Tag Archives: Urban Spoon

The Captain’s Back.


Barnes Returns to Dormont Dogs

Barnes Returns to Dormont Dogs (Dormont-Brookline Patch)

So, you may remember my earlier blog post about Dormont Dogs, the Captain’s newsworthy actions, and the family.  If not, you may want to read that one first.  If so, you may want to check out this article from the Dormont-Brookline Patch:

It’s a great article, soiled by crude comments (as are many things found on the internet).  I’ve already shown my support by simply being a patron, been “vocal” about my support in blog form, and via comments.  I’d like to add some more thoughts here.

Captain committed some illegal acts.  He was arrested, sentenced, and served his time.  In the eyes of the law, he’s paid his due.  It should be settled there, but some of you apparently don’t agree.  You look for further condemnation for whatever reasons… a perceived higher moral standard, some internal guilt, jealousy if you felt you’ve ever been punished too harshly for something, or just plain anger.

Dormont Dogs on UrbanspoonCaptain has put it all out there.  He’s admitted guilt, apologized to his family & the community, and he’s ready to move on.  You can take the high road, and let him move past this & give him room to prove that he’s worthy of forgiveness.

Mainly, my whole message here is about forgiveness.  It’s a simple thing to think about, and to talk about…but it can be extremely difficult to ask for or to give. It doesn’t matter what the situation may be.  It doesn’t matter if it’s serious or simple.  It does no one any good to hold on to anger or any sort of grudge or agenda.

Most major religions teach forgiveness.  I believe there’s a dual purpose outside of the divine.  When you find it within yourself to drop the urge to pass judgement and forgive someone, a great weight is lifted off of you.  You can physically feel it if your anger or resentment is strong enough.  Try it.  Let go of the negative.  It doesn’t do anyone any good.  Leave judgement to the authorities and ultimately whatever higher power you subscribe to.

As for this current situation, a comment by Mike Jones sums it up nicely:

We can’t condone what he did, but it does take a lot of guts to stand up and apologize to the community for embarrassing it. Hopefully he is able to give back to Dormont in a way that would atone for his crimes more than probation or jailtime ever could.

An enlightened sentiment, eloquently stated.

To end on a light note…  Johnny Cash was all about forgiving and rehabilitation… all those prison concerts.  Who are we to argue with Johnny Cash?

O Captain! My Captain!


Holy cow.  Has anyone seen the recent news stories about the owner of Dormont Dogs?  I was walking into the house last night as the story came on the news.  My wife was all like “listen to this!” pointing to the TV before we even said hello to each other.  I watched the story in a sort of disbelief.  Neither of us could believe what we were seeing/hearing.

Dormont Dogs!

These are ridiculously delicious. Click for a Google Tour of the shop!

Dormont Dogs has been a favorite place of ours ever since the first time we walked in the door years ago!  Not too long ago, I finally wrote a review for this blog, although I have had older reviews on Urban Spoon for quite some time… and I’d tell anyone who would listen how they need to get over there ASAP to have some fun delicious hot dogs.

Dormont Dogs on UrbanspoonWithout fail we have been treated well by all of their employees, including the Captain.  Drinks are always refilled, food always brought right to us, we’re always asked how the food is, and always asked how we’re doing in general.  These are kind people who have put their all into a business, and it shows that they genuinely want to not only serve a great product but they wanted you to enjoy it.  They easily made you feel at home if dining in or out on the sidewalk.

Not too long ago, my mother-in-law & father-in-law were there for lunch one day, and when they asked for change to put in the meter, Captain ran out to the meter to pay for them.

By all accounts, Captain is a great guy… and this is just some momentary snap or lapse in judgement.  Any articles that I’ve read including comments from customers and other Dormont/Brookline business owners have had nothing but good things to say about the man.

I’m not condoning his actions, or judging what happened.  My heart goes out to the tellers at the banks, were I in their place I’d hope that I had an extra pair of boxer shorts nearby.  I do have to praise the people in the South Side for their bravery… I certainly wouldn’t have jumped in to wrestle a bank-robber, fearing any kind of weapons or just a plain old whoopin’.  I would think the safe thing to do is to let the police do their job.  Then again, perhaps they would have used excessive force or a chase could have ensued where bystanders could have been put in danger.  Perhaps it’s best that it played out the way it did.

