Tag Archives: sea-bugs

Qdoba, I ❤ YOU.


This is why Qdoba is awesome. I’m just sayin’.

Instead of annoying the fish and shellfish-allergic masses* by adding deathfish to your menu where it wasn’t previously… they have decided to focus on selling something that they already have on the menu that also will not send you to eternal damnation.

I get the not eating meat thing, and giving things up… and it’s cool that you observe that and don’t cave in the face of rumors that the whole thing was set up by a corrupt pope taking money from fishermen in exchange for boosting their sales.

Let’s make Lent about reflection through sacrifice… not about where you can get a good deal on anaphylaxis-enducing sea bugs.

This was in my inbox today…

From: Qdoba Mexican Grill
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Subject: Ash Wednesday and Friday Lenten Special-$1 Off Vegetarian Entrees

Qdoba Pittsburgh | Ash Wednesday and Friday Lenten Special - $1 Off Vegetarian Entrees

Qdoba Pittsburgh | Ash Wednesday and Friday Lenten Special - $1 Off Vegetarian Entrees

*me, and about 2 other people that I have found on the internet with a fish and/or shellfish allergy.

Sheetz “gets it” with my aversion to deathfish. ☺


I hate Lent.  So, did you see my email to Sheetz about having Deathfish now?  I hate Lent.  They wrote back.  I still hate Lent.  I do still like Sheetz though.

Lent sucks. 

But Sheetz is cool:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric <me@my.emailaddress>
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I hope you find this information helpful. Let me start off by saying, we do everything in our power to ensure a pleasant visit for all of our customers. This includes keeping strict guidelines which include, but are not limited to, designating one fryer vat only for shrimp in order to help minimize the possibility of cross-contamination. Employees handling food are instructed to change gloves and wipe down the frying area after seafood orders are fulfilled.

 If your condition is life threatening, it may be in your best interest to avoid our M•T•O® products in the event that residue from the shrimp may come in contact with those food items considered safe. Our M•T•GO!® products are pre-made, individually packaged and manufactured under strict allergen monitoring programs; therefore, they would be a better choice for someone with severe reactions to certain allergens.  All allergens in our M•T•GO!® products are identified directly on the packaging label.

 Please keep in mind that our seafood menu is a limited time offer that we make available to our customers during Lent. Shrimp and fish items will only be served in our stores until the 25th of April. I apologize again for any inconvenience.

 Sincerely,
Ashley Sheetz

At least they “get it”.  I’d love to know if employees are told why they’re to use gloves & separate fryers or they’re just told to.  Not that I doubt the company’s convictions… just that I’ve been trained on things in the past where people have obviously had no idea or understanding of what they’re doing… they just know what they were told to do.

I wrote back…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Ashley,

No problem on the response time.  I really appreciate that you took the time to reply at all, and love the honesty & frankness with which you’ve answered my questions.  The instructions to use gloves & wipe down food prep areas are great to hear for people like me.  There are a bunch of us out here… I just happen to be one of the more vocal & inquisitive ones.  More restaurants are recognizing that food allergies are on the rise.  Peanut & wheat allergies are hitting the news more… but there are more of us out here with special dietary needs.  It’s easy to understand not being able to eat something, but the gravity of eating that thing is sometimes lost… and cross contamination seems to be the thing that’s hardest to convey.  I’m sure you can imagine it’s difficult to place your trust (& potentially your life) into someone else’s hands.

I’m glad that Sheetz has an understanding of allergens!  It’s good to hear that the procedures are in place to minimize cross-contamination.  Hopefully the gravity of the situation is passed along in training.  Do a Google image search for Anaphylactic shock some time.  It’s not a pretty sight.

I hope the meatball sliders are still available after April 25th!  Ha ha.  I haven’t tried them yet, but they look AWESOME.  Perhaps I’ll stick to the M•T•GO!® products for now.  I do really enjoy the pre-made turkey sandwiches.

I see more & more Sheetz popping up…  you guys ought to build in Bridgeville… it’s right off on Rte. 79, and you can put a hurting on the local Get·Go.

Thanks again for your time, & answers!

-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Then I wrote back again…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address.>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Again Ashley,

Sorry for the barrage of emails…  I just had one more suggestion.  Perhaps on the signage promoting any fish/shellfish items next year during Lent (if/when they should happen to return), you could make a note of the separate fryers, and to maybe ask a manager or person in the kitchen about your allergies?  Better yet, a button on the touchpanel alerting the staff to your allergy & having it print on your order/receipt would be stellar.  It would prove you guys to be innovators when it comes to dealing with food allergies!  Acknowledging that there’s an issue goes such a long way with us food allergy folks.

