Tag Archives: downtown

9 Bakery and Lounge

4 Sep

Rating: -1 Waitstaff

I was recently invited to brunch with my boyfriend’s family and the location they decided upon was the dead shell of what was once my favorite classy joint in town (Crow Hill) currently known as 9 Bakery and Lounge. I looked up the menu as I always do and as much as I wanted to hate this place on principal, there were quite a few options that piqued my interest. Among them were the Pulled Pork Benedict, Shrimp and Grits with Texas Pete Cream, and  Breakfast Time Burger with sriracha mayo. Any one of these would have been enough to get me in the door, but in the end the sriracha offering won me over. Isn’t that always the case? Fact: if you ever want me to review your place, put sriracha on the menu. I will come.

I was surprised after walking in at how recognizable the space still was. There was definitely some painting and redecorating but it still had a similar classy-Southern laid back feel. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mentally noting some of the color and design choices for personal use. We were seated on the upper level, an honor I never had when the space was Crow Hill. The table was more than large enough for our party of 10+ and could have fit more. There was a mix of chairs and couch seating around a large table that was lounge-like without being difficult to eat at. It reminded me of being at a house, hanging around the living room. It was a great atmosphere for a Sunday brunch.

While ordering I noticed the waiter forgot to ask me which side I wanted with the burger. No biggie, it’s a big table, I’m sure he just forgot. But after we left I found out I don’t think he asked anyone in our group which side they wanted. We received a free plate of what I surmised were Aztec Muffins (chocolate and cayenne pepper) for the table. After a super fucking weird plate dance our waiter did to put our appetizer plates down, we all dug in. The muffins were delicious. They were soft without being completely crumbly, and the cayenne pepper wasn’t super present but added to the other spices to make a great fall flavored muffin. The velvety treat was a great way to keep us happily waiting for our food. I’m not sure if everyone gets them, or if it was just for our large group since our table would take a bit longer to cook for. Our waiter was the silent type, I guess.

Aztec Muffin

After a very reasonable wait, our food finally arrived. My exact words upon seeing the first plate were “Oh shit.” A man who I presumed to be a manager or owner grinned, and said “You mean Oh SHIT!” One of our other party members had ordered the Pulled Pork Benedict. That bitch was a monster. I was scared for how large my burger would be if their brunch portion of benedict was worthy of a buffet plate. My sincerest apologies for not taking a picture, but sometimes you don’t want to be that person at a family gathering. My burger with potato salad on the side, on the other hand was very reasonable.

I’ll start with the potato salad. Now, any potato salad I’ve ever eaten has had some sort of mayo as a binder. I would have accepted this as herbed potatoes, or chilled home fries, or any number of the silly names we give cubed potatoes. I would not call this potato salad. That being said, it was ok. I didn’t finish it. The burger on the other hand, was brought down from the gods. The bun was toasted with out being overly crusty. It was soft while still being substantial. The burger patty itself was cooked to a perfect small pink center and the bacon, goat cheese, sriracha mayo, and fried motherfucking egg were godly inspiration. The only thing I could have (and should have) asked for would have been more sriracha mayo. Or just sriracha. I finished every drop of golden yolk that dripped off that patty of dead cow and was full without being sick or overly stuffed.

Breakfast Time Burger

I should mention at this point that I also ordered a biscuit on the side that I never received. Two in our party ordered doughnuts instead of full meals and were left sitting for at least 10 extra minutes waiting for them. After they did receive them, they received the wrong amount. Yes, this place serves homemade doughnuts. And I’m not talking about your basic Boston cream. They had available on our visit bacon maple, blueberry cheesecake, and many other out-of-the-norm flavors.

This place was pretty great. The atmosphere was spot on, the burger was great, and there were a number of menu items that I will be going back to try. The downside was our waiter, who seemed aloof, unaware of basic menu options, and did not seem keen on offering any information that might enrich our experience. I have no issue with waiters and waitresses who aren’t extras from a sunday morning kids show or who are no nonsense, but knowing the menu and conveying information as to what things are, and why delays are occurring are a common courtesy. It almost felt like we were bothering him by being there. So I will return to taste again, but hopefully to better service.

9 Bakery and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Winnie’s Tavern

18 Apr

Rating: Eat this shit

I used to drive by Winnie’s Tavern pretty much every fucking day, but I never went there. As much as I love dive bars, until somewhat recently (past couple years), this weird, lonely little place never got much positive feedback. Not from what I’d heard, anyway. Plus, the parking lot is always full of big trucks and it’s right down the road from a sketchy gay bar called Tool Box which is right next to the ports. I kind of got the impression they’d be serving floorburgers and when I went to pick one up I’d be proper bungholed.