Texas Avenue Dog at Dormont Dogs

Texas Avenue Dog at Dormont Dogs (Photo credit: claramichelle)

I would urge you to continue to support Dormont Dogs when they reopen (hopefully tomorrow – Fri. Feb. 17th).  Word on the street is that Rachel is taking over & reopening ASAP.  I can’t imagine what she, their sons, & their employees are going through right now.  They do not deserve any backlash, retaliation, or bad press.  They are still wonderful people, and a great asset to Dormont.

In fact, right now… they could really use your support, all of our support.  Show them that you’re glad they’re still up & running by going in this weekend and grabbing a meal.  Buy a hot dog or two.  Take a bunch of friends.  Stop in if you’re a regular, or even if you’ve never been there.  Please join us in supporting this business, and more importantly this family.

Check out the Dormont Dogs for Everyone group on Facebook, the official Dormont Dogs Facebook page, and Dormont Dogs on UrbanSpoon.  Please, feel free to share your experiences at Dormont Dogs in the comments below, or even just post your favorite dog(s)!

Dormont Dogs Does Delicious Decidedly Deftly


Dormont Dogs on UrbanspoonI recently realized that I haven’t blogged yet about one of my favorite local places to eat, so I will now.  I have a few reviews & photos on their Urban Spoon page.  I really don’t have enough good things to say about the place.  Reading my old review, it looks like I went there for the first time in 2008.

They’re tucked away on Glenmore Ave., right off of Potomac, with plenty of parking (for Dormont) in a nearby public metered lot & some metered parking on the nearby streets.  It’s a tiny yet incredibly inviting shop.  Everyone who has ever waited on us has smiled & said hello, has been polite, welcoming, and a great host or hostess.  The place is small, but it’s cozy.  Last time we were there, there was three two-person tables inside, and in the warmer months they have two picnic tables outside.

Hot Dog w/ Baked Beans, Cheese, Ketchup, & Mustard.

Hot Dog w/ Baked Beans, Cheese, Ketchup, & Mustard. • I get this one even though it's not on the menu. They'll make anything for you!

Dormont Dogs offers hot dogs served up gourmet style on delicious fresh bakery made buns.  They’re mostly all named after the neighborhood streets, and they’re all unusual yet delicious combinations.  My favorite menu dogs are probably the Reuben Dog (self-explanatory if you’re a Reuben fan) and the Wisconsin Ave. (Swiss, Pepper Jack, Cheddar, & Provolone Cheeses!).  A lot of times I order the one above… starting with a “Plane Jane” (a regular dog) & I ask them to add baked beans, cheese, ketchup, & brown mustard.  Maybe they should name it after my street?  Ha ha.  I generally have a side of nachos and cheese.  I’ve seen signs for Sloppy Joes, and have seen a delicious-looking taco salad served up, but I’ve never gone in & gotten anything other than a hot dog.  I need to just go more often, I guess.  I generally wash it all down with some of their excellent sweet tea.

My wife is a fan of the Texas Ave. (Chili sauce, cheddar cheese, sour cream, Fritos), Mississippi Ave. (Chili, Mustard, Coleslaw) minus the mustard, and Bruschetta (tomatoes marinated in olive oil and basil and creamy pesto Parmesan) dogs.  I need to muscle up the courage to make my way through the rest of the menu.  If you eat ‘em all, you get your photo on the wall!

They’re not foot-longs, there’s no natural casings, there not sausages… they’re just hot dogs, done really well.  They’re prepared with tasty ingredients, and they always look like little works of art in a basket.  You can even get a vegetarian dog if you’d like, in any style on the menu.  If you’re near Dormont, and a hot dog fan, you need to check this place out.

Dormont Dogs on UrbanSpoon | Dormont Dogs on Facebook

-•-

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!

Boston Market ups the pressure… (a.k.a. What now, Panera Bread?)


Insanity.

That’s right.  Boston Market not only reached out via my contact form thanks to Facebook, but also had the cojones to do this…

Boston Market RT!

Boston Market RT!

I still haven’t received a reply to my email to Mr. Wakabayashi, but what now Panera Bread? What now?  Clearly, this will pan out to be a bigger rivalry than Neil Young vs. Skynrd, or East Coast Rap vs. West Coast Rap.  Maybe even bigger than me vs. the people that think I’m McDonald’s (At Least Mr. Wakabayashi used my contact form correctly!)

If you have no idea what’s going on, or if you work for Panera Bread.  You can catch up here…

In other news, did you know that they both cater?  I wish someone would have told me.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on UrbanspoonI actually stopped at the local Panera the other night because the wife was sick and wanted some of that cheese-broccoli soup.  I went in to get some to go, and got myself a half of a turkey sandwich and a cup of the chicken noodle.

