Tastes of Monroe
I’m just a guy that enjoys eating and spends alot of time out to eat at restuarants, diners, and cafes. Unfortunately, many small eateries have been crushed due to chain restaurants and fast food. While there is nothing wrong with people enjoying those places, I find that often times their quality is less than favorable compared to the local owned, mom and pop diners. In this blog, I am going to try the small diners and review my experience and the food. I am no Gordon Ramsay but, I do know good quality when I taste it.
Posted March 23, 2019
One thing that I regret from New York was not going to try Mexican food.
If I was sat down and forced to decide on what my favorite food is, Mexican cuisine would be my answer.
From tacos to burritos, botana and fajitas, I’ll eat it all!
Growing up in Woodhaven, there were plenty of Mexican places to drive to, but those places don’t compare to El-Maguey.
El-Maguey is a very small location on North Dixie Hwy. just across from Heck Park.
If you go past the helicopters, you’ve gone too far.
Unlike the other restaurants, I don’t have much information on it, but what I do know is it has amazing food and fairly-cheap prices.
When I arrived, I was lucky enough to catch the tail-end of the lunch specials, so I swiftly ordered the two-taco combo with a side of rice and beans.
As usual, I grabbed some salt and pepper and sprinkled a dash of each into the salsa.
El-Maguey’s salsa is flavorful and not spicy, but I find adding the salt and pepper gives an enhancement to the taste. If I ask for the hot salsa, I don’t add anything to it.
One by one, the chips were mowed down, and the salsa container’s level was lowering. When the final chip was gone, a plate of tacos was set in front of me and an accompanying plate of rice and beans followed.
I sat for a moment, drinking my water to wash down the chip, staring at the quality meal I had just been served.
It didn’t take long after setting my glass down that grabbed my fork and scooped some beans and rice onto the taco. I also poured some salsa on it as well.
Then in the blink of an eye, I found myself holding the taco over the plate and taking a huge bite out of it.
Lettuce, tomato and cheese along with some meat, fell onto the other taco, filling that one even more.
Eating the taco over the other is a great way to not lose toppings.
After a few large bites, taco number one was down and it was on to the second.
I spruced up the taco with the beans, rice, and salsa like the first and inhaled that one as well.
Tacos don’t last long with me and I often forget that they are sadly limited and cost money for more.
After my moment of sadness, I ate what had fallen off the second taco and then ate the remaining beans and rice.
Even without the tacos, their beans and rice I would argue are the best in Monroe County.
When the final piece of rice was gone and I scooped the last of my beans, I received my bill and went to the register.
As usual, I was asked how things were and as always I replied, amazing.
New York City Special Posting
Posted March 20, 2019
New York City had more restaurants on one block than half of Monroe County.
I don’t have actual numbers but based on my observation, I’d find it to be almost true.
The Agora went to New York City for the spring National College Media Convention from March 6 to 10.
Naturally we couldn’t go four days without eating, despite my wallet wishing I could.
The average cost for each meal I had was between 15 and 20 dollars. The wallet was screaming by the first afternoon.
However, there’s the phrase ‘When in Rome’ so I went with it and made do.
What was nice about New York is how many non-corporate diners and restaurants there are!
I had seen some of the typical names such as TGI Friday’s and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, of course there were plenty of McDonalds’.
Three places stood out to me the most, one for its scene, the other two for its quality.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
The first place we stopped to eat was Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a 50’s-themed diner with singing servers and a long menu of American food. Burgers, hot dogs, and salads.
It was pricey, compared to my standards. The cheapest meal was a combo plate of two hotdogs topped in sauerkraut with a side of waffle fries at the whopping price of 16 dollars.
I ordered my steeply priced meal and looked around the place.
On the first floor there was a large disco ball hanging in the center and just behind was a neon sign hanging, “This is STARDUST.” It was angled in one corner just under the second floor mezzanine that lined the square room.
Our view was from the mezzanine, a nice view.
Every few minutes a server would start performing out of nowhere.
I’d look down from the railing and see nobody, then I’d turn to my left or right and they’re right there!
All sorts of songs were sung, from newer ones to classic 60’s.
Patrons were singing along, clapping their hands, and even standing up to dance with the performers as they got close.
They performed for everyone.
After a few songs and me clapping my hands, our meals came out.
The waffle fries were dark brown and pretty crispy, slightly too done but still flavorful.
