Category Archives: Restaurants

Carrot Steak, Anyone?


Carrots, Restaurant Hospitality said on June 1, are getting “a reboot” – as both a center-of-plate dish and in an assortment of ways as ‘sides’. The push to find new, markedly different ways to employ the brightest-colored of root vegetables comes, the magazine noted, as such other oft-neglected or underutilized vegetables as cauliflower and celery find their way into professional kitchens from one side of the US to the other – and elsewhere, as well.

Regarding carrots, the magazine went on, “Anyone who thinks carrots don’t belong in the center of the plate hasn’t seen the dramatic Carrot Steak at Detroit’s Lady of the House, one of the new breed of casual restaurants reviving that city’s dining scene. Beautifully simple, the “steak” is sauced with both Hollandaise and pesto.”

In New York City, the author went on, Dirt Candy restaurant “has won raves for its creative, vegetable-based cuisine. The Carrot Slider there features a double dose of carrots since it’s served on a carrot bun.”

The Dirt Candy folks are something else: Another of their offerings is …


Why have fries when you can have these instead? Salt-roasted beets fried in a corn-meal batter and served with our Thai green curry sauce that tastes like Thailand’s version of ranch dressing, it’s snack food elevated to the level of a street drug: totally addictive.”

Other carroty formulations were cited in San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, restaurants.

The article went on to note that, because many college students are vegetarians or vegans, vegetable-based cuisines, often creatively featuring carrots, are increasingly popular at campus dining facilities. And bartenders, too, are getting into the carrots-as-an-ingredient game.

Possibly anticipating a jump from professional kitchens to household, Walmart – at least my local one – just substantially increased the amount of produce space devoted to carrots.

As Bugs Bunny was wont to say, “What’s up, Doc?”


McDonald’s Pushes Produce In New Sandwich Range

mcDonald's Pushes Produce in New Sandiches

McDonald’s New Sandwiches

The fast food giant has beefed, er, greened up its menu – in select locations, so far – with a range of Signature Crafted ™ sandwiches. They feature avocado, lettuce, onions and tomatoes in various combination, the And Now You Know produce news website has reported.

According to a press release, the three new recipes, all of which are customizable by protein and bun, include the following:

Pico Guacamole

This combination of 100% Hass avocado guacamole, freshly prepared Pico de Gallo, crisp leaf lettuce, white cheddar cheese, and creamy buttermilk ranch sauce made with real buttermilk and sour cream blended with shallots, garlic, and spices will have your mouth watering. And for the extra produce-y spin on top, each sandwich is served with a fresh lime wedge.

Sweet BBQ Bacon:

Sweet BBQ meets savory, grilled onions, thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, creamy white cheddar, and BBQ sauce, all topped with another helping of onions—this time golden and crispy.

Maple Bacon Dijon

Sweet and savory join together here again, with grilled onions, thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon with sweet maple seasoning, white cheddar, crisp leaf lettuce, and a creamy Dijon sauce.

While McDonald’s keeps specifics of their produce sourcing under wraps, the company points to a few different locales for this new sandwich line—mainly California, working with places like Salinas and Yuma for its lettuce and other items.

“We source all the lettuce for our sandwiches and salads from Salinas Valley in California during the summer, and Yuma, Arizona during the winter from farms.

Tiffany Briggs, McDonald’s Communications Supervisor told ANYN’s Melissa De Leon via email,”This is a national menu item available in our 14,000+ restaurants and wanted consumers to be aware of where our produce comes from. As a side note, McDonald’s restaurants receive produce 2-3 times each week.”

A Review: Mobile AL Restaurant Demos Customer Service As It Should Be




Sadly, this is not a trend: A restaurant where team members actually work as a team, sharing responsibilities for getting dishes to tables, making customers feel important, helping, quietly, without seeming to do anything out of the ordinary, to see tables are promptly cleared and that, overall, the ebb and flow of a meal period flows without incident; with customers none the wiser that they are enjoying an unusually superb example of what good customer service is supposed to be about.

We witnessed that on Friday, March 10, at Felix’s Fish Camp, an outstanding seafood-dispensing establishment in Mobile AL. Having driven there from New Orleans, a couple of hours and a bit away, we arrived somewhat later than planned. We were promised we’d be seated in five minutes. It took less than four for our ‘caller device’ to vibrate, and our adventure was underway.