The employee (a young girl, of course) at the counter was quite friendly, asked if I wanted lettuce tomato or onion on the sandwich, and even asked if I wanted mustard and/or mayo.  Clearly, someone went over new procedures.  Sadly, I asked for lettuce & tomato… and got neither, but I did get mustard and mayo.  I applaud the effort, and shame on me for not checking before I left the store.

I have to say, after my initial complaint, they have totally stepped it up service-wise.  I still call shenanigans on the new soup.  They ought to let sales do the talking… OFFER BOTH.  It’s certainly a popular item.  Let the consumers decide if they want a great-tasting soup… or the crappy flat-noodled healthy soup.  Clearly, as a leader in the Fast Casual industry, you can afford to test the proverbial waters?  I think more changes have been made, but it’s still not the old soup.  Shenanigans.

Also, I counted 3 signs within  a span of about 8 feet on the counter where you wait for your order advertising the catering… and the pop machine still does it too.  I think the receipt may have even said something about it.

I spend far too much time contemplating fast food & fast casual dining.  If only I could save time buy purchasing already prepared meals.  Does anyone out there do that?

New Catering Advertisement Opportunities! (for Boston Market & Panera Bread)


I’m just sayin’.

Panera Bread  - vs. -  Boston Market

Panera Bread - vs. - Boston Market

From: Waldo Lunar <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Nov 4, 2011
Subject: New Catering Advertisement Opportunities!
To: & Cc:  A bunch of Panera & Boston Market Employees

Hello friends at Boston Market & Panera Bread,

I assume that the lack of response to my last email about an all-out catering battle at my house was ill-received.  I didn’t get any interest from either camp, or even any kind of acknowledgement of my email.  Not even a coupon.  Isn’t that the typical response?  “Throw ‘em a coupon!”  Color me disappointed.

No reply is rather rude, don’t you think?  Batman movie night has come & gone.  We dutifully provided a favorable dining experience to our guests thanks to an incredible local pizza shop.  Roasted red peppers as a pizza topping?  A hit all around, I tell you!  Subs with a homemade feel cut in to bite-size appetizers were also quite delicious.

I’m not sure why neither Panera Bread or Boston Market was willing to enter my catering battle royale.  It would have been an exciting opportunity for both of you.  I realize now… that you need help with forward thinking.  You missed this opportunity to advertise your catering and fight for my dollar.

I believe that I may have come around to your way of thinking.  Perhaps I need to fight for your dollar.  I previously saw advertisements on the pop machine and all over the windows as borderline obscene… but why stop at the border, friends?  Let’s trample the border, deface it on our way through, and not look back!  I have some ideas that you may find attractive.  I really look forward to your feedback.  (Don’t give me any shenanigans about unsolicited ideas and what-not, we’re all friends here.)

  • Advertising on the napkins.  You already do it on the receipts, walls, & windows.  Subway uses their napkins for nutrition information.  Show them up, advertise!  Think of all that clean wasted ad space ripe for the slinging of your delicious wares.  Were one ambitious, this could extend to the “to go” sandwich wrappings, the fancy new plates that you’re both using, and even the trays.  Hell, why not the drink cups?
  • Guerrilla advertising. You could have employees go into your parking lot at regular intervals, and put flyers under the windshield wipers of cars.  If you really wanna get crazy, try bumper stickers!  People would love decorations on their autos.
  • Me.  Send me a T-shirt that advertises your catering services.  I play in a band.  I’ll wear it to shows.  The throngs of bar patrons who rock out with me on a regular basis will be sure to flock to the nearest Panera Bread or Boston Market location.  I might be able to convince my band-mates to do the same.  If we’d like to get really crazy, may I offer to sell my forehead as a billboard?
  • Paystubs.  Your employees get paid right?  Get that money back!  Advertise your catering services on their pay-stubs, and any communications that you need to send.  There’s room on that W2 envelope for a 10% off catering coupon.
  • Right on the food itself.  This is the one that excites me the most!  You’ve seen the toasters that produce an image of Darth Vader, and the irons that brand your initials on to a steak, right?  There are also printers that print right on things like rice paper & cakes.  Why not take advantage of this technology?  Think about it.  Full color printing on wraps?  Toasty images on buns, bread, & bagels?  Delicious meat branded with confidence, demanding that you pick up a catering menu.  It’s never been done.  It’s opulent.  It’s genius.  (If I do say so myself.)