Rock on!
-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Hope I’m not too annoying.  Now I’m hungry for Sheetz.

English: Interior of a Super Sheetz in Altoona...

SHEETZ!

Sheetz – New Shrimp Sub ☹


Oh how I hate Lent and the inevitable accompanying seasonal fish/shellfish/seafood specials.  Sheetz got in on the act early this year.  Please, restaurants that don’t already serve deathfish… Stop adding seabugs to your menu!

Of course, I also had to send off an email or 20.  I sent this to quite a few Sheet-related email addresses that I had in my address book or found on the web, and I think also through their contact form.

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Feedback Sheetz Inc. ; sheetzweb @sheetz.com ;
Cc: Lisa Claar
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: The New Shrimp Sub?


Hello Friends,

I write to you today with a sad face: ☹

“Why,” you ask?  Yesterday I stopped a Sheetz just south of Scottdale on my way down Rte. 119 towards Uniontown, all excited to get some delicious made to order goodness, and was stopped dead in my tracks when I got to the magical touchscreen.  I saw signs advertising a new Shrimp sub.

Why, my friends?  Why?

I understand the importance of having an evolving and diverse menu.  I get that you don’t want to grow stagnant.  Sheetz has been a safe-haven for me in dining for years.  I have written to you in the past many times over different issues, and 99% of the time, it is high-praise my friends.  Years ago when in Altoona, a friend & I even stopped to have our pictures taken in front of the Sheetz HQ sign.  I speak of your genius touch-screen ordering and delicious “gas station” food to anyone who will listen.

My problem today extends from that fact that I am severely allergic to shellfish my friends.  This includes crustaceans and mollusks… things like Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, geoduck, calamari, scallops, snails, and several other “delicious” sea-bugs and slimy things.

If the disgusting bug-like sea creatures are battered & deep-fried in the same fryer that also cooks my french fries, cheese sticks, or chicken tenders, and I happen to partake of said otherwise non-deadly foods… it sends me quite immediately into something called Anaphylactic shock.  Basically, that involves itching, redness, swelling, and the closing of airways.

Needless to say, I don’t generally like to cap off my dining experiences with Anaphylaxis.  Yes, I have an Epi-Pen, but it’s a last resort & really only buys time until an ambulance can arrive & get me to a hospital.  In order to dodge the excitement of choking while en-route to a hopefully life-saving facility, I generally stay away from any places that serve shellfish.  Sheetz has been a go-to safe place for me for many years.  Now, I have to cross you off of my list?

Cross-contamination issues are huge.  If someone assembles a shrimp sub, then makes me a turkey or meatball sub without washing their hands or changing gloves…  Hello, ambulance ride!  I’m not doubting the training & cleanliness of your employees, but I’m sure you can imagine that I can’t take placing my health & safety in someone else’s hands lightly.

Sadly, Sheetz will have to be off of my safe list for now.  May I ask you to reconsider this deathfish offering in the future?  I believe you had a seafood sub that I wrote to you about a few years ago.  Are deadly seabugs really a necessary item?  Do they sell that well?

Places that have added deathfish to their menu over the years where there was once none include, Quiznos, Taco Bell (it’s gone now), Dairy Queen (it’s gone from most of them now), Texas Roadhouse, Famous Dave’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bob Evans (it’s gone now), and many more that I can’t remember now.  Pretty soon I’ll only be able to eat at McDonald’s… until they introduce McLobster country-wide.  I don’t want to be the guy that only eats Big Macs and eventually has to have a wall knocked out by Maury Povich or Jerry Springer so I can exit my house.

I write to you on behalf of the shellfish-allergic out there that just want a place to eat with safe food that we know will continue to remain safe.

I beg you to take this off of your menu, and leave it off.  Please?  I walked out of Sheetz yesterday with my head hung low & after not purchasing anything at all.  I also needed gas & drinks but left in shock & had to get them elsewhere.  My wife didn’t even say anything to try and console me.  She could feel my disappointment as we walked silently to the car.  Only after I started the car & pulled out of the parking lot did I let out a string of expletives that only revealed the proverbial tip of the iceberg to my frustration.

Thank you today for your time.  I hope you take my thoughts into consideration, and are eventually able to pull the deathfish from your menu, and drain/clean/refill all of the fryers.  There are more like me out here.  Perhaps they’re less vocal & dramatic, but the shellfish-allergic do exist.  We have feelings too.  Feelings that are crushed when new seafood offerings don menus everywhere.  We slip into a depressed food-related funk when Lent rolls around with all of its horrible seafood specials and limited time offerings.  Are we to live in a social hole & prepare all of our meals at home?  Please, don’t condemn us!