Having heard that my paranoid homophobia might now be a faux-pas in these heady times, I decided to turn over a new leaf and go eat at Winnie’s. A lot of people have been saying very good things about their burgers. Plus, you know, the potential for anonymous gay trucker sex is always a draw.

I got a “Mini Winnie,” a 4oz cheeseburger with all the toppings an idiot like myself might come to expect plus some shitty frozen fries for $5.00. I liked that they offered the onions fried or raw. I like both but, hell, if I get to choose, I’ll choose either one of the other. That’s for god damn sure. This time I chose fried, because I’m an American.

Good deal for a decked-out quarter pound cheeseburger and fries. Especially since the burger was really good. I didn’t specify a temperature (allegedly you can), but mine was done to a perfect medium. Often I’ll order medium-rare, but medium is fine in my book, and ought to be the standard when not specified – unlike most places that cook their burgers medium-well and beeeeyoooond.

 My coworker got the regular Winnie Burger, which is a half-pound heart attack in the form of a processed dead cow. He got bacon and jalapenos on his too, because he is an asshole.

It should be noted that I don’t think the fries had the mountain of spices as shown; I think he added that. He ate that whole thing and loved it, remarking that it was better than the Red Robin burger he had the other night. A dive bar with a better burger than a national fast-casual burger chain? Maybe America is not beyond any semblance of hope. Never mind, it is anyway. For so many reasons.

Is this the best burger in town? Well, no. Crow Hill serves up a burger which is definitely superior. The Crow Hill burger is 10oz as opposed to 8oz, has better meat and infinitely superior fries. However, it costs ten dollars and up depending on configuration. Crow Hill is now closed. Thanks Wilmington. Winnie’s is in the 6-7 dollar territory. Is it the best Wilmington burger in that price range? Probably.

Warning: They inexplicably don’t take plastic.

Winnies Tavern on Urbanspoon

Firebelly

9 Feb

Rating: 9001: A Gut Odyssey

Man, everyone calls this place Firebellies and it really grinds my gear. Now that I have that out of the way, I’m writing this guest review because the real schmuck is in the parking lot sucking dicks or something. I mean how tough is it to write a review every now and then? It’s not very tough, trust me! I just drank 3 PBR and I’m writing a fucking review right now, so I should know.

I hate downtown Wilmington. Okay, maybe you love it, fine, fuck you. Oh there’s like art and music and shit and its pretty and stuff. Blah blah blah, fuck all that noise. As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about downtown is getting shitlorded and pissing in public.

Recently I had some excess books I wanted to get rid of, so I forced myself to go to that land of abject loathing: downtown. I was gonna try to swap a couple boxes of old books at Old Books on Front Street for some store credit or a quick bathroom blow-jay. No-go on either count: the woman hiding underneath a pile of dusty books told me she had 3,000 books sitting around waiting to be sorted. Half of them were atop her very person at the time, or so it seemed.

I was thinking about going to Subway afterwards, but Firebelly blocked my way and the booze-vortex sucked me in. Thursday’s $2 PBR pint and $5 quesadilla specials were too much – I could not avoid this wonderful fate. Also I used to go to Firebelly constantly so there was the chance of a hookup on what already promised to be a cheap yet boozy lunch.

I don’t know why I got the beef version of this otherwise-excellent quesadilla. I don’t like Firebelly’s beef. It’s dry and it tastes stupid and it’s just kind of fucky all around. Their chicken’s often fucky too, and it costs extra. The steak is usually okay but it also costs extra. I really should’ve went with the veggie quesadilla, which itself is a bit shammy since it’s just sauteed onions and green peppers.

Even with the shoddy beef this quesadilla was pretty good. Everything else in it was good and the price is pretty compelling (on Thursdays). The PBR was your standard 16oz ‘pounder’ can – though I think sometimes it’s a 16oz draft. A fine deal at two bucks, so I had three. The mass of pseudo-Tex-Mexican barfood plus three pints was too much for my insides. Soon after returning to work I rapelorded the bathroom, in a glorious symphony of flatulence and shitulence. There was a line of people waiting outside the bathroom waiting to give me high fives. Or at least that’s what I assumed as I slapped them with my unwashed armfeet, or whatever they’re called.