So, what do you think?  Can I help in this new advertising adventure?  These are the next steps in the evolution of promulgation.  Let’s move onward and upward, into uncharted catering promotional territory.  It will be an onslaught to the senses, and an influx in revenue for all involved.  I’m excited for this venture, and especially excited to get some feedback from everyone involved.

Excelsoir!
-Waldo Lunar
[ -YOUR AD COULD BE HERE- ]

incessant emails / incessant advertising

incessant emails / incessant advertising

Further Reading:

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?

Panera responds to my insanity, so I write back…


So after my last Panera-related post, I went a little goofy. I put a post on their Facebook wall

http://www.facebook.com/panerabread/posts/124723480954835

Found this part of that amusing:

…the corporate office (or in your case the corporate office for our franchise partner who operates bakery-cafes in the Pittsburgh area) reviews your email before contacting and working closely with the general manager to try to resolve the issue.

I also tweeted a few times…

…and got this DM from them:

Panera Breadpanerabread Hey, thx for sharing feedback through website. Sorry about your disappointing experience, our CS team is looking into & will be in touch.

Heh.

I got this email from the local general manager…

From: 3497 <panera3497@covelli.com>
To: [me]
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:50 AM
Subject: Contact Us

Dear Mr. Carroll,

I would like to introduce myself as Carrie Janota, the General Manager at the Greentree Panera Bread. I appreciate all your feedback and coaching. Your response will definitely help us with current and future training to associates, especially this time of year. The company has made several changes with menu items that you expressed in your comments. First, our turkey is now presliced so the consistency is different than when we sliced it in house. We also changed the recipe of our chicken noodle soup, which makes it all natural. Another healthy initiative we have taken is the removal of sauces on all cafe sandwiches. We offer packets of mayo and mustard at the condiment bar or you are welcomed to inform the cashier that you would like the condiments on the sandwich and we will gladly put them on for you. The “no onions” is our mistake and I would like to compensate you for a free meal next time you visit a Panera Bread. If you could please send me your address, I will gladly put the coupon in the mail for you. Again, thank you for your input, I use all issues as a learning tools for our associates.

Carrie Janota
General Manager

So, this is what I wrote back to them…

-餧馕馒-

Thank you Ms. Janota,

You certainly can address me as “Eric”, not “Mr. Carroll”. I appreciate your incredibly rapid and well-stated response to my experience yesterday. I was going out of my mind in disbelief. I would suggest that Panera spend more time asking/telling customers about changes, and less time advertising your catering services. I mean, really… on the pop machine, you’re advertising the catering service? What about a nice big poster that says… “WARNING: WE CHANGED THE TASTY NOODLES IN THAT SOUP THAT YOU LIKE, THE MEAT ON OUR SANDWICHES, AND HAVE DECIDED TO FORGO MUSTARD.” (Or even a nice traditional Coke or Pepsi logo?)

Boston Market is annoying/obnoxious with advertising their catering too. I get it. You guys cater. I know this. I’m here for dinner. You don’t need to advertise for a place that I’m already in. Imagine going into Walmart & seeing a sign in every aisle that advertises the stuff in the next aisle. This could get quote old quite quickly.

  • Attn: Panera – I don’t host any lunch parties or have a need for sandwich rings.
  • Attn: Boston Market – I can cook my own Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner.
  • Attn: Bob Evans – I can handle making my own lasagna or meatloaf.
  • Attn: Chick-fil-A – The only thing I’d do with a tray full of nuggets is eat them all myself.
Since you took the time to write, and you’re obviously concerned and well-written, I’d like to address my concerns & the new issues raised more specifically.

The Onion
– This is not a big deal. I generally don’t even say anything & just take the onion off myself. This is the first time I was ever asked “Lettuce, tomato, & onion?” in a Panera. So, I said “Lettuce & tomato, no onion please.” This is the only reason I took note. It also said on my receipt “NO ONION” – so the cashier took the effort to note it, and the sandwich-maker had to read & ignore it. Just odd. Again, this is nothing that should ruin one’s day.