I thank you for your time and apologize for my need to complain.  I hate to come off as a whiner or “poor me”, but something just had to be said.  I look forward to your thoughts on the issue, I know you value all customer input.  You have a great company, I just don’t want to die while eating at Sheetz.  It might be bad press for you guys.
Pleadingly Yours,

-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

And, no one wrote back.  Well, I did get this

From: <customer_focus@sheetz.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Thanks, Your message has been received

Dear Eric,

We just wanted to let you know that we received your message and notify you that it is being directed to the proper individuals for review.

At Sheetz, customer opinions are always appreciated. Our mission is to ‘provide customers with fast and friendly service, quality products in clean and convenient locations’. Your comments help to ensure you receive only the highest possible service expected from Sheetz.

If your comment or question requires special attention, you can expect to get a more specific response back in the near future.

Thank you.

But, after the Tweet above divulging the sheetzlive@sheetz.com email address, I re-sent it with this…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: “sheetzlive@sheetz.com” <sheetzlive@sheetz.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Friends,

Perhaps my email below was sent too soon!  I see via Twitter that you have separate fryers for seafood?  I’m interested to know what other safe-handling practices & training are involved?  Do employees know why there are separate friers?  Are they taught about cross-contamination?

Is the deadly sea-bug sub a limited time only deal?

I’m a blogger, one of the issues I blog about is food allergies…  Would you like me to spread the safe-handling word?

Rock on!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

…And got this as a response:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric Carroll <eric_aixelsyd@yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 Is the email below something you had sent to this address as well? I am working on getting in touch with our Food Manager to answer all of your questions, so I will be in touch as soon as I have all the necessary information for you.

Sincerely,

Ashley Sheetz

I wrote back again, but haven’t heard anything further so far…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Ashley,

I had sent it this morning to an older Sheetz customer-service address that I had, and submitted it online via the contact form on the website.  Thank you for your ridiculously quick reply, and your Twitter team is awesome.

Thanks!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

SHEETZ

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

So, that’s where it stands until I get further replies from Sheetz.  I’m interested to see what they have to say.  A separate fryer is a great start… but it’s also important that employees understand why there’s a separate fryer, so they don’t mix items up, or only use 1 late at night or while cleaning the other.

I’m still hoping that they remove it form the menu & keep it off.  I’d sure feel a hell of a lot safer if it was nowhere in the kitchen.

Subway, Quiznos, Taco Bell, W.G. Grinder’s, & Sheetz take note…


Firehouse Subs, you’re awesome.  I’m just sayin’.

Other food places with no shellfish currently on the menu, pay attention here too.  You don’t need shellfish.

Places that have added it over the years, preventing me from going back…

Other places that don’t need to add it to the menu…

Got that?  Good.

Also, what ever happened to Roly Poly & Schlotzsky’s?  They were excellent shellfish-free places to dine.  Come back!  Also, we need McCalister’s Deli and Lion’s Choice to remain shellfish free and move to the ‘Burgh.  Maybe even Jack in the Box too.

To the rest of you, let’s stop these damn seafood lent specials.  Let the business go to Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, Long John Silver’s‘, VFD fish fry events, and Monterey Bay.  If you don’t normally do shellfish, stay away from it.  Please?  I ask of behalf of the seafood allergic and those who choose to eat kosher.

Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs - my new food heroes.

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 2)


So, last time I blogged about pizza, I covered some of my favorites: Aiello’s, SLICE, & A’Pizza Badamo.  This time I’ll blog about other area big-hitters.

Beto's Pizza on UrbanspoonBeto’s is another place nearby that is just excellent.  They’re the place that you’ve probably heard of that doesn’t cook the cheese & other toppings.  You’ll probably either love it or hate it.  I dig it, the wife does not.  The only thing I’d change is the consistency of the sauce… I’m not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in pizza sauce, but the flavor is excellent.  They don’t get all fancy with toppings here either, just simple, straightforward pizza with cheese that’s melting as you eat it.  I think my favorite way to eat it is just as plain cheese pizza.  Why mess up such a beautiful combination?

Molly's Pizza on UrbanspoonMolly’s Pizza is close by too.  They have some great pizza, and some really crazy specialty pies like the Ranchero Steak Pizza and the Pierogi Pizza.  I personally like to get a pizza with zucchini on top.  Excellent stuff!  It’s hard to pick a favorite around here.