The hot dogs were cooked right, but it isn’t hard to make a good hot dog. The sauerkraut was tangy but weak.
My family made this German staple all throughout my childhood so I am somewhat of kraut snob.
Overall, despite the stardom, glam, and fun, the food fell flat.
The next place that stood out to me was Junior’s Bakery.
Now I understand Junior’s Bakery has doesn’t exactly fit my criteria, since they have multiple locations, but I’ll make an exception.
The Junior’s Bakery we stopped at was the 45th street location, one of the first expansion locations for the chain.
What they’re famous for is their desserts, specifically cheesecake.
Professor Shaw boasted for weeks leading up to the trip about how amazing and spectacular their cheesecake was.
Now I had my best cheesecake back in 2004 on a train’s dining car to Tucson, Arizona. The cheesecake he described had my memory to live up to, making me skeptical.
The talk of the cheesecake only grew as we found ourselves in New York and finally, we were there sitting outside on a covered patio, waiting to get into the attraction.
Once inside, the place was bright, colorful, and had the Brooklyn Bridge painted on the back wall.
A curved bar top was along one of the other walls.
A good décor is always helpful for restaurants as people get first judgment from eyesight.
At this point even I was getting excited to try this dessert.
We had a large group and had to be seated at two separate tables, bummer, but it worked.
Looking over the menu I saw much more than simple baked goods.
Burgers, soups, salads, and even Reuben’s filled the pages.
What I had assumed was a simple dessert and bakery location turned into a full place for someone to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus of course the high quality dessert.
However, I was there for one thing and one thing only, cheesecake.
Perusing the menu I finally found the desserts section, and to start their long list, “Our famous no. 1 original cheesecake,” under and artists drawing of a slice of cake and an entire pie of the dish.
Cheesecake alone is fairly good, but what sets it over the top for me is a good strawberry drizzle with real strawberry chunks. Thankfully that was the second option listed.
In my opinion, that is the most acceptable and the best way to eat the dessert.
I placed my order and talked with the others about the trip, our excitement and skepticism about the dessert’s greatness, and plans for the following day.
The cheesecake arrived before we could really hash any plans out and soon we forgot our discussion.
Instead, we were playing with little plastic swords that were stabbed into the top of the cakes.
Pulling the small Excalibur out of the cake made the occasion more appealing, especially as we started swinging the 3 inch plastic pieces around like knights.
After some fooling around I settled down and returned to my serious, critically focused task and took a large chunk of cake with my fork.
The soft and creamy delight made my mouth water, the strawberry topping added some quality flavor, making it even better.
For any pie, I usually hate the crust and leave it behind, even on my favorite pumpkin pies the crust is tossed out.
This time was different, the graham cracker based crust was soft, not overbearingly flavored by the usual butter and sugar, and it was more of a compliment to the cake than the focus.
The slice of cheesecake was large as well, much more than I expected considering the portions for everything else was small and over-priced.
All in all, the cheesecake compared well to my cheesecake experience of 2004, and may have even topped it, but I have to give it another try before I say it beat it.
Love & Dough
The final location that was appealing to me was a little Italian restaurant just across the river off in Brooklyn, between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.
In the old warehouse/industrial district of Brooklyn sits a small restaurant that unless you walked by it, would skip over entirely.
Love & Dough opened in December of 2015 under the ownership of Arthur Hasani.
The dishes of Love & Dough were created by Giuseppe Manco, an award winning chef from Napoli (Naples).
This along with a quaint, industrial designed interior, Love & Dough sets up an amazing place to take a date to while in Brooklyn.
Looking over their menu I saw many dishes that I cannot spell nor even pronounce, and then a classic staple for the Italian cuisine, lasagna.
Not knowing what the other dishes were, and certainly knowing I wasn’t wanting to eat some sort of squid ink dyed pasta, I ordered the lasagna and waited.
In the many years Professor Shaw has gone to New York, he has never tried this place and ordered the lasagna as well.
The rest of the group ordered different dishes that they stumbled to say and mostly had to point out on the menu to the waiter.
Again the group did the usual, talk about the restaurant, discuss the events of the day, and plan out the next day which was sadly the day we were coming back.
The lasagnas and other dishes were served up on heavy round plates with blue rings along the edge.
Looking at the lasagna, it was a nice square piece covered in cheese and sauce, topped with a small mint leaf for decoration.
I was starving by this time and waited just long enough for everyone else to get their food before I dug in.