The Turkey – I call shenanigans. Any foodie will tell you there’s a world of difference between lunch-meat turkey and the freshly-sliced real thing. Why would Panera decide to sacrifice quality like this? Does it save time? Does it save money? Certainly it can’t be healthier… isn’t pre-packaged lunch-meat loaded with salt & preservatives? Imagine my surprise upon looking at my $6 half-sandwich full of lunch-meat where I had expected (and previously received) actual turkey. Where was my warning of this upon ordering? I certainly didn’t get the proverbial memo here. At least there’s no confirmation of turkeys with gold nuggets in their gizzards and fine wine in their gullets. Although, I didn’t get a staunch denial.

The Lettuce & Tomato – Are Panera employees encouraged to look at the ingredients before placing them on sandwiches? Really, that’s all that would be needed to prevent the placement of brown lettuce & green tomatoes. A general rule of thumb could be “If you were going to make yourself a sandwich, would you use this?”

The lack of any condiments - Again, list this in the “things that would be nice to know before I placed my order, or at the very least as I was placing my order” category. I liked the previous dressing/sauce whatever you want to call it, and it was certainly different from the straight mayo or spicy brown mustard available by the drinks (& catering advertisement). Is this really a “healthy” option or a money-saving option? I’m reminded of the “removing one olive from every salad” story with American Airlines. It saved them a rumored $40,000. I imagine all of this no-more-condiments stuff adding up to a HUGE savings for Panera… but my sandwich didn’t get cheaper, did it? No passing along the savings? (I think Steak ‘n’ Shake has done this too… their salads used to be nice-sized with cherry tomatoes… now they’re small & have tomato slices.)

The mysterious thumbprint - The noted lack of condiments has me even more concerned about the yellow thumbprint that was on the top of my sandwich. I had just assumed it was some of the condiment that was supposed to go on the inside. I ripped this portion out of the top of my sandwich before eating, to the bewilderment of my eye-rolling yet tolerant-to-my-neuroses wife. This leads me to wonder what the yellow stuff on my sandwich was… if not mustard, was it some of her broccoli cheddar soup? If so, this is incredibly alarming because it could have easily been clam chowder… and I’m highly allergic to shellfish. How is soup on the sandwich board or my sandwich when it wasn’t even my soup? I suggest you educate your employees on allergens & cross-contamination. Barring all that… it’s just a little gross. That could have been a big yellow booger for all I know.

The healthy soup - Pardon me if I laugh at the “all natural” expression. While I understand the meaning, visions of a supernatural soup come to mind. Was the prior soup possessed by demons? The noodles certainly were homemade-looking and delicious. Were they the result of a tasty pact with the devil or an ancient spell? Did the ingredients float into the bowl themselves? I don’t know what the tiny paper-thin pasta squares in the new soup are, but they are a Ford Focus to the previous soup’s BMW 7 Series. They’re not whole-grain pasta, are they? I hate whole-grain pasta. If this soup was a state, the broth were the land-mass and the chicken bits & noodle-like squares were people… it would be Alaska or Wyoming. Do you see what I’m saying? (Actually, the noodles might be the people, and the chicken may be an endangered species living within that state… but I’ve already pushed that metaphor too far.) I’m not entirely sure if this is the fault of the soup-ladeler or the soup recipe. As far as healthy vs. tasty in soup, I suggest you look up news articles related to Campbell’s. They’re putting salt back into soup to boost sales. I see from your corporate Facebook page that this is apparently an issue that has ruffled some feathers. Perhaps a shift back is in order?

The rusty knife – Poop happens. Have the dishwasher look over some stuff. I’d throw out the rusty ones. This rust was quite prominent on the handle of the butter knife, in the details of the design.


Thank you for your time, I hope you can use my input to your advantage… for your team, and perhaps passed on to a corporate level. I’d like to respectfully decline a free meal. I don’t write these sort of emails in order to get free food… and I’m skeptical of any coupons/certificates flagging me as “oh, here’s that guy”. I may even be done with Panera bread for a while. Bedsides the potentially scary cross-contamination and general utensil-cleanliness issues, our philosophies don’t seem to mesh well. I don’t need you to make health decisions for me, I need you to give me quality meals at the prices you demand. Your new more healthy less tasty soup and lack of condiments disturbs me, and apparently your quality standards aren’t the same as mine at your current menu prices.

I’d suggest taking some of the money saved from condiment rationing, smaller noodles, & catering advertising… and funneling it into a survey system to find out what your consumers want, or at the very least making signs or T-shirts that say “We’re holding the mustard unless you tell us not to!” or “New soup! Less noodles & chicken, but no ghosts!” It would also be money well spent on allergy training or buying new non-rusty silverware. Do you have any corporate contacts whom with I could perhaps take up this discussion?