Fiori's Pizzaria on UrbanspoonFoiri’s is a south hills institution.  Sorry, I don’t get it.  Is it good pizza?  Most definitely.  Is it overrated?  In my humble opinion, yes.  Maybe I’m biased because you can get deathfish as a topping there.  At any rate, if you’re in the area and a pizza aficionado, it’s worth checking out before you decide that Slice is the best place around.

Il Pizzaiolo on UrbanspoonIl Pizzaiolo isn’t your regular Pittsburgh pizza shop.  They’re fancy.  They have great pies in a steep Neapolitan tradition.  As they say themselves…

…the restaurant has become a vibrant gathering place for lovers of Neapolitan pizza, pasta and Italian wine. Nearly everything on the menu is hand-made. And if it’s not made in-house, it’s imported from the best artisans, cheese-makers and salumeria in the world. Mozzarella di Bufala comes direct from Naples every Thursday and the pizzas are baked at 1000˚ in a handcrafted, wood-fired brick oven for less than 90 seconds. This, along with perfectly leavened dough, San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, produces the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.

So obviously, this is no Pizza Hut.  They make incredible gourmet pies.  Unfortunately it’s entirely not what I’m craving when I “just want a pizza”.  This is where you want to go when you’d like a nice evening out to enjoy some of the lightest most delicious pizza you’ve ever eaten.

Italian Village Pizza (Canonsburg/McMurray) on UrbanspoonItalian Village Pizza is all over the place.  Both by location and quality.  They used to have a killer A1 Steak Sub at the one on Rte. 51, but I don’t think they have that any more.  The last one I frequented was the one in McMurray, but I only ever got the pizza once or twice.  The steak & Italian subs are incredible, but the sauce was just too bitter for me.  It tasted like straight tomato paste with some basil thrown in.  Some people love it, but it just wasn’t my thing.

Here I’d also like to try to address this thing…

VinceNt’s vs. Vincent’s

I’m still not sure what the exact dispute is… if there’s still a dispute, and if there are only two Vincent’s involved in this saga.  Can anyone fill me in on this?  I’ve heard several amalgamated stories over the years.  Some credible news even.  First, you’ve got to get your head around the locations…

There’s Vincent’s Pizza ParkOne on 30 in Irwin/North Huntingdon, one on Ardmore Blvd., and one in Holiday Park (the one I used to frequent).  And there’s Vincent’s “of Greentree” …oddly enough in Greentree, Southpointe, and the West End.  (There also seems to be a Vincent’s Pizza Pub on Mt. Washington – I’m unsure if they’re related to any of the others.)

I haven’t been to Vincent’s Pizza Park in Holiday Park in a long long time, but I remember it as the greasiest pizza I have ever had.  It was good, but greasy.  Some people like that.  I’m not the biggest fan of grease, but I remember they had a nice thick crust & a flavorful sauce.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Vincent’s in Greentree, but the one in Southpointe has great steak subs, garlic buns, and pretty good pizza.  Their “like it” percentage on Urbanspoon is pretty low though.  No idea what’s up there.

Vincent's Pizza Park on Urbanspoon Vincent's of Southpointe on Urbanspoon

Which Vincent’s is your favorite?  Which Vincent’s location is the best & the original?  (I think it’s Vincent’s in Forest Hills)

Please, chime in on any of these locations, any from my previous pizza post, or any that I may have missed.  I may dive into pizza chains next.  Pizza is always a subject of hot debate (and it goes well with beer).

Radical!

Radical!

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 1)


Dare I say no food can be as unifying and polarizing as Pizza?  Generally, it’s the one thing most people like.  Need to feed a bunch of people quickly?  Kids birthday party?  Reward for good achievements?  Pizza party!  It’s the go-to feed a herd food.  Unless someone’s lactose intolerant or has a food allergy to tomatoes or something…  I’ve never heard someone exclaim anything to the effect of “Free pizza?  Ew!  No thank you!”  I’ve heard a friend say “Pizza is like sex, there’s no such thing as bad pizza.”  I’m pretty sure he’s paraphrasing a comedian, but I have no idea who.  No matter where the sentiment lies on the corny scale, he’s right.  Most pizza is acceptable sustenance if not worthy of writing online reviews, letters to your mom, or several stanzas of poetry.

At the same time, a simple statement like “[So & So] makes the best pizza!” can make the most passive among us throw-down in an instant.  I’m pretty sure if Canada called up, and said “Hey United States, we have better pizza than you!” – there would be a full-scale invasion, and we’d soon have another big state.  (Maybe minus Quebec, the Queen Mum can keep that one.)  I’m guessing that unless you’re from Quebec or you for some reason hate pizza, you’re still with me, right?