This was not my favorite Firebelly lunch of all time, but it was still excellent in its own Firebelly sort of way. I love this place and always will. It’s tough to hate the bar where Steve Buscemi and Vince Vaughn got into a fight which resulted in Buscemi getting his neck fucking stabbed. That way outshines all the Kenny Powers scenes shot at Sh’boom Sh’booms, big time.
Firebelly Lounge on Urbanspoon

YoSake

27 Jan

Rating: 1 Unicorn

I’ve been wanting to try Yosake for quite some time. I’ve heard a lot of good things and I’m a huge fan of sushi. A friend surprised me with a gift certificate so away we went to the land of downtown.

My first impression after walking up the steps was that this place was weird. It had the vibe of an upscale restaurant and a crappy anime convention all in one. Just what I’ve always wanted. Since it had gingers on the wall I decided it was kinda cool and went about looking over the drinks menu. After all, that is the foundation of any good meal worth not remembering. I cruised through and saw something called the Sake-tini. Ok not exactly called that but their website isn’t entirely up to date so close enough. It lured me in with promises of ginger and cucumber; two of my favorite flavors. For $9 I figured it was probably a ripoff, but worst case it still contained booze. My fellow diner ordered PBR, because he was born with a higher IQ than I was.

The drink was around the size I expected, but I forgot it was sake based. I kind of hate sake. It’s wine, but it’s treated as liquor. It’s a goddamn novelty jip-off. The drink had a decent cuke flavor, but without the sweet burn of the hard stuff. Whatever, I chugged it and ordered the first course of Firecrotch Shrimp. Note: I decided to order item by item to get the largest and freshest sampling of their foodstuffs. Probably a dick move as far as servers are concerned, but I also took that into account with wait times. After a short wait this pile of shrimp arrived at the table.

My first thought was that this looked delicious. Then I took a bite. It was amazing. I was slightly let down by the heat since they were advertised as spicy, but the more I ate the more the heat built which is something I appreciate in dishes. I’m fairly certain the “Shanghai Sauce” consisted largely of sriracha and mayonnaise but who can find fault with that? No one except Hitler and Nickelback, that’s who. I’ve heard people rave about this appetizer and in this case the praise is justly placed. I wanted to ask for a spoon to scrap the bowl clean, but opted not to; occassionally I do try to act semi-civilized in public places. After getting halfway through shrimp heaven, I decided to order the Spicy crab dip.

I’m a fan of crab dips when they are decent. This was beyond decent. Even past good. I would say it wanders into awesome territory. The waitress came to check on us and I ordered a PBR for myself. The crab dip came with pita triangles and scallions on top. Scallions make everything better. The crab dip was your basic delicious version plus the added ginger and chili according to the menu. I’m going to take a flying leap of faith and assume that “chili” was once again sriracha. Surprisingly the pita ran out before the dip. About halfway through scromming the hell out of the dip the waitress brought over my PBR and I realized that I had completely forgotten I had ordered one. This may honestly be the first time a food was so good I forgot about the hooch. I ordered some more pita bread for the dip and a couple of sushi rolls to munch on while deciding upon dessert.

I ordered the Spicy Tuna and Shrimp Tempura rolls. We’ve all had good sushi, this was decent to good sushi, and well worth it, being on the specials menu. Next.

 After the sushi fest I asked for and received a dessert menu. I was torn between a Chocolate Menage A Trois and Peanut Butter and Chocolate Wontons with Coconut Ice Cream. Since I was reviewing, I went down the road less traveled. That was paved with ice cream. And this definitely did not disappoint in the entertainment department.

The peanut butter wontons were exactly that with chocolate chips stuffed in as well. The ice cream was probably my favorite part, to be fair. I offered my dining companion a wonton partly out of kindness, mostly out of fullness. They bit into it and discovered that one of our wontons was in fact shrimp and pork filled. While I appreciate a flavor forward dessert as much as the next faux foodie, I politely divulged this assumed mixup to our waitress. Both she and the presumed manager/owner apologized and took it off the bill. No biggie, a free sample of the shrork (shrimp pork) wontons and a good story to tell.

proof

All in all they should call this place “sriracha” since that’s were most of the dish’s charm seemed to be derived from. Everything I had was flavorful and worth the price, though that may be debatable if you take into account the loss of free downtown parking in a lot of areas recently. The service was friendly if a little hands-off, which may have been due to my ordering technique that night. I don’t mind hands-off waitressing. As long as my drink is full I don’t need to see you every five minutes. The orders all came out with a little bit more of a wait than expected, but the food was delicious and well worth it. Also, the place did seem to be fairly full especially for a Tuesday night. I would definitely go back and recommend this place to others as good food with an asian lean. I will probably dream of this place tonight. If only for the firecracker shrimp and crab dip which it’s worth noting are on a half-price specials list from 5pm-7pm. I mean this food was so good it made me forget I had ordered booze! And that kind of outrageous amnesia lives in Mythical Land with unicorns, hence this joint’s rating of one unicorn.
Yosake Downtown Sushi Lounge on Urbanspoon

Crow Hill

7 Nov

Rating: 6 Shrimp Tails

I’d been to Crow Hill twice before, and each time I’ve fallen a little further head over heels for the place. Going into this visit, I really wanted to attempt an unbiased take on everything.