Supernatural soup supporter,
-Eric

?sretac arenaP taht wonk uoy diD .seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

-餧馕馒-

I for one can’t wait for a reply.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on Urbanspoon

The Great Panera Bread Swindle


The last two times I have been to Panera Bread, it’s been a debacle.  Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit… but it’s still ridiculous when compared to the price.  At the Robinson (Settler’s Ridge?) location, I got the wrong sandwich entirely… but tonight’s experience was absolutely ridiculous.  I actually just reviewed my experience at PaneraListens.com (as per the receipt), and through the contact form on their website.

This is what I shared…

I paid $6.69 for a half of a sandwich, which is now lunch meat & used to be actual pieces of turkey.  There were onions on the sandwich, and the receipt says “no onions” like I asked.  No big deal in itself.  There was no mustard/mayo/sauce on the sandwich, except for a thumbprint of something on the top/outside that shouldn’t be there.  Didn’t it used to come with a mustard?  1 of the 2 pieces of lettuce had brown edges.  The center of the tomato was hard & green.  The chicken noodle soup was ridiculously sparse as far as the  noodles and/or chicken.  I had about 4 or 5 spoonfuls of actual ingredients, and about a half bowl of broth.  The (lack of) quality of the meal was astounding.  How far has a once-great restaurant fallen?  I expect crappy food/service from McDonald’s… but not from Panera Bread.

You can improve by instructing employees to read their screens or receipts or whatever they read to make the orders.  You can then teach them how to make sandwiches without using brown lettuce or green tomatoes… and how to not put mustard thumb-prints on the outside of mustard-less sandwiches.  (Cross-contamination is a nightmare for people with food-allergies, have you considered this?)  You can also teach them how to ladle proper portions of chicken noodle soup… now with lame little noodles instead of the homemade-looking ones of yesteryear.

You can also stop subbing turkey lunch meat for real turkey in your $6 turkey sandwiches.  A friggin’ POUND of turkey at the grocery store doesn’t even cost $6, and YOU should be getting restaurant/wholesale prices.  Not that I would deny you profit… but REALLY?  Do the turkeys that you buy use gold nuggets in their gizzards?  Do they drink fine wine?

I neglected to go complain, because everyone working seemed to really care less if my order was correct or not… I also fear some sort of retaliation if I need a re-made sandwich or an actual bowl (not cup) of soup.

My wife had a cream of broccoli soup & a salad that looked spectacular.  No brown lettuce even… and it was a whole bowl!  She did get a knife that had rust on the handle though… sort of unappetizing.  I’d rather see plastic flatware than rusty flatware.

Something was really wrong here today, or I just had some bad karma all around my order.

I know I sound insane, and it’s really not that big of a deal… but this kind of stuff drives me absolutely nuts.  I just can’t imagine serving a half-assed sandwich… with a thumbprint on it, either in my house to a guest, or especially not at a job where I’m being paid to do it.  Also, you go to a chain for consistency… which I have never received at Panera.

I think I’m most disappointed with the apparent swindling of turkey lunch meat for actual turkey… and whatever those tiny little pasta squares were compared to the old homemade style noodles.  Panrea bread… we’re not stupid.  I doubt I’ll be back.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on Urbanspoon

Our weekend of dining in PA Dutch country


Well, if you’ve been keeping up, you read about my plan for our trip, what we did on our trip, and maybe even the email from the Amish Village owner.  This one’s all about the food.  We ate a lot while we were out that way, but we didn’t hit the regular buffet/smörgåsbord places like Miller’s or Dienner’s.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about my shellfish allergy.  Buffets can be a nightmare for someone like me… not only do I have to worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen (like on shared cooking surfaces, utensils, or fryers), but I have to worry about my fellow slovenly patrons carelessly flinging bits of deathfish on to adjacent foods, or better yet inadvertently dropping some off of their plate while at a different table.  No thank you.  No worries though, with the internet I was able to do a lot of research ahead of time on shellfish-free and allergy friendly restaurants.

FOOD

Prince Street Café
Prince Street Cafe on Urbanspoon Prince Street Cafe on Allergy Eats Prince Street Cafe on Facebook Twitter | @PrinceStCafe

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

The continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Lancaster was lacking, so we decided to check out the Prince Street Cafe first thing on Saturday morning.  We were quite glad that we did!  I had an email exchange going on before our trip with the manager that put me totally at ease.  I noticed there was no shellfish on their menu, but I emailed them to be sure.  It ends up that they do occasionally have a seafood soup and it would be in-house while we were there, but I wasn’t worried about the cross-contamination there after hearing how it was prepared and seeing that they acknowledged food allergies on their menu by offering gluten-free and nut-free options.  I can’t stress enough what a relief & pleasure this type of email exchange was.