The sauce was flavorfully seasoned, not relying heavily on the natural tomato taste.
One problem I find with lasagna is the pasta being too tough and not cutting well, usually from being undercooked or poorly mixed during preparation, but thankfully I didn’t deal with that this time.
The pasta cut like a piece of butter.
It was fantastic, the only downside was the piece wasn’t bigger.
After I had finished mine, I asked Professor Shaw how his was.
Him, having traveled the world and specifically, Europe, he has had lasagna from all over, authentic to Americanized. He looked up at me, thought for a second rubbing his chin and stated he believes it is either eight or nine on his list of top ten lasagnas he’s had.
For my uncultured, small town life, it came in first easily.
With these three places visited over the course of our trip, I can only imagine what other fine eateries there are in New York and hope to continue to find high quality places here in Monroe.
Posted February 13, 2019
Today I had started the process of obtaining a new job and during the signing of paperwork my stomach rumbled worse than a tree collapsing under ice.
I ignored it, business was to be done, but afterwards, the hunger was too much.
Sitting in my truck waiting for it to warm, I messaged my friend Michaela and asked her if she was free to grab lunch.
She agreed and soon I was picking her up, having her choose songs on Spotify, and deciding where to eat.
I had joked with her recently about trying sushi as she spent time fairly recently in Japan and mentioned missing the food.
I’ve never tried sushi before. I enjoy fish, having caught and ate many, but sushi just seemed so— foreign. I tried to have Kroger sushi once a few years back but after catching a whiff of it I quickly gave it away.
While driving around, internally I decided today was the day, why not, considering I would have eaten a tire with ketchup being so hungry.
I mentioned the idea to her and that I needed her expertise. I didn’t want to look too much like a fish out of water while trying to pronounce words like kamaboko and futomaki, asking the waitress 1001 questions.
We pulled into Kiku Sushi, an old remodeled Pizza Hut on Telegraph rd.
I’ve heard many good things about this place in the past but had never stopped in.
In all honesty I was excited to try something new and having Michaela there to help me only made it better.
Inside we were greeted and quickly sat down. I looked around at the beautiful oriental décor, the fresh sushi display up at the bar, as well as the bright clean fish tank full of colorful gold fish.
We were handed our menus and as soon as we ordered drinks, the bombardment of questions for Michaela began.
Thankfully she is patient and answered each one, going through virtually all items on the menu. We must have told the poor waitress to give us a minute, five or six times.
Finally I decided what to get, a salmon teriyaki bento box with a small order of hot sake, a Japanese rice wine.
Michaela ordered the Lion King roll.
The bento box came with a good size piece of salmon over onion and broccoli marinated in teriyaki, three small pieces of fried pork called shumai, one California roll, and a helping of white rice.
The Lion King roll was comprised of tempura shrimp, eel cream cheese inside and avocado outside, spiced with masago eel sauce.
A choice of miso soup or house salad topped with ginger dressing was also provided, we both chose salad.
The salad came out almost before I could even blink.
It was a small bowl of mixed greens, a grape tomato, and slice of cucumber. I usually get Italian dressing so the orange ginger dressing was a sight to get used to but it was sweet and started off the lunch nicely.
Michaela ripped open her chopstick packet while I sat there tilting them waiting for them to slide out, it wasn’t until I saw her pack ripped open that I realized I needed to rip them open.
She started eating with ease, I on the other hand couldn’t have looked more American, stabbing lettuce like some caveman yielding a spear.
She tried to assist me but I couldn’t grip it right, thankfully she jerry-rigged mine with a hair tie and the chopstick packet folded and placed to cause pressure point.
We sat for a short time having conversation over salad before the main food was served.
Michaela sat in eagerness waiting for me to give it a try. Naturally I went for what I knew, the broccoli under the salmon.
Breaking a piece off with my chopsticks, I tasted the familiar food and became more comfortable, easing to the salmon, another recognized food.
Teriyaki honestly is one of my favorite ways to season/marinate food.
Next I took a bite of the white rice to realign my flavors and then tried the shumai. It tasted like a fried dumpling and I quickly ate another, saving the third for later in the meal.
At this time Michaela ate some of her food and was waiting for me to try the California roll. The sight stirred a memory deep in my mind, the time I smelled sushi I bought from Kroger and gave away.
