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 entrĂ©es 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 entrĂ©es 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
Amber Lantern Restaurant on Urbanspoon