The place was packed and we got there shortly after 9:00am.  The line before us went quickly & there were thankfully menus posted prominently in two places near to where you order.  My wife & I both chose the classic breakfast sandwich on ciabatta, I opted for the addition of bacon.  I also had an iced tea, and added some honey which was available on the counter… which made it absolutely perfect.  The sandwiches were great, the eggs were cooked perfectly (by a microwave of all things, I think), the cheese was beautifully melted & the ciabatta was nice & fresh.  I dug the nice slab ‘o bacon too, it didn’t overpower the sandwich.

All-in-all, this seemed like a great place to hang out.  The employees were friendly, there was a really diverse crowd, it was very relaxing.  We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the area, perhaps for a lunch or even just some coffee.

Jakey’s Amish BBQ
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Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

I hadn’t  seeked-out Jakey’s before our trip.  I did find a business-card sized ad in the giant tourist brochure display wall in our hotel.  I saw the word BBQ, and it was all over.  I mean, I do love BBQ.  I did find a menu online before going in, and again no deathfish, but I did do the usual awkward asking if there is/was every any shellfish prepared there before ordering & after looking over the menu.  After a no from the waitress, a confused look, then a double-check with someone in the back, we were good.  My problem in general with BBQ joints is that I want everything.  Thankfully they usually have sampler or at least combo platters.

Since we were there for lunch though, and doing some touristy running-around, I came to the sad realization that I shouldn’t fill up on BBQ.  I opted for the barbecue turkey sandwich with the mild sauce, and my wife went for the chicken sandwich.  Sadly, you don’t see a lot of turkey BBQ ’round the ‘Burgh… so I was glad to have that as a choice.  I had a side of fries, & Bethany got the macaroni salad.  My sandwich was delicious.  The turkey was nice & juicy, and there wasn’t so much sauce that you couldn’t appreciate the taste of the meat.  I did grab the spicy BBQ sauce that was provided on the table… for the sandwich & for some french fry dipping.  It wasn’t really all that hot for being the “spicy” sauce, but it was really good.  I’d like to try the other meats & the Carolina-style sauce…  Maybe some corn fritters instead of the fries?  We’ll be through again when we’re back that way!

Added bonus, it had a real BBQ joint kind of vibe… it shared space with a T-shirt shop that sold all kinds of stuff, from religious to raunchy.  The tables had that red & white checkered pattern tablecloth, and there were while plastic outdoor type chairs.  The guy behind the counter who I must assume was the owner or at least a manager was very cool to his employees who seemed new, telling them they were doing a good job.  He even sent out extra fries for us, apparently there weren’t enough on my plate when it came out!  Ha ha.  Our waitress did quite well, especially if she was new.  The order was correct, quick, and we had sweet tea refills without even asking.  Add this place to my list of favorite BBQ joints!

Stoltzfus Farm Resaurant
Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Urbanspoon Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Allergy Eats Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Facebook

Family-Style Meal

Family-Style Meal

Now, this place was just incredible.  Again, I checked out the menu online beforehand, and asked the hostess about shellfish when we arrived.  No deathfish in sight (or hidden in the kitchen), so I was good to go.  It looks like a  quaint little farmhouse with a beautiful garden on the outside, and once inside it doesn’t really lose that farmhouse appeal.  We were seated in a room off to the side with smaller tables, as large tables filled the front room (& I believe around back) and were full of mostly families with a bunch of children.  Our waitress could have played Granny in the Tweetie & Sylvester cartoons if they were to be made into a live action film.

On the way in the door, you opt in for (& pay for) the buffet, and then if you make it through that, you can order desserts à la carte.  We didn’t make it to dessert.  Why?  Well, they managed to stuff me full of literally everything on the menu.  I actually had everything too.  It was quite comforting to not have to worry about any cross-contamination or hidden ingredients… and it helped that everything tasted perfect.  first they brought out applesauce, pepper cabbage (a kind of cole slaw with red bell peppers & a vinegar dressing), chow-chow, and apple butter w/ white & wheat bread.  It was my first time trying chow-chow, and I loved it.  It tasted like bread n’ butter pickles, but was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, green beans, cucumbers (pickles), kidney beans, and maybe peppers and onions?  Next, she brought out everything else…  Fried chicken, sausage, hamloaf, green beans, corn, buttered noodles, potato stuffing (I’ve heard it called potato filling), & sweet potatoes.  All their meat comes from Stoltzfus Meats, right next door.  The fried chicken was excellent, the breading was perfect & the chicken itself was delicious & succulent.  I could eat potato stuffing all day… I mean carbs + carbs, covered in carb-filled gravy?  Yes please.

