Burger Bar & Bistro (SONO) – Train Goes off the Rails

DSC_0006Burger Bar & Bistro is located across the alley from the SONO theater multiplex on North Main Street. Parking is very convenient behind the theatre and BBB offers bar service, a dining room, plus outdoor seating. On one of the first colder days of the year I went for a burger, since others have told me they were excellent.

DSC_0001Each weekday from 11-4 BBB offers “$9 Lunchbox combos” each available in 10 minutes. Choices include a ¼-pound cheeseburger; a chili dog; a meatloaf sandwich; a tuna salad sandwich; a ¼-rack of ribs; a veggie wrap or 3 scrambled eggs, each served with fries and a choice of a soda or a PBR. Given my experience, this 10-minute guarantee is a must option.

DSC_0003I ordered my traditional bacon cheeseburger, medium-rare and a side of fries. I sat on one of the high top tables in the bar with my back to the window and I would recommend bringing a sweater or jacket as the windows are not the most efficient and it was quite cold.

DSC_0007After a 20-minute wait my burger finally arrived. In addition to the burger and fries the plate included a mound of chipotle chips and a pickle wedge. I cut the burger in half and understood why the wait was so long…it was cooked beyond well-done and must have been on the griddle for the entire 20 minutes. I called the hostess over, showed her the burger and told her I did not have another 20 minutes to wait. She said she would take care of it.

A few minutes later the server approached the table and told me that he thought I ordered it medium-well. I also told him I did not have 20 minutes to wait for another burger. Ten minutes passed…nothing. The bartender approached and told me “it is almost ready.” I told him that if was not at the table in 2 minutes I would have to leave. Five minutes later, I started to put on my coat and the hostess saw me and mouthed, “it is almost ready.” I could not wait any longer. As I was approaching the front door to exit the bartender raced out of the kitchen with a brown bag and handed me a bag that contained a Styrofoam clam-shell. His parting words after handing me the bag, “We are not charging you for this.” I reached into the bag and opened the Styrofoam container…it contained a cheeseburger, no bacon, no fries…no thanks.

Things happen and when they occur you try to correct them and be honest with the customer. By continually telling me it was almost done, it gave false expectations, and in the end, the bartender’s dismissive attitude was the last straw. Burger Bar and Bistro is now on my Do Not Return list…there are too many options in the area to return.

58 N Main St. Norwalk, CT 06854

Burger Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Return to JAX – Keeps Getting Better

Pulled Pork BLMy second visit to JAX started with more confusion. As much as I convinced myself at the end of my first visit that the next sandwich would be “The Che,” “The Chicken and Waffle” or “The Spread” when I stared at the chalkboard I wanted everything. I was finally pulled to the register by the “Smoked Pulled Pork” and ordered. The menu described this sandwich as 16hr pork, high brow slaw, house Q, topped with Alton Brown’s Koolickles (Dill pickles brined in Kool-Aid) on a Portuguese roll. As I waited, I ogled at OPF (that’s “Other People’s Food”) and saw a variety of sandwiches that I absolutely needed to try on subsequent visits. Each was large, well-constructed and looked absolutely delicious.

My Pulled Pork arrived and it was the same size as my Cuban from the first visit, and almost looked like its twin sibling. The slow-cooked pork…it was outstanding, overly tender; rich in flavor and could easily stand on its own as a platter. The other ingredients elevated the pork…the slaw delivered just a touch of background tartness, the sauce added and increased level of spiciness and then the Koolickles kicked in with an interesting grouping of sweet-sour. All of this deliciousness was encased in a wonderful roll. The combination delivered a perfect balance of smoky, sweet, spicy, sour, savory…absolutely wonderful.

To rewind to my first visit, I ordered the “Cubano,” with Black Forest ham, pulled pork, Swiss, house pickles and creamy house mustard, served on a pressed Cuban roll. It was previously a challenge finding a great Cubano in the area, and Jax’s rendition was delicious. My first bite was a mouth-watering explosion of flavors. A full description of this phenomenal combo can be found at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2014/10/19/jax-co-opens-in-sono-from-the-owners-of-mamas-boy-breakfast.html

I cannot wait to return to JAX. For the next few visits I will continue to work my way through more sandwiches…is “The Che,” “The Chicken and Waffle” or “The Spread” up next? It’s a tough decision.

46 North Main Street – South Norwalk, CT – 06854
203. 857.1414

http://www.jaxandcoct.com/

info@jaxandcoct.com

Jax & Co. on Urbanspoon

Q’s Viet-Pho Restaurant (Norwalk) – Some Pretty Good Pho

BL Interior 1Q’s Viet-Pho restaurant opened recently in the former location of Valencia’s on Main Street in Norwalk and after reading the review at CTbites I decided to try the Pho.

The interior of the restaurant is very utilitarian. With 7 red topped diner-like bar stools and four tables that seat four, covered in red-checked plastic picnic table coverings, the interior is the backdrop to enjoy the food, not a destination décor. Bottles of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce sit on each table.

BL TableThe menu is very limited, beef, chicken or shrimp Pho (each priced at $9), BBQ on a Stick, Sweet Buns or Spring Rolls (each $2) or Peking Raviolis ($3).

I ordered the beef pho and a spring roll to go. While I waited I chatted with the husband. He was Marine in Viet Nam 40 years ago, fell in love with the food. His wife is from southern China and has always yearned to own a restaurant. They decided to “give it a shot” and start with a small menu.

The pho was packed in two containers. The soup with the noodles in a large plastic container and the other ingredients in a paper “Chinese Take Out” container. When I returned to my office I opened the latter and it contained carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, raw onions, lime wedges and thinly sliced beef (not raw but slightly cooked). I added all but the onions to the broth and allowed them to simmer.