That isn’t possible.

From the second I see the door I already feel the fatlove for this food burning in my stomach/heart. It might also be the warm, cozy atmosphere inside the restaurant. The  whole dining area is lit by a few low lights and the candles burning at each table. The place manages a rustic earthy charm without being condescending or hokey. It’s just nice  enough to make you feel as if you’re someplace special, but equally simple enough to feel homey. Also it’s hard to tell just how buzzed you are until you leave.

Described the place? Check. Now for the food:

The first thing I did once we were seated was attempt a ninja grab of the drinks menu. Unfortunately for me my fellow diner a)knows me too well b)is a fellow lush c)likes  thwarting anything I do…. just for the lulz. Doesnt really matter, I know the exact drink I want and only wanted to check if it was still on the menu. Weirdly enough it is, but under a different name. This drink has changed names 3 times (River Walk, Speculara, Equinox) which I find odd but as long as its there who am I to complain? Satisfied that my booze selection was still available, I order when the waitress shows up with water and marinated pickles in hand.

I will say, the first couple of times I was here they brought over the same marinated pickles but with absolutely NO explanation. Just set down a cute farmsy type jar of some weird pickle concoction. It’s a nice idea; it’s a little munch before the appetizer that takes up no stomach space and is quite tasty. I do very much appreciate that they actually explained the dish this time so it wasnt a guessing game of “its good but what the fuck is this?” The pickles managed to distract me for a minute before I began an anxious “where’s my drink” chant in my head and eagerly scanned the bar area constantly looking for our server with a tray of drinks in hand. I feel like this took more time than it could have, but the lack of alcohol may have affected my sense of time. After 5 hours (5 minutes) my drink finally arrives and upon first glance is everything I remembered and loved.

pictured: booze

Then I sipped it. The drink is a mixture of muddled cucumber, grapefruit bitters, gin (which i generally despise), and some other various ingredients. Normally it tastes slightly of each of these, creating a “summer in your mouth” crisp fresh flavor. This time around the grapefruit overpowered the other flavors. I am luckily a huge fan of grapefruit so I still enjoyed the cocktail, but I was very disappointed that at $9 a pop (in a martini glass) they couldn’t maintain consistency in their drinks. Oh well, good news was the alcohol was there and now I could focus on the eats. After a bit of discussion with my friend, we decided to go with the Crow Hill Deviled Eggs. Lump crabmeat, red onion, celery, and whole grain mustard vinaigrette (which i had on the smoked trout salad during a previous visit and loved) were enough to get me interested and when my companion, who hates hard-boiled eggs, was on board as well it was a done deal. For the main course I went with shrimp and grits; my buddy went with the burger cooked medium rare with cheddar and a fried egg added. After a very short wait, the eggs were brought out.

I am a HUGE fan of deviled eggs pretty much any way you prepare them, so I was on course to love this dish. The real test was my friend. After just one bite his eyes got big and he became a fan of deviled eggs. The crab was indeed lump and used generously. The yolk mixture was creamy and sweet which was perfect with the mustard vinaigrette. since I DID have a review to type, I bogarted three of the eggs leaving him with just that one taste of glory. To be fair, I did promise next time we came we’d order the same appetizer. We both picked at the field greens in the middle; rubbing them in the mustard and munching like rabbits waiting for our main courses.