I could go on, but you get the point.  If you catch me on a craving & a free day… I just might drive out there to get a meal & come right home.  It would be worth the drive!  I wish I had room for the tapioca pudding.

Wawa
Wawa on Urbanspoon Wawa on Facebook Twitter | @gottahava

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

It’s odd mentioning it with the other places, but we did eat breakfast there.  I’m from the other side of the state where we have Sheetz & Get·Go… so of course I had to try a Wawa.  I’m a huge Sheetz fan, and had it in my head that I already liked Sheetz better.  I may be wrong.  The girl that made our sandwiches was really friendly, and offered to help us with the touch screen if we needed it.  (We must have appeared to be n00bz while we were blipping through checking out the entire menu.

My sandwich not only ridiculously large, but they eggs were really fluffy.  I think the menu said something about them containing cheese?  Whatever they do with them, it works for me.  I got a steak egg & cheese sandwich and it was delicious.  Wawa has the same problem as Sheetz & Get·Go as far as wrapping sandwiches though.  No matter where I get touch-screen gas station food, there’s always more sauce/ketchup/dressing on the outside of the bun than the inside.  You’d think that someone would have come up with a solution for that by now.  Perhaps it’s a tie.  Maybe Sheetz is still my favorite.  It’s pretty close though.  (Luckily, there was no deathfish on the menu, so it’s a safe place for me if not classy.  Ha ha.)

Strasburg Railroad Trackside Café
Strasburg Rail Road - Trackside Café on Urbanspoon Strasburg Railroad on Facebook Twitter | @StrasburgRR

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries...

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries.

We stopped here to get some lunch after the first train ride of the day at the Strasburg Railroad.  It was an OK cafeteria-style kind of joint, sadly cash only.  I checked out the menu when we got in there, & did ask if they ever cooked shellfish.  I was told they didn’t & felt safe.  I got a turkey sandwich & Bethany got a burger, and we shared some fries.  My sandwich was pretty good… but Bethany wasn’t a big fan of the burger.  The fries seemed a little old for some reason.  I think we both wished we had just went back to Jakey’s.  Ha ha.

Overall though, I guess we got what we paid for, it was a nice cheap quick & convenient lunch.  I did like the fact that they had up signs warning about the use of peanut oil for those with peanut allergies.  For a family attraction & with food allergies on the rise, this is a responsible thing for a business to do.

Splits & Giggles
Splits & Giggles on Urbanspoon Splits & Giggles on Allergy Eats Splits & Giggles on Facebook Twitter | @splitsngiggles
First off, best name ever for an ice cream shop.  Secondly, the guys that own & run the place are very cool.  I also can’t believe I didn’t pause to take a photo of the ice cream.  This was another place that I had scouted-out beforehand, and found through either Urbanspoon or Allergy Eats.  I saw that their menu was devoid of deathfish, so I sent the now standard just-to-be-sure email.  They had a soup containing seafood, but it hasn’t been in-house for a while… so I was safe.  These guys were really cool via email, and even dropped me a line about special hours for that Sunday when they noticed I didn’t stop in on Saturday.

I was hoping to make it there for a lunch or light dinner topped off with some ice cream, but as it happened we were heading home well after lunch & way before dinner, so we decided to ruin dinner & just have some ice cream.  It was a good call.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle bowl, and Bethany went for rocky-road in a pretzel cone.  The ice cream was great, and the place was really cool.  It had a nice neighborhood vibe.  They even took a bowl of water out for some customers who were outside eating some ice cream whit their dog.  Next time we’re in the area, I’d like to get in & try one of their panini sandwiches.  They get bonus points for the line “Please alert us of ANY food allergies or concerns you have before ordering.” on their menu.

FOOD

Well, that was all of our meals while on our road trip.  I won’t include the Hardee’s that we hit on the way home…  it’s probably best for them if I don’t comment.

Ever been to any of these places?  Let me know what you think!