachy/surfer type guy who knew his stuff and did a good job without appearing to be ruffled. It took a bit longer than normal to get our meals. Since I had not yet had a Softshell crab and they are almost out of season, I decided to try theirs. The server recommended sautéed, and I concurred. My husband got the same. My brother ordered the mixed grill and my mother the broiled flounder. They have a kids menu, with most entrées priced at $7.99, a little on the pricey side. Otherwise, they are not really kid friendly, offering no crayons, etc., to entertain your child. Come prepared.

I think that my mother out ordered us all. Her flounder was the best looking flounder I have seen in a long time. It was almost an inch thick, perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was a very large portion, of which at least half went back home with her.
Croakers dish Mixed GrillMy brother’s mixed grill looked a little well done to me. He agreed that he likes his Tuna and Salmon a bit more on the rare side too, but assure me that it was not dry, and was quite good. The Softshells arrived covered in a sauce. Not what I expected to see. Since it was a special item, no preparation notes were on their specials board, and none were given when we ordered. As we ate them we could not discern the contents of the sauce. Croakers dish Soft Shell CrabFinally I asked the server and was told it was their special house sauce and he rolled off the ingredients. The primary ingredients were butter, flour, garlic and some other herbs/spices. It’s not that the sauce was bad per se; I just wish it had not been on the crab. It overwhelmed the flavor and robbed some crispiness from the texture. So, as usual, the dish was not bad, but I cannot rave about how good it was. Softshells and Mixed Grill were both 20.99, the Flounder was 22.99.

On a final note, they have great cornbread. It is sweet, which I like, and very moist. Make sure you try it if you are a cornbread fan.


3629 Shore Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 23455
(No Website)

Dog-n-Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Omar's Carriage House-Norfolk, VA

Omar's Carriage House Exterior
Omar’s Carriage House has been around for over ten years. Omar also owns Voila, Omar’s Fountain Cafe at Town Point Park and the Pagoda Restaurant. I have been the Carriage House once during restaurant week, once during his tenth anniversary, when he offered 10 for $10 (ten entrees all priced at $10 and $10 bottles of wine that you could cork and take home) and a few other times.

Omar’s is tucked down Bute Street, close to the downtown YMCA. It is a very cute, historic building that was once exactly what the name suggests, a carriage house that was home to horses, carriages, tack and hay. Sitting on the first floor allows you a look at the drop doors in the ceiling above where the hay was stored and dropped into the carriages. There is history section on Omar’s website that chronicles the building’s use. The decor is casual chic and comfortable. I enjoy sitting downstairs for day meals as it is brighter, while the upstairs is suited more to dinner with a darker hue. I enjoyed the non-deal experiences more than the anniversary and restaurant week visits. It is always nice to feel like you are saving a few bucks, but restaurant week has been disappointing in general to me over the last few years and I feel you get a better meal, all around, on regular days and nights. If you have only been to Omar’s during one of these times, I suggest going for a regular meal. I thoroughly enjoyed brunch when I had the vegetable omelet, but the next time I visit Omar’s during brunch, I have my sights set on the California Benedict or the quiche of the day.

Laine and I had been talking about Omar’s and when a day that was not over 90 degrees arrived, we took the stroll. The panini portabella grabbed my attention this fine day, though the vegetarian lasagna looked appealing as well. I chose the panini, grilled ciabatta bread with marinated portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich was grilled perfectly and it was a manageable size for lunch. The Carriage House potato salad that accompanies the sandwiches is killer. It contains egg and was made with red potatoes (my favorite). Laine and I both wanted more of this creamy side.. I have had the warm spinach salad in the past and the hot cider dressing is very unique and fantastic, but this salad is not a meal salad if you are in any way hungry; it is more like an appetizer or something to share when ordering another dish.

Our server was fine until it was time to get our check and this exercise took forever. He was a quiet lad which is a plus, as I do not want a waiter that is too bubbly or talkative, but his attention seemed to wander after the food arrived.. A good ten minutes after we both had finished, we finally approached the bar and asked him for the checks. Omar’s is a little bit of a walk for us and we still had to journey back and.were watching the clock. Laine and I always say we are going to ask for the checks as the food arrives to quicken payment, which seems to always be the time hiccup, but we often forget this tactic once we get seated in a restaurant. We start having a good time and forget we are on a schedule. We finally paid and were on our way, but it took entirely too long to get our checks (and we had to fetch them). I enjoyed my meal and will go back, but will be cognisant to ask for the check after the food arrives to not incur the delay we experienced at the tail end of this meal. My sandwich was $7.95 which is reasonable for lunch.