While the vegetables and beef simmered I tried the spring roll. It was about four inches long, thin and fried to a golden brown, more Chinese than Vietnamese. It was delicious with a sweet interior and an exterior that reminded me of fried phyllo versus thick Chinese exterior. I wish I would have ordered two versus one.

I tasted the Pho and it was full of deep, multilayered flavors, great umami notes. The noodles were perfectly cooked, soft with a bit of bite and the meat was flavorful. The cilantro added fantastic flavor and was the perfect complement to the other deep flavors.

Overall the food at Q was delicious. I will definitely return to try the other Pho options.

Q’s Viet-Pho Restaurant
172 Main St Norwalk, CT 06851
(914) 484-0092

Q's Viet-Pho Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Overall the food at Q was delicious. I will definitely return to try the other Pho options.

Liz Sue Bagels (STM) – About the Best in the Area

When we moved to CT in the 90’s one of my concerns was where would I find my fix of bagels, smoked fish, deli, hot dogs, all the great food of my days in NJ. Disappointment after disappointment greeted me in CT…until I visited Liz Sue Bagels in Stamford.

I was a bit of a bagel snob and limited my selection to plain, egg, sesame and poppy, maybe when I wanted to cross to the wild side I would order a cinnamon raisin or an everything bagel. Each of these options was very good at Liza Sue, I cannot call it a great bagel.Then one day I decided to order an oat bran. What I tasted was a delicious bagel, with a slightly different texture plus just a touch of sweetness. All of these flavors were elevated with a little toasting and I was soon a convert to expanding my bagel flavor choices.

The bagel landscape in Fairfield County is still meager, but at least there is one option in Stamford, Liza Sue. There are very few places that make good bagels in Fairfield County (you have extra fingers on one hand if you count them) and over the years Liz Sue has remained one of those few places.

Liz Sue Bagels on Urbanspoon

Great Local Burger in SONO

Hearst Full BurgerIn my continuous and unending search for great hamburgers in Fairfield County, I returned to SONO to sample Chef Dan Kardos’ latest version at LOCAL Kitchen and Beer Bar. Kardos is no stranger to my “Best of” list with previous version from both Harvest Supper in New Canaan and NOLA (at this same location) earning a spot. The interior of the restaurant has been transformed, with more woods and lights plus the rear room (never my favorite) was converted into a Bourbon Bar. The new décor gives a much hipper and fun feel.

Chef Dan’s latest version is named “THE LOCAL BURGER” and includes all natural, humanely raised beef, sautéed wild mushrooms, bacon, Swiss cheese, fronions and black pepper mayo, encased in a Wave Hill bun…served with French fries and a pickle. I ordered it medium-rare and as I waited I looked through the menu. It includes four entrées, with the remaining items small and shared plates. Likewise it is very diverse in its cuisine’s origin, from Cuban Wraps to Pizzettes, to Pulled Pork Sliders and Thai Popcorn Chicken, the menu is a stroll around the world.

Hearst Cut BurgerThe burger arrived and the first item I noticed was its size, particularly its height. The patty must include at least 8-ounces of meat (sourced from Saugatuck Craft Butchers), covered in melted Swiss cheese. The cheeseburger sat atop the bacon, fronions and an array of sautéed wild mushroom. I cut in half and it was cooked absolutely spot on to medium-rare, the interior glistened with juice. A quick bite confirmed that Saugatuck Craft has great meat and the kitchen took care in forming the patty, allowing the meat to maintain its medium grind. The oozing Swiss cheese delivered creaminess and a great nuttiness. The fronions, wild mushrooms and bacon were intermingled under the patty, with the earthiness of the mushrooms the centerpiece of the flavors. The bacon was mild with just a touch of saltiness and the onions added additional saltiness. The pepper mayo added creaminess and a little spice. The Wave Hill bun continues as my bun of choice.

The fries were excellent, soft on the interior with a good crispy exterior, and seasoned perfectly.

Overall I though Chef Kardos’ newest burger, “The Local Burger” is delicious, with great flavors.

JAX – Mama’s Boy’s Other Child Opens in SONO

CTB CubanoWhenever the owner of a restaurant that serves great food announces a second location, I am excited to see where this second venture will lead.  After hearing that Greer Fredericks, the co-owner of Mama’s Boy in SONO, was opening JAX around the corner on North Main, I couldn’t wait for my first visit. JAX opened a few weeks ago and currently serves a wide range of breakfast options, plus a tremendous selection of creative sandwiches at lunch. It is also placing the final touches to its soon to be released take-away dinners, and awaiting the delivery of its ice cream machine.

©jeff “jfood” schlesingerLocated just south of the SONO theatre, the interior is completely redesigned, accented with a red painted art nouveau ceiling and lots of wood throughout…it is definitely the sister restaurant to Mama’s Boy. There is a long communal wooden table from front to back, seats along the window, a large display case, a separate open refrigerator with a great selection of beverages and blackboards on two walls announcing the menu.

CTB BreakfastWhen I walked into JAX, Greer was behind the counter, handling orders, making suggestions and bringing her southern charm to Norwalk. The menu is colorfully painted on the enormous multi-colored blackboard spanning the entire left wall. On my first visit I ordered the “Cubano,” described as Black Forest ham, pulled pork, Swiss, house pickles and creamy house mustard, served on a pressed Cuban roll. It has been a challenge over the years finding a great Cubano in the area.

CTB MenuJax’s rendition was delicious…my first bite was an explosion of flavors.  The sandwich started with a pile of pulled pork, which was tender, juicy and full of smokiness. The Swiss cheese offered a touch of nuttiness, the pickles added both crunch and a little tang, the mild black forest ham contributed more smokