Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe

This was funny, because my wife and kids were originally sitting in the shade at a nice table in Kirkwood, with the intention of going into Kaldi's and picking some great tasting food. I hear that the food is great and while I only have tried a scone and some cookies, I was eager to try some more umami-related food. I was not initially impressed with their menu. Nothing against Kaldi's, really. But when I was looking for something more than just a veggie burger or spinach turkey sandwich.

So, I went to Pickleman's, next door. I liked the way it looked on the inside and found myself ordering some addictively good sandwiches for my sons: the Pizza Guy. The Pizza Guy is a sandwich where it has tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni on a bread that is then rolled through the oven. Not only does it look like someone folded over a a pizza slice, but it tastes, just like pizza. An awesome 3 out of 5 for me.

I looked around and wanted to have an adventure. I decided to get me one of their inventions. I chose the Pickleman's Italian Club, minus the cheese. I loved it, it was delicious and a good sized sandwich.

This was a really good sandwich. I would recommend this in an instant. An easy 4 out of 5 for me.

So, there you have it. If you are in Kirkwood and looking for a good meal, go to Pickleman's.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The best of Bravo!

Last Saturday night, my wife and I joined some friends for a night out.  We went, to Bravo, in West County, and was a time to erase all previous visit experiences.  There was a lot of different variables this time, that may have helped make the whole event better than previous ones.  First of all, it was in the evening, it was a nice night, and we had outdoor seating.  Then a few minutes after being sat, the Manager, Dan, came by and introduced himself to us.  That is a first and marks a great restaurant knowing that the Manager cares about the customers enough to at least say "hi" or introduce himself.  When I worked at Buffets Inc, so long ago, one of the rules we had as a Manager was called "The 6 foot rule."  The idea behind this rule, was that if you are within 6 feet of someone, say "hi" or ask "how are you today?"  It wasn't a big deal, but just having a Manager talk to you at least once shows that if you did need anything, he would help out.

So, as we were starting to look the menu over, we had perhaps the most knowledgeable and friendly waitress watching our table.  She was very friendly, gave us her favorite items on the menu, mentioned that she had just about tried everything on it and was overall, the kind of service that you expect in a super and expensive dining setting.

So, a sign of a great service staff is how far they are willing to go to help someone.  In this case, my wife didn't know which type of wine to get, so the waitress brought out 4 samples.

After we had made our selections, we ordered an appetizer: fried calamari.
They were good and soft, not too chewy like they are most of the time.  The spicy white sauce went well with them.  I'd give them a 3 out of 5.

I ordered the

Chicken Fra Diavolo Campanelle

Sauteed shrimp or chicken tossed in a spicy tomato cream sauce with bell shaped campanelle pasta.

Sounds good, right?  It was very good, no problems with anything on the dish at all, an easy 4 out of 5 stars.

My wife ordered the 

Citrus Crusted Grilled Mahi Mahi*

Topped with a zesty citrus crust served with sauteed fresh vegetables, farro, orzo and lemon butter sauce.

Now, to be fair, my wife did say that it was cooked perfectly and had great flavor, but only wished that it had more citrus flavor to it.  She gave it a 3 out of 5.

Here is the thing, the amount of kindness and expertness that we had at this dinner, made up and made us forget about past visits.  From the moment we walked in, there was nothing but attention on us, and the other customers.  I don't really don't know what else to add here, everything about this visit to Bravo was great.  No complaints.  Now, I would recommend that anyone in the area, go there some night when you want a nice and quiet meal on a nice evening.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hey everyone, I've hit it big, sorta.... has agreed to make a new section just for my blog and writings.  Check it out at:

Thursday, July 26, 2012


This past week, I have had a great opportunity.  I had the VP of Web Operations at, enjoy my blog so much that he wished to create a whole new section on the site and allow me to write for it.  So, I wrote an introduction article and thought I'd see how it goes for a few weeks, which is what they wanted me to do as well.  What struck me immediately, was the amount of people who question, doubt and call "Fraud!". 

I do like to write and I do like to eat and I do like to cook.  One of the things that I'm not a huge fan of, us when people write about topics that they haven't really experienced themselves.  What I mean is this:  I call myself a credible writer for restaurant reviews, having some fundamental knowledge on how a restaurant works and should be run. I also think I am capable of writing about cooking and other foods, as I am also an avid cook and experiment a lot with various ingredients.  I've worked with food, studied food and eat food.  I think this makes me capable of lending some truthfulness to writing about food. 

Are the best baseball writers merely fans?  I would say the best sports writers are those who have at least tried the sport at some time; not even professionally.  I don't know enough about football to write about it. (Truth be told.)  But still, you don't see me writing about it.

I have heard from a lot of people who think their idea of reviewing a restaurant is saying whether it was "good" or "terrible" and that's it.  These same people only have experience eating food as their wife or girlfriend do all of the cooking and their idea of fine dining is Hooters. 

While some may not believe me, when I explain about bad service at restaurants like 1111 Mississippi or bad food at Johnny's Pizza, what matters to me, is that I try to show some evidence, be it through photos or just other witnesses with me.  I try to make my posts seem credible.  I am not being paid or given a free meal to tell the world about how great the food is somewhere when I know it really isn't.

With that off my chest, I will say this, I don't review bars.  The food at a place like BoBeck's is probably no different than the bar food at Show Me's.  Most bars in St. Louis serve the same type of items and there is a minimum amount of difference.  I know you certainly can't review the beers, well you can, but on what factors?  This beer is 30 cents cheaper here than there?  Some things are the same.  Beers tend to be the same.  A Bud Light at Growlers is the same as a Bud Light at Top Shooters.  You can't really say one is better than another.  So, the only thing you can look at then, is the food quality, taste and service.  And even then, a regular burger at one place, even with a different taste, may still only be as good as a regular burger at another place.  So, which bar is better?  I would say that there are close to 5,000 bars just in st. louis, so checking each and every one would be impossible. 