Courtney seated us, at close to 1 pm., at a table with clear views from both seats (I had to turn a bit to take in the totality of the view over the Gulf of Mexico shallows, with shore birds busily securing feasts of their own; My wife with had the entire panorama laid out before her.) If you’re fortunate, you might also see alligators moving about or nesting in the shore side reeds and grasses.

Drinks were ordered (a glass of pino grigio for me, a ‘fancy’, foamy concoction for her) , then orders were taken – a cup of crab soup for me, followed by the been-waiting-all-week-for boiled jumbo Gulf shrimp; a taco specialty for her.

Already, I was looking around, observing, having been attracted by a parade of servers heading for a table just beyond us. Fully coordinated, smooth as you’d wish, food-to-table service. I watched this display of in-snych service several times, as a silent row of servers slid between tables toward their destination then, as quietly and unobtrusively, slip away.


I happened to be facing the dining room entrance, and was intrigued to note a staging area set up just beyond that entrance way. Orders were delivered from the kitchen to a large table there, to be dispensed to servers close to their stations, and well away from the kitchen itself, where their presence, as is often the case in commercial kitchens, is something to be endured by cooks and their assistants, but only grudgingly tolerated. The staging station eliminates that issue, helping back-of-the-house operations run smoother, with fewer distractions.

The staging station also enables the multi-server food-to-table operation so successfully employed by Felix’s. This system also reduces the apparent to-ing-and-fro-ing of wait staff, trimming – both apparently and in fact – traffic in the dining room, and enhancing, in the process, clients’ dining experience.

This was, you’ll recall, a Friday afternoon in early March – a March when, in fact, spring sprung early, and the leaves were out and the temps were up (into the upper ’60’s). Still, it was a weekday.

When a restaurant, even one so ideally positioned as this one, with a local reputation beyond repute, keeps turning lunch-period tables well beyond 2 pm, maintaining a near-full dining room at a time when most competitors’ kitchen staff are on break and the wait staff count is shrinking, you know the place is doing something right.

Peeling and consuming fresh-boiled shrimp is a messy business. By the time I (willingly) fought my way to the end of my very generous portion, my large cloth napkin was a mess, as were my hands. Two soapy hand-washes later, I’d largely dealt with the messy hands issue. Meanwhile, Courtney had dealt with the messy napkin one by providing, where my shrimp-shell bowl so recently sat, a fresh one.

But though we had to decline dessert, Felix’s wasn’t through with us.

While our arrival hadn’t been at a terribly busy time, there was a more or less steady flow of people presenting to the hostess station. I’m guessing she dealt with no fewer than 50 people between the time we entered and the time we departed. Yet, somehow, she was able to greet my wife by name as we did so! A crowning touch on a royal experience.

The restaurant’s website gives no indication of how long Felix’s Fish Camp has been in business. It’s undoubtedly been in place for many decades. But it doesn’t take those factors for granted, nor does in treat lightly the fact that its generations-spanning clientele was (and still is being) acquired one customer at a time.

The reviews on the website say it all – or almost all: To them, though, I add: Despite living nearly 800 miles from Mobile and Felix’s, I’d seriously consider taking a Thursday-to-Tuesday break to twice endure a long road trip just to enjoy the food and the atmosphere there.

Applebee’s, IHOP Join Forces on New Detroit Eatery


DineEquity, the owner of both the Applebee’s and IHOP franchises has agreed to a franchisee’s plan to open a restaurant offering IHOP’s breakfast-oriented menu in the morning and Applebee’s evolving menu – their focus will be more steak-focused – the rest of the day. DineEquity also suggested in a press release that the new place, which will be in General Motors’ Renaissance Center development in Detroit, may feature a bar – a key Applebee’s profit center.

The new facility – construction is due to start in April – will occupy 12,000 sq ft and will seat 300. It will be run by Livonia, MI-based Team Schostak Family Restaurants, a franchisee of Applebee’s, Del Taco and Mod Pizza. This will be Team Schostak’s first project with IHOP.