Slices from SLICE

Slices from SLICE

Here’s the plan:  I’m going to tell you about my favorite pizza, and you’re going to tell me about your favorite pizza.  We’ll all try to remain calm.  When you’re wrong, I’ll tell you… so don’t be afraid.  This will probably be limited to Pittsburgh due to my geographical location.  So, if there’s pizza from somewhere else that you want to tell me about, you can… & I’ll assume you’re wrong until I go try it.  If the place is local (to me), even better.  I may go try it.

Side note – In case you’re new, I’m deathly allergic to shellfish (& mollusks). I’m not too excited to try pizza from places that offer shrimp, lobster, crab or any other kind of deadly sea-bugs as pizza toppings. I generally don’t feel “safe” when they can put their hands in one topping to put on someone else’s pie, then into my toppings without washing their hands… or to (even worse) perhaps drop some on my pie.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for different kinds of pizza.  It’s OK to like more than one.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s the beginning of my run-down on local pizza:

Aiello's Pizza on UrbanspoonAiello’s is up first, because well… they’re my favorite.  Their sauce is nothing short of perfection to my humble taste-buds.  It’s sweet but it doesn’t lose the flavor of the tomatoes.  I love pizza sauce that doesn’t have that bite that you get from tomato paste.  The dough is perfect doughey goodness, yet thin enough so it’s not like you’re eating a loaf of bread with pizza toppings.  Aiello’s is always clean, and it’s cool to watch ‘em make the pies right there in front of you.  The seemingly gruff employees just are who they are.  They’re all nice guys.  They call my father-in-law “Anchovy Bobby” for his dedication as a customer and obviously now I guess… affection for anchovies.  Well, I did get yelled at by Joe once for being late to pickup a pizza.  I was fighting traffic down Forbes all the way from Oakland to Squirrel Hill.  But, he was concerned about pizza quality (and perhaps that he had been stiffed the cost of a pizza).

Mineo's Pizza House (Squirrel Hill) on UrbanspoonI guess if I’m talking Squirrel Hill and pizza, I have to mention the other guys.  I’ve had Mineo’s, but to be fair… it was only once.  I don’t see a reason to go back when Aiello’s is a few doors up the hill.  It was greasy, and they offer deathfish as a topping.  Boo, I say.  One thing you can’t argue is that they have just as devout a following as Aiello’s.  You’ll get lovers & haters on both sides of the issue.  I think it’s probably good for both businesses to have such a famed & heated rivalry.  (Legend goes that Joe worked at Mineo’s, then split to make his own name making pies his way.  Check out this article, this YouTube video, and this Facebook group for more.)

SLICE on Broadway on UrbanspoonI have found a new additional favorite closer to home in Dormont… SLICE on Broadway in Beechview is excellent.  Hoping my father-in-law’s ears aren’t burning, I’m going to go ahead and say that SLICE is every bit as good as Aiello’s.  Read the reviews on UrbanSpoon, Yelp, & Google.  All those people can’t be wrong, can they?  The guys that run the place seem really friendly, the place is clean, and easy to get to for me anyway.  Here again, it all comes down to the sauce.  The sauce here has a slightly sweet tinge to it… and it’s fantastic.  The proportion of the sauce is great too, there’s no cheese sliding off of this pie on the 1st bite.  The amount of toppings is respectful & not a “look how many toppings we can put on” kind of thing.  These guys really just know how to put together a great pie, and I can’t wait to work my way through the menu.  It’s also kind of cool to sit there & watch the T go by… even though I could also do the same thing from my front porch.  They get bonus points for having “The Big Salad” on their menu and for still being excellent the next day.

A'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA’Pizza Badamo is another great nearby shop.  They, like SLICE, seem to have a “No B.S.” approach to making pizza.  Fresh ingredients, simple pies, done right, & value for the money.  I also need to work my way through this menu.  I’m anxious to try the Eggplant Parmesan sub.  The one & only thing that may give SLICE a slight edge (to me anyway) is the sauce.  A’Pizza Badamo’s sauce has a little more savory flavor than sweetness.  Like I said, I like sweet sauce.  Then again, I think I’m going to have to try many many more pies from each place to decide who the champion is.  I hope to never be able to make up my mind.  These guys are also really a class act, the place is quaint, clean, and a relaxing place to hang out.

Well, those are my favorites (& one not-so favorite, I guess)… and it’s a lot to take in right now.  Perhaps I’ll have to make this a series of posts.  I could do a post just about the pizza shops in & around Dormont.  It’s an almost endless list.

At any rate, before I continue my pizza tirade… let the comments begin!  Where are your favorites?