A nervous sweat went down my temple as I gulped, slowly reaching for the roll. I grabbed it with the chopsticks and ate the roll. The mushy consistency and variety of flavors filled my mouth.
I would love to say this was when I discovered some love for sushi but it wasn’t, I didn’t like it and gave the other two rolls to Michaela as we laughed.
Sushi just isn’t for me, she had me try the Lion King roll as well and the feeling was the same.
My avocado usually comes in the form of guacamole.
We quickly ate the rest of our meals and that’s when my sake came to the table.
I poured some of the hot liquid into a small porcelain shot glass and took a sip, very hot.
Letting it cool a bit, Michaela convinced me to hurry and drink it back. It tasted just like regular wine but with a bit stronger taste. The rest went down smoothly.
Sitting there waiting to pay and for some of the effect to wear off, I smiled and thanked Michaela for teaching me sushi 101.
Despite not liking the rolls, I enjoyed being there and thought, I need more teriyaki salmon sometime.
Posted February 8, 2019
I live down the road from a newer restaurant called Sal’s Place.
The location was an old PNC Bank that sat empty for a few years, so when I saw it was being renovated and turned into a place to eat, I was excited.
Sal’s Place opened January 1, 2018 and is a coney island with a lakeside décor or light gray/blue walls and various nautical trinkets placed around the building.
I was heading home after classes and quickly realized I hadn’t eaten much. The problem was, I didn’t want fast food now did I want to sit down somewhere, I just wanted to be home.
As I was driving, my hunger grew, and I questioned what there would be to eat at home.
I ran through the options and decided id call and place a to-go order at Sal’s.
I wanted something easy to eat.
When I called the phone was quickly answered and I asked what specials they were doing. I mentioned my preference of something quick and easy to eat.
The waitress on the phone suggested I order their coney dog special. The special came with two beef coney dogs, an order of fries, and a cup of soup.
I usually don’t eat chili dogs, most places I hate them, but with me being in a rush and the stop light I was at turning green, I agreed to have the special. My request was no onion on the dogs.
I pulled up to Sal’s a few minutes later, I went inside to pay and grab my food. I arrived slightly early and stood by after paying but only a few seconds before I was being handed a bag of hot lunch.
When I got home, I went to my room and opened my goodie bag of food.
The coney dogs, no onion, were hot and loaded with chili. There was more chili than dog.
I opened the fry container to see hot steamy, golden crisp fries. They looked just like a commercial would.
The soup cup looked more like a bowl and was filled to the brim with vegetable beef.
I set the food out like a small buffet spread, turned on Hulu, and dug in.
When I was done, I leaned back content and thought to myself, what do I try next time.
McGeady’s Town Pub
Posted January 30, 2019
Sunday afternoon I hit up my friend Brett for food. We usually get food a few times a month to rant about various topics, but our focus, the food.
Brett told me he was dying for a good burger. I thought for a moment, listed places in my head. I replied a few minutes later telling him to meet at a called McGeady’s Town Pub.
McGeady’s Town Pub is a small hole in the wall downtown. If you blink, you’ll miss it. During the summer, McGeady’s store front has an outdoor fenced in eating area. The building has an Irish green sign, illuminated by three lights.
The interior is deep and narrow but has multiple floors. The first floor is groomed with a wood floor and light-brown brick walls. Various beer signs hung on them.
Brett and I walked into the sound of “Sicko Mode” by Travis Scott blasting on the speakers which surprised us, seeing the way the pub is decorated. We sat at the bar on the first floor and were greeted instantly with menus.
The server had a smile and asked what we wanted to drink. Being cheap, we both decided to get waters. While she was away, we looked over the burger section.
From a standard hamburger too Cajun style, there is a long selection to choose.
Brett is a man of onion rings and three entries down, stands The Lombardi.
The Lombardi is topped with a 7oz ground beef patty with applewood smoked bacon, cheese, BBQ sauce, and finally onion rings.
Brett’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.
I went with the breakfast burger, topped with the same things minus the BBQ and rings. It makes up for it though with a thick fried egg. Both served with inhouse fries, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
We ordered as soon as she set the waters down.
Before we could even start ranting our burgers were out and we dug in.
The burgers were hot and juicy, with the freshest buns. I needed an extra napkin due to the egg breaking.
The chips were crisp and lightly seasoned, a good compliment to the burgers.
We ate the burgers in only a few minutes followed by most of the chips. The server asked how it was.
“It was great,” we replied.