Monday, September 29, 2014

Stone Soup Cafe

Stone Soup Cafe
993 S. Cooper
901-922-5314


On Sunday, I took the monkeys (Satchel 12, and Jiro, 10) plus a friend to breakfast at Stone Soup Cafe. (It was technically breakfast, not brunch, in my book because there were no mimosas and it was 10am!)

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Jiro had never been, and Satchel hadn't been since they first opened. I've been a few times with my running buddy, Ashley, and wanted to give it another try with the kids, especially now that we are in walking distance. (We had a nice discussion in which I explained the difference between "We GET to walk" and "We HAVE to walk.")

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When we arrived the patio area was mostly full, so we requested a table by the window inside. Our waitress took drink orders and gave us menus. Satchel and Jiro went with water, and our friend, Pavel, tried to order lemonade but was denied by me. I went with ice coffee.

Jiro was starving and wanted everything on the menu. I convinced him to just order two things--French toast and an egg on the side. Pavel quickly decided on a bacon omelet. Satchel and I were torn. "I thought they would primarily have soup here," he complained. He LOVES soup, but crawfish bisque and lentil did not appeal to him whether or not he could actually order one or the other at 10am.

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He eventually decided on the Big Rex biscuit with ham and I got the Big Rex burrito with sausage. (I can't believe no one ordered crepes!) My ice coffee came and was delicious. Everyone wanted a taste and soon I had to order a second.

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Jiro, who was growing hungrier by the minute, repeatedly asked me, "When are they going to bring the food?" They weren't being slow, he was being hungry.

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The boys started playing chopsticks to pass the time. It involves math. I did not want to learn at 10am.

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The food soon arrived and everyone was happy. The French toast looked great.

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Pavel's omelet was as expected.

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I don't quite understand the choice of American cheese as the standard, but ok. (In my earlier review the cheese was clearly grated.)

My burrito was a little sad and lonely on the plate, but quite filling. It was grilled and had a Taco Bell-esque crunch. (Not necessarily a bad thing.)

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Satchel's biscuit was the show stopper. The Stone Soup Cafe is SERIOUS about ham. Oh my.

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I am so glad I didn't order that! Ha! Satchel had quite a time trying to eat it.

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He got through most of it and then traded with Jiro for a few bites of French toast. Jiro also finished off the last few bites of my burrito!

Our total was $34.88, which is pretty reasonable. I think the monkeys will want to go back.

Stone Soup Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Babalu Tacos & Tapas

Babalu Tacos & Tapas
2115 Madison
274-0100


The monkeys (Satchel, 12, and Jiro, 10) were out of school on Friday, so I took the day off to hang out with them. After a lovely hike at Shelby Farms Park, we returned to Midtown and invited Warren to have lunch with us. Since Babalu continues to have people lined up waiting to get in almost every time I drive by, I thought we should check it out. (Warren and Satchel had previously been for lunch, and I'd been a couple of times for drinks and apps.)

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We arrived around 2:00pm and did not have to wait for a seat on the front patio, but the restaurant was surprisingly full for that time of day. I think the main appeal of Babalu is it's location--it is perfectly situated for people watching. And the space is really nice--both inside and outside. I especially love the side patio that opens into the restaurant.

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Ok, back to the patio. Our hostess was insistent that the monkeys have kids' menus. She wanted them to color and she noted that she loved the chicken tenders and fries and often ordered them for herself. She did throw in that she was in art school, and said that she still liked to color. Satchel agreed to color, but he wanted to order from the main menu.

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Jiro immediately started doing the puzzles and said he wanted a steak taco from the kids menu.

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Warren and I were more focused on the drink menu, and getting some guacamole to the table. The waitress carded us both, and I do believe it made Warren's day.

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In terms of the guacamole, we were asked some pretty hard questions, like "Do you want bacon and jalapenos?" I was in favor, but figured the jalapenos would ruin it for the monkeys. Later, when I noted that we should have maybe just gotten the bacon all three dudes sighed and said, "I didn't hear the bacon part."

Warren, Satchel and I decided on what we wanted and then put in our order. (I had to amend my decision to get the "fish of the day" taco when the waitress said the fish of the day was "gator.")

Then the waitress said, "We design everything for sharing, so is it ok if we just send things out as they are ready?" We all looked at each other and then I said, "We aren't sharing." So she said she'd bring everything together, except the guacamole of course.

Our drinks came and we settled in.

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Warren had a 20 oz. Dos Equis ($6.50??) and I had a Babarita ($11.50!). The drinks are not cheap, people. And I will now say from experience that the Babarita may be a bit strong for lunch.

After the drinks came the guacamole. Babalu has Service Assistants whose only job is to make guacamole all day every day.