So, there you have it.  My ranting.  Feel free to email or leave comments.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

thanks for hanging on

Thanks everyone for hanging on here.  I have had a crazy week.  A great site catering to the younger generation of St. Louis, has picked me up as the sole writer for their STL Eats section.  They never have had a writer about food in st. louis yet and the VP of the site loves tasty-magazine and he picked me up.  I have been writing on there.  He only wants me to focus on stl though, so if there is something I write about that doesn't have business in st. louis, then I'll put it on here and still post something on there.   I can write two separate things, right?

This past weekend, my family went to Chicago for business and while there, we were able to eat at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill and go to another restaurant and order an 8 pound burger.  I will have pictures in a post next week and we are all set.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Again with the Bravo?

Yes, I did go to Bravo! again. The thing is with this restaurant, is that because it is part of a mall that we visit at least once a month, this restaurant becomes one of the options of places where my family and I can eat. If you have been reading my posts, you would have noticed that I have been there at least twice so far. The first time, I just had my wife and I and we had great service and the food was good. The second time we went, the food was bad and the service was horrible. We also had our kids along on that second time. We couldn't get into CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) and so we went to Bravo! again. I have to say though, counting this review, Bravo! is now 1 for 2; one win and 2 losses.

If this is your first time reading about this place, it is like a more fancy Olive Garden. They claim to have better or more authentic Italian food and they do have an open kitchen, but the service lacks. My two kids and my wife show up, ask for a spot and are asked to follow the hostess to the very back of the restaurant, where there are some booths available. She first tried to sit us in a booth, that was against a small wall and on the other side of a wall was a party in the banquet room, complete with presents waiting for opening on this small wall. The first thing as asked if we could move booths. I don't know what she was thinking, but if you take any young child and place them next to a wrapped present, it is nigh impossible having them not trying to open them. Not to mention that the booth was behind a large table, with at least 10 people sitting there, which I hate, because you feel so cramped.

We got a booth further down and as we sat, almost immediately, the waiter was on us, asking if we were ready. We told him what drinks we wanted and ordered for the kids, in hopes that their order gets in and moving along so they don't starve. Within minutes, a different server arrived with the food for our kids, which was great. But he didn't take our order. Instead I watched our server tend to the large party behind the wall. Here's a tip: if you have a large party in your section, then please do not sit anyone else in your section. My wife ad I normally tip the regular 15% but if the food is good and service good, we do 20%. Well, the server seemed that he was willing to sacrifice us and not care about us, so he could get the fattest tip from the party. Who cares about us, right? So, we wait and wait and wait and someone comes by and brings us a second basket of bread and we wait and wait. 10 minutes goes by and the waiter hasn't been back to our table to take our order. My kids are complaining about being full, and half of their food is gone. So, we are waiting and I'm looking all over, from our seat, for our waiter. Then I spot him: he is over at the other end of the restaurant, helping the bar-tender dry glasses and chatting with her.

So, the hostess comes by our booth, as she finished seating someone and then walks back to her station. I stop her and ask her: "our waiter has been sitting over there at the bar for almost 10 minutes now, could you please let him know that we have been waiting here to order." She goes back, tells him and he looks back at us, and finishes a few more glasses. Then he comes over like nothing happened. He takes our order. My wife wanted a salad with some lobster bisque soup. I picked the Chianti braised beef ravioli. I was a bit disappointed by the time the food came, a mere 10 minutes later.

Well, what did my food look like?

This is my ravioli, and let me say that it wasn't worth $10.75. The ravioli was good, the large amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top, over-did the flavor of the beef. The orange chunks are the diced pieces of sweet potato that have been in a very rich and bad tasty cream sauce. The sweet potato, tasted off, as in, rotten, nasty, like trash, and it smelled fresh. It was the combination of the potato and that sauce that made it bad. I'd like to give this dish a 2 out of 5.

My wife's salad and soup was here:
My wife thought it was okay as well. But not that great, I'd say it looked like a 3 out of 5 for her.

What does this mean for this time>? Well, this means that out of 3 visits, we have had two bad ones. Will we return? Probably not now. In fact, we may try to actively avoid it now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why haven't you been here yet???

Ok, from a completely objective point of view, you have to go to Tokyo Sushi, on Lindbergh, in St. Louis.  My wife and I have been there many, many times and we have NEVER had anything bad.  They are super friendly, will fix any issue without hesitation and will help you out.  I know we have been going there for many years: from my kids both in high chairs and car seats to using their own chairs and working on chop sticks.  This place is always a winner and if you haven't been there yet, then what are you waiting for?

We normally sit at the bar, because I enjoy watching the chefs prepare the sushi.  (It really is an art form.)  So, we go and watch and almost always have the same server; Hugo, I believe his name is, or at least that is what I think he signed our bill as.

I normally always order the chicken or steak teryaki and this time did something different by selecting the yaki soba noodles with chicken.  Seems like a good idea and this is the giant plate that came out.
This is a large plate of food.  It was enough food for me to eat half of it, take it home, and then give the second half to my kids for their dinner.  It is a good amount for food for a really good price.  Not to mention that it was delicious.  I would give them stars on my scale but since we have been there so many times and they are perfect every time, they don't get counted, just 5/5 every time.

My wife picked up a sashimi sampler and this is what it looked like:

So, go here now:
I can't say enough good things about this.