Friday, February 8, 2008

Five Guys Burgers & Fries - Burgers & French Fries - Reisterstown, MD

It's no secret that I've been a burger lover for a long, long time. A good, juicy burger really holds a special place in my heart. So simple, yet so satisfying. Knowing that, my friends back in Baltimore have been dying to take me to a new burger joint that opened up a little after my wife and I made the move out West. We've been back to visit several times since we moved, but the trips have always been very short (usually a long weekend) and it just wasn't in the cards to make it to everywhere I wanted to eat while we were there. Luckily, during our most recent trip back for Christmas, we had some spare time (took a week off from work) to dedicate to foodie endeavors. Five Guys Burgers and Fries was a must-have stop so I could try what my friends had all been calling, "The Best Burger in Baltimore" for the past year or so.

A quick look at the Five Guys website reveals several of the reviews of the Five Guys burger. Phrases such as "Voted #1 Burger" and "Reader's choice burger" seem to be quite popular in the short list of reviews, etc. Interesting. Honestly, I don't really trust the reviews of the magazines and so-called experts so i'll be the judge of that.

The menu is pretty simple (a good thing). You have your choice from a short list of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs with various toppings. I ordered a Bacon Cheeseburger(medium rare of course!) on the recommendation of a friend. He swears they have the best bacon. I also got a side of Five Guys Fries and a drink (Barq's Rootbeer). After a short wait, my number was called and I was ready to sink my teeth into "Baltimore's Best Burger". The first bite was greeted with a nice healthy "crunch" after my teeth broke through the bun. It wasn't the crunch from some crisp lettuce, it was the crunch that can only come from some nice, thick and crispy bacon. Mmm...Bacon. The meat was pretty juicy and tender, but what really made it for me was, as my friend had predicted, the Bacon. This was the bacon of all bacon for cheeseburger joints. For some reason though, the bacon didn't show up in my crappy, taken with my phone, pics. This is just affirmation of my need for a nice Digital SLR for my foodie adventures!

So was it Baltimore's Best Burger? Well, living in SoCal, I'm a little out of the loop with burgers in Baltimore but based on my previous experience with burger joints in Baltimore (and I've eaten A LOT of burgers over the years) i'd have to agree. Was it the best burger i've ever had? Definitely not. For now, that title goes to Teddy's Bigger Burgers in Honolulu, Hawaii but unfortunately that was before I started this blog and started taking pics of all my food adventures. Oh well, I guess i'll just have to make another trip out for some surf and burgers just for the sake of writing a blog post (now THAT'S a good excuse for a trip!).
Anyway, if you happen to be near a Five Guys Burgers and Fries definitely give it a try. I'd highly recommend the Bacon Cheeseburger just for the bacon alone. Can't go wrong with thick, crispy bacon!

Five Guys Burgers & Fries
11708 Reisterstown Road
Reisterstown, MD 21136

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street NYC - New York Style Pizza - Santa Monica, CA

Being a native East Coaster, I have come to notice that there are certain city specific foods that just aren't available here on the left coast. Well, it's not that they're not represented at all; it's that they're just not represented well. The first things that come to mind are Philadelphia Cheesesteaks (Pat's is KING in my book!), Buffalo Wings, and of course New York Style Pizza. In the 2 years that i've lived in SoCal i've tried several places that advertise that they make an authentic New York Style Pizza but they've all fallen short, despite having owners that were themselves Native New Yorkers. What's up with that? I had all but given up on the idea of finding an authentic slice of New York Style Pizza here in California and was starting to think that maybe there really was something in the water that just made everything taste different here. That is, until Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street opened up shop in Santa Monica.

In my younger years, I spent many a late night out and about in New York City. While hangin out with the P.I.C. boys after a great show at Arlene's Grocery on the Lower East Side, there's nothing that satisfies that late night, drunken hunger like a good slice of New York Pizza. What really differentiates New York Pizza from other pizzas is the thin and crispy crust and the large, foldable slices. You can usually get toppings if you wish, but for me the true NY pizza experience is had with the "plain" version...just straight sauce and cheese. I've tried it with toppings added (and I usually LOVE toppings on pizza, especially the meats) but for NY Pizza plain is the way to go. There's something about the purity of just sauce and cheese that fits perfectly with the NY style crust. I think it's the fact that the crust is thin, and adding toppings has a tendency of overpowering the flavor of the crust. It's all about balance, really.

When my wife told me another NY Pizza joint had opened up shop in Santa Monica, I was a bit apprehensive. Many have tried, and so far all have failed at making an authentic NY Style Pizza here in California so what would make this place any different? One fine SoCal afternoon, I pushed the apprehension aside and my wife and I made the small trek up to Santa Monica from the South Bay to meet one of our foodie friends (who happens to be a native East Coaster as well) at Joe's Pizza. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised and the short trip was well worth it. We ordered a large pie (plain of course!) and some drinks. The smell in the place was fantastic, and the pizza definitely didn't disappoint. The hand-tossed crust was thin and perfectly crispy. The slices were nicely sized an the sauce and cheese tasted fresh and tasty. I wouldn't say it's 100% authentic to the pizza found on the streets of New York City but it's close, damn close. Probably as close as you're ever going to get being over 3000 miles away from the real deal. So, to any of you transplanted Native New Yorkers looking for a taste of home, or any one else looking for a taste of the Big Apple, check out Joe's Pizza. It's worth a try.

Now, for the negatives. Being in the touristy part of Santa Monica, parking is limited. The place is also really small and definitely fits the description of a "joint". There's only a few inside and outside tables so pray that when you go it's not busy. Or, you can order a pie and take it to go but honestly the pizza is best eaten when fresh out of the oven so you might lose a little something if you take it to go.

Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street NYC
111 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Pictoral "ratings" added...

I had stated in one of my first posts on this blog that I wasn't going to grade restaurants on some kind of numbering scale. Well, I lied...sort of. It's not a numbering scale but I just decided to add a little pictoral representation of my thoughts on each restaurant. I thought it would be nice to have a visual representation of my opinion so that at a glance, you the reader could get a feel for the opinion expressed without necessarily having to read the whole post. Of course, you're gonna want to read the entire post for the juicy details but it gives you a bit of a primer for what to expect. Here's the key to my new pictoral grading system...

- Two thumbs up. Places that get the double thumbs are well worth the trip from any distance, both near or far. They're the places and foods that light up my taste buds; the places, in my opinion, that every person should experience at least once in their lifetime. Preferably multiple times. The more times the better.

- One thumb up. Places that get the one thumb treatment are places that definitely get my approval. They're the places that I think are worth trying and I would definitely go back to in a heartbeat.

- This is my "Ehhhh" pic. The "Ehhhh" pic means that I was uninspired by the food. It means that it left the tastebuds wanting for something more. The food didn't really do anything for me other than fill my belly. I most likely wouldn't go back to the "Ehhhh" places unless I just happened to be in the area and there wasn't really anything else to eat in the area.

- This is the "Grrrr" pic. Getting the "Grrrr" pic means that I was angry at the end of the meal. Not only angry that I wasted the time and money on unworthy food, but more importantly, angry that I wasted a meal. That meal could have been spent eating something good and tasty and I can never get that meal back. Grrrr...

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