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They make it at the table, which seems to be very popular. (They also do it at the Mexican place over by Whole Foods. Can't think of the name right now.) And they make it fast. It took about 30 seconds.

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We were also told that the chips were made in house. Jiro said it was the best guacamole of his life. Satchel retorted, "Have you ever had any other guacamole?"

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Jiro thought about it and said, "Yes, at Chipotle." So there you have it, Mr. Picky ranks Babalu's guac #1.

Before we could polish off the guac, our food started coming out. First up, the kids taco.

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Yup, that's pretty much the saddest kids' "meal" I have ever seen. Ok, ok, yes the menu clearly states the option is a taco, singular, but c'mon. When I asked the waitress what they were charging for this meal, she didn't know. Then she said, "The kids' menu is designed for little kids, not fully grown boys." That's fine, but maybe tell your hostess not to foist the menu on kids and then talk about how filling the chicken tenders are? Anyway, Jiro liked the taco and wanted another one, but the waitress got held up helping someone move something and by the time she came back, he was full of chips. But, FYI, the taco was $1.50. I think that is an excellent price point. I think the cost should be on the menu, and "fully grown boys" should be encouraged to order 2-3.

*steps off of soap box*

My tacos were much better. I had the tuna, oyster and shrimp.

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Satchel has been craving tamales since we went to Mi Mexico and he was very pleased with his order.

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Warren got the Cuban sandwich and a side of rice and beans, which were later doctored up with the rejected garnish from Satchel's tamales.

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I don't really get how these items are considered tapas and made for sharing, but I'll get over it. Maybe the tacos, but if you get three different ones are you really going to pass each one around and let everyone taste? No, no you aren't.

But whatever, I love sitting on a patio.

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Our final bill came to $63.67 which was a tad shocking. (Add up the alcohol and guac and that explains most of it, but keep in mind Jiro's lunch was $1.50.) I will return, but probably not with the monkeys.

Babalu Tacos & Tapas on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cafe Cali & Pho

Cafe Cali & Pho
74 N. Cleveland
249-5349


I noticed this place the other day, but I am not sure when it opened. (I think it may have been around the corner initially.) I added it to my list of places to eat since Vietnamese is in regular rotation. We went to give it a try on Sunday evening.

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The parking lot was packed, but the restaurant was not. It seemed that the space between the restaurant and the market was having some sort of private dance party. We could hear the music through the walls.

Inside, there was another table or two of people eating, all of whom appeared to be Vietnamese, which is a good sign. The flat screen TV on the wall was showing a Vietnamese cooking show. The space was well-lit and clean. We were seated and given menus right away.

A waiter, who looked kind of like an aging movie star to me, came over with three waters and a notepad. I aksed if we could have another water since there was four of us and Satchel (age 12) nearly died. "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!" he moaned under his breath.

The movie star waiter (MSW) obliged me and then I tried to charm him since I had been so (unintentionally) off putting. I asked if he had any suggestions for us, and what he suggested were among the items we had taken note of, so we went ahead and put in our order.

An elderly man brought out the spring rolls almost right away. They definitely looked different than what I am used to, and frankly I was a tad nervous about eating them. But Jiro, who was super hungry, asked if he could try one and then proceeded to tell us how yummy they were.

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They did actually taste quite good. Jiro (age 10) asked if we could get a second round of "Asian burritos."

I probably would have but the rest of our food started coming out.

Jiro was happy with his chicken vermicelli soup. The face was because I made him wait to start eating it. (I was very proud of him for not letting the "green stuff" get in the way of his enjoyment.)

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Satchel ordered a similar soup but with beef.

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Note those are the "small" bowls.

Warren got his standard noodle bowl with pork and egg rolls. It also featured the scary looking pork from the spring rolls.

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There was a lot of happy slurping at the table.

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I ordered the bhan mi, which was very good. The bread was nice and warm and I ate it right up. I think it may have had mayo on it, which is different.

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I finished my sandwich pretty quickly as it was on the small side. Warren let me work on his noodle bowl while he worked on Jiro's chicken soup.

Then I went over to investigate what we thought were drinks in the cooler.

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MSW informed me that they were actually desserts. I wanted to try one, but no one else did. Instead i decided to try the pure cane juice that the MSW said is really good for you. "Look on YouTube," he said.

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It was quite good and not at all as sweet as I was expecting.

All in all, we liked the food and service and price, but I don't think it will become our #1.

My good friend, who is Thai, went and had the Bún bò Huế, which apparently was super legit with congealed blood and everything. So, if you want authentic, this may be the place for you.

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Our total was $31 plus tip.

Check it out.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moe's

Ed note: I previously reviewed Moe's in 2006 and still find it fairly right on, but I thought an update was in order.