Little back story on shrimp and grits: I have only had them once before at Elijah’s, and they were awful. So bad i barely touched them. The sauce was oily and bland, it seemed to just make everything a brown soggy mess. I like grits; I love shrimp, but after that first try I wasnt sure if this dish was for me. I was worried about regretting our decision when this was brought before me. It looked delicious. And it smelled even better. The last vestiges of doubt I had evaporated the second i put a bite in my mouth. It was perfectly seasoned, just spiced enough for a little kick of flavor without being overwhelming. I was in heaven. I loved the little cubes of fresh tomato, and looking at the picture now I remember there were mushrooms. I normally hate the texture of cooked mushrooms so me forgetting that says a lot. I immediately flagged down the next waitress that passed and asked for a spoon; a fork was not going to shovel this in fast enough. It came with a side of some butter sauce that I later found out to be Poblano Beurre Blanc. It was a nice touch but the grits being so good made it almost unnecessary. The dish was spot on and was more than I even hoped shrimp and grits could be. I have since been informed there are a few different types of shrimp and grits. I don’t care. In my mind there are two: Crow Hill, and everything else. The only complaint I have is in Gail Simmons fashion, that being the shrimp had tails on them. Yes it improves the presentation, but in a classy joint I’m not a fan of pulling the tails off a sauce covered prawn. And I’m damned sure not going to let that extra bite of shrimp get away. Yes, that’s the only complaint I could muster. It took quite a few bites before I could care what was on the other side of the table but eventually my nose wandered. The smell of a well cooked burger will only be held off for so long…

Cheddar and fried egg are what I always add, so I have had this same burger before. It is scrumptious and worth every penny. What I failed to remember was that he ordered it medium rare. This is what crow hill considers medium rare:

Wow. I was in glorious shock and disbelief. Just for the record: if you think beef shouldnt be pink when you eat it, go to McDonald’s. Or better yet, just don’t order beef because you don’t deserve it. The rarer the beef is, the happier I am. And I find it absolutely commendable that the cook staff actually cooked it to his request. I took a few bites to confirm what I already knew. This thing was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. They use Painted Hills beef, which is an all natural beef. Fun fact: They are apparently one of only three places on the East Coast to sell it. I’m no expert, and have no idea if this is part of the reason the beef is so tasty, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt. As far as we could tell the minimal salt and pepper was the only seasoning. For $10 ($13 for the burger as ordered), this may be the best burger in town. I thought the fries were just ok; my friend loved them. I’ve eaten more fresh fried french fries than I care to remember, so it’s always just meh for me. He liked the fact that most had a fair amount of skin on them. We contributed this to one of three things: either their potatoes are exceptionally small, these fries were from the bottom of the bucket, or they use the bigger (and mostly skin less) middle cut fries for their mashed potatoes. Either way, kudos on the good fries.

pictured: more booze

Somewhere in the middle of all this the waitress came over and asked if I’d like another drink. A fair question, given how uncharacteristically slow I had drunk my previous drink (it lasted longer than 5 minutes). I decided to try a pumpkin cocktail that was featured on the drink menu. I am a fan of spiced pumpkin flavors; given the chance I’ll always try anything pumpkin on a menu. The outside rim was cinnamon sugar, and from there on I couldn’t really describe the flavors. It was drinkable and good, but wasnt the pumpkin punch I was looking for. This is something I’ve had happen at other eateries, maybe its a new culinary trend? If so, foodies are idiots. Give me the sugary spicy fake pumpkin flavor any day. Have you ever HAD fresh pumpkin? Tastes like squash. AKA nothing. In light of this thought, maybe it was spot on. Anywho, the drink had booze in it, so I was happy.

In the name of the review I decided we should have a dessert, so as to present a full meal. And since I talked my non-egg loving friend into the deviled eggs, I conceded the apple cobbler though I hate cooked apples. When it arrived I must admit, pretty cute presentation.

I wasn’t a fan, but in all fairness I didn’t expect to be. I’m not a lover of the texture of cooked apple. I’m not the type of person to rip something just because I don’t like it (not when its Crow Hill anyways) so I’ll rely on my friend to give an unbiased assessment of the quality of apple cobbler. His response: “excellent, and the ice cream was very good, too.” Though he did follow that up with, “wait who is writing this fucking review BITCH!!!! YOU BIIIITCH!” so take it as you will. The ice cream. Oh the ice cream. I’m surprised he got even a bite. I didn’t like the cobbler, so I scrommed the hell out of the frozen dairy ball. It was Kilwins vanilla if im not mistaken, and I loved it. I did also enjoy getting little splashes of the cobbler “juice” on it. I probably would’ve enjoyed another dessert more, but in all actuality I was so full from the grits and eggs that I’m glad I didn’t eat much.

As far as rating Crow Hill, that’s easy. When I saw shrimp and grits on the menu at Crow Hill, I took a chance. I hate cooked apples yet I ordered the apple cobbler. And that’s exactly what a great restaurant should be: a place that gives you enough trust in it to branch out and try something new. Or retry something you had previously hated. After a few meals at Crow Hill, they have earned that trust and I would never hesitate to order anything off their menu. That’s something to respect in a place and for that reason I’m forced to judge them by how many shrimp tails were left on my plate that I wanted to suck clean.

(all of them)

Crow Hill on Urbanspoon