The Carriage House also caters and is the house caterer on the American Rover. I organized an event on the Rover a few years ago and the food was phenomenal. I remember Omar’s having a good selection and both the Rover crew and the catering contact being very accommodating. Laine and I will visit Omar’s Fountain Cafe and report back when the temperature drops again. Its a little too steamy to sit in the blazing sun at Town Point Park during lunch.


I had been wanting to try Omar’s Carriage House for a while. Upon entering the building I discovered my instincts were right on. I loved the funky, artistic feel of the interior. Everywhere you turn there is something interesting on the wall, or ceiling. I had already perused the online lunch menu and knew what I wanted to order. Labeled “New!”, I was intrigued by the California Grilled Chicken Sandwich, consisting of chicken breast, guacamole and Havarti cheese on Sour Dough bread with pesto mayo and fresh tomato, served with a side of Carriage House potato salad. I love guacamole, Havarti is my favorite cheese, and pesto is another favorite of mine. Unfortunately, the in house menu did not match the online menu. This “new” sandwich, was no longer available. Grumble.... I have come across this blunder now with several restaurants. It’s 2010 people. Keep your online information current. After some discussion in the kitchen, our waiter determined that the sandwich could be served as they had all the ingredients available.

The sandwich arrived looking as delicious as I thought it would. After a couple of bites, I knew something was missing. The pesto mayonnaise was MIA. As Alex mentions, our server also went MIA after delivering our meals, so I never had the opportunity to ask him to bring out the mayonnaise, or refill my drink. The potato salad is very good, and the sandwich was good too, it just would have been better with pesto mayonnaise.

The restaurant filled up while we were there. During our lunch I noted that the clientele leaned more towards the senior citizen demographic. I’m not sure if that is the norm, or an anomaly of that particular day. Lunch prices are very reasonable, with most sandwiches ranging from $7-8. There is also a $3.95 half sandwich and a $14.95 crab cake sandwich. On cooler days, it would be the perfect spot for some soup and a sandwich. We will be back.


Omar’s is located at 313 West Bute Street and is open daily for lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends.
Omar's Carriage House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Norfolk Greek Festival 2010

thumbs down
I have attended the Greek Festival at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Granby Street for many years, since my grandparents have lived on the neighboring Fife Street for about 55 years. I enjoy the festival, but has the church thought about moving this event to Town Point Park? I know that Fife Street, which runs beside the church is almost all elderly people and the street is so congested most of the festival that it is hard for them to come and go from their own homes. My grandmother is 84 now and lives alone and if she needed to get out, it would be hard for her to do so, as the food service trucks are parked right across the street from her house. I had a hard time backing out of the driveway on Wednesday before the festival even started and I'm not 84. The church blocked Fife Street off starting Monday and the festival does not commence until Thursday. That is too long to block that street from Granby.

The other disturbing incident that occurred was Saturday night after I had been to the festival. I came across the street to my grandmother's and there was a silver BMW X5 parked right in front of my grandmother's driveway and the driveway of the co-op building that sits on the corner of Fife Street and Granby Street. We asked a couple of the guys cooking and they said they would try to find out to whom the car belonged. I called the non-emergency police number and they said they would send someone out. I waited about 30 minutes and called again. Finally, when the cop showed up, the owner of the car was coming out. I approached him and said 'this is not a parking space, you cannot park here' and the guy was so busy talking on his cell phone that he pretty much ignored him. I then said 'this is a fire hazard' and he ignored me as well. The owner of the car and someone from the church schmoozed with the cop, who basically did nothing and this guy should have received a ticket. His car was parked illegally for over an hour. These types of incidents make it hard for the people that live around the church to enjoy the festival. They need to have better control of the parking situation or move the festival. It is becoming a nuisance. I do not think the festival committee thinks enough of the citizens who live around the church. $20 in gift certificates does not compensate for all of the parking fiascoes and people trampling through yards and letting their children play soccer in yards of people the parents do not even know. If a soccer ball goes through someone's window, who is going to pay to fix that?

I emailed the city, the church and the Wards Corner civic league and got absolutely no response.

I'm bugged, can you tell.

Norfolk Greek Festival dish Loukoumades
The Loukoumades rock. Being disrespectful of their neighbors does not. As their website states "This year's 2010 Greek Festival, Tidewater's oldest and largest ethnic festival, set the record for the biggest-ever attendance." I think they have outgrown the current locale. Do we really need "one of Hampton Roads’ biggest tents" plunked down on Granby Street. It may be all fun if you are visiting the festival, but it is extremely inconvenient if it happens to be in your front yard. Could this festival be another example of nepotism in Norfolk?