Moe's
3546 Walker
901-590-0192


The monkeys (Satchel, 12 and Jiro, 10) and I have been on a major Chipotle kick. I have failed to do a post about it, but we have made the trek out east many times just to get a burrito bowl. Satchel's dream is to eat a giant bowl of just cilantro lime rice. It is also conveniently located to the "new" Target and a Sports Authority, so the monkeys like to get me (and my wallet) in the vicinity.

I had completely blanked on the fact that there was Moe's over by the University until a fellow soccer mom reminded me. I went by for lunch one day, which happened to be a Monday, and discovered $5 Burrito Monday.

Now the monkeys and I have decided to go every Monday. I could eat Mexican just about every day.

"Hey guys, let me snap a picture of the outside."

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They were too eager to eat $5 burritos to comply with my simple request.

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As you can see, you get a burrito (chicken or ground beef), chips and a drink for $5. You can have as many chips as you want. You can drink as much soda as you want. (They have one of the fancy machines that lets you add flavors.)

That's a great deal!

They have a lot of goofy names for their menu items, but I have found it easiest to go through Subway style and just tell them what you want inside the tortilla. They definitely have more fillings than Chipotle. Granted, Chipotle may lean towards healthier/less GMO food, but I think the option of cheese dip and pickled jalapenos is rad. (I usually only allow myself the latter.)

Once you go through the line, you pay up at the register. (Be sure and tip because they ring a little bell when you do and everyone says, "Thank you!") The total for the three of us was $18 with tip.

Next up, the salsa bar. (At Chipotle you have to pay for chips and salsa.) I love salsa bars! This was also a major selling point with Satchel, who still talks about the one at Elena's.

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I like the medium salsa and the one with pineapple. Look at this bounty!

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Our friends met us at Moe's last Monday to celebrate surviving the first day of school.

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The menu includes tacos, nachos, burrito bowls, etc. and you can get fish, beef, chicken, or veggies. The kids meals are always about $5, but my kids need a full size burrito now.

The Moe's by the University is fun because there are a lot of college kids taking advantage of the deal. It's almost like eating on campus.

See you there on Monday!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mi Mexico

Mi Mexico
3967 Summer Avenue
901-590-1845


Warren spotted a sign for Mi Mexico on Summer Avenue last Saturday during his travels between the Palace Cinema and our house. "It's between Bryant's and La Espiga bakery," he told me. We took the kids to see Lucy at the Palace on Sunday so it seemed fitting that we should try Mi Mexico on our way home.

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I really do not like the trend of plastering the windows with neon fonted signs, but inside the restaurant was very cute. (It was also plastered with signs and pictures of menu items.) There was a dining room to our right with tables and chairs and one to our left with mostly booths. We were told to sit where we liked, so we got a booth.

This is the only interior shot I got.

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The TV above us was showing a Spanish language version of American Idol or a karaoke show or something. Whatever it was, Warren tried to sing along, which was hilarious (to me) and mortifying (to the monkeys).

The menu was quite extensive and didn't seem like the standard menu you see all over town. However, we mostly ordered our standard things--tacos and burritos. Satchel (age 12) broke the mold by going with the New Mexico breakfast, possibly due to our recent trek to Taos.

While we waited for the food, we were given chips, salsa, beans and pico. Yum!

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We could have easily eaten a million more chips, but we didn't.

The food came out soon after and for the most part, looked great.

This may be the happiest Warren has ever been while eating dinner with us.

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He got the four taco special with various meats. (Yes, there are five tacos. "Maybe it was the five taco special," he said.)

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Correction! Two of the tacos were made with crispy fried potatoes. He said they were all good.

Jiro's (age 10) tacos were less exciting, but he was equally as happy.

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Satchel's New Mexico breakfast was the envy of the table. (He is even smiling!)

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It came with a tamale, a tostada, a taco, rice & beans.

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He scarfed everything down except the tostada, which he rejected due to onions. I was going to eat it for him, but I thought the shell was a little overfried/borderline burnt tasting. Warren ate it for him.

Satchel said the tamale was the best he ever had, although Warren and I agreed it may have well been his first.

Now, about my burrito...

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The cheese slices on top were a bit of a turn off. Inside was ok, though I prefer shredded chicken instead of chunks of chicken. It was fine. Nothing special. The beans and rice were good.

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All in all, I give the food a thumbs up. I just won't get the burrito on my next visit. I'm guessing we'll all get the New Mexico breakfast.

The service was fine. By the end of our meal, we were the only table and our waiter was canoodling with the other waitress in a booth. I caught his eye and we were able to get the check taken care of. The total was $30. Not bad, although we all had waters.

I visited the restroom before leaving. It was in disarray but was ok. No changing table.

It's a fine addition to Summer Avenue!

Check it out and tell me what you think.

Mi Mexico on Urbanspoon
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