DineEquity has spend more than $70 million in its attempts to turn around the fortunes of Applebee’s, which, no doubt because it hadn’t innovated or changed – upgraded itself – in any significant way for years – started losing the public’s attention half a decade or so ago. My family (my then-wife and I) went to one fairly regularly for a while when we first moved to Virginia, in 2011, but then… it got boring. We went a couple of more times, and noticed on each occasion that there was less traffic than before. So we weren’t the only ones becoming disappointed/disengaged from the franchise.

One of the most exciting things DineEquity has done as part of its turn-round effort is to install wood fire grills, and spend a lot of time training their cooks to work differently. A big ad campaign – launched last summer in California, where a lot of emphasis was put on wood fire grills being used to give salads “a smokey twist” – is expected to draw former and new customers in.

Hmm, I’ve never had a smokey salad. ‘Might be worth a try; And I’m always up for a wood fire-grilled steak!

McDonald’s To Test Delivering Via UberEats


McDonald’s is planning to test deliveries via UberEats in three Florida markets starting in late January, The Chicago Tribune reported a few days ago.

Though a person close to plan said the deal linking McDonald’s and UberEats hadn’t been signed asa of last week, The Trib said McDolnald’s has said that it is intended to include some 200 restaurants in the Orlando, Tampa, and Miami markets.  The paper said UberEats lets customers order online or through its app, anda an Uber “Courier” deliveries the food.

In the case of McDonald’s – which already delivers through such third-party companies as DoorDash and Postmates – the Uber fee is said to be set at $5, lower than the delivery and service fees of the other delivery service McDonald’s is using.

McDonald’s also is planning to roll out a mobile order and pay service next  year, and it is spending considerable sums upgrading its restaurants and introducing kiosk ordering systems and bluetooth-enabled table service.

The Trib article noted that the world’s largest burger chain presently does two-thirds of its business via drive-thrus, and several tweeks have been introduced to them to speed up service to drivers.mcdonalds_sign

Nationally, Restaurants Are Hurting; In Some Rural Areas, Not So Much


Are you eating out less than you did a while back? Are you, when you do eat out, going to smaller eateries? If so, you are in sync with a growing number of Americans, according to millions of restaurant tabs analyzed by American Express and the latest retail sales report on restaurant sales. Both those reports were reported by (and here).

The thinking at both Amex and BI is that this shift reflects the reality that it’s getting cheaper to eat and home and more expensive to eat out.

Aside from shifts in ingredient costs, something else that’s pushing up the cost of eating out in some locations is one (or more) increases in meal tax. Example: We yesterday bought two chicken dinners to go at Kroger. One was $3.99, the other was $5.99. The Campbell County tax amounted to $1.18 – more than 10.25% of the cost of the food!

I’ve noticed, recently, on a couple of observational visits to a local Italian restaurant that, oddly, the place was staffed with double the number of servers the evening’s traffic justified. That’s probably part of the reason why that restaurant has maintained its prices while at least one other dropped its, in line with lower ingredient cost and lower staff costs, as fewer were being kept on or assigned shifts on evenings when traffic tends to be slow.

The slowdown in business in restaurants is definitely hitting large establishments hardest, to the extent that a number of them in high-priced New York City have closed. Rental costs have been rising rapidly there, and that is affecting the housing as well as the restaurant market: You’re liable to pay $25,000-$30,000 a month for a 5,000 sq. ft. (464.5 sq. m.) That doesn’t actually sound too bad, if your average meal ticket is $15, because at that price, figuring your rent at 25% of your overhead, you have to sell “only” 267 meals daily to hit your $120,000 monthly “nut” for rent and the other 75% of your overhead.

Around here (in a small town in central Virginia), you can rent 6000 sq ft. (557.4 sq m) for as little as (or even less than) $72,000 a year. That would put the monthly rental cost for your small restaurant at $6,000. As little as $200 a day walking in the door will cover that. But keep in mind, your total “nut” for the rent/lease plus the other 75% of your overhead will run to $24,000 a year. Break that down to your monthly/weekly/daily need, and you’ll still see a pretty reasonable number.

What kind of cuisine will you offer? What do you plan to call the place?

Oh, one more thing: The sit-down restaurants around here aren’t hurting as much those in some places, in part because there’s nothing to do around here, when you want to go out, except go to one of the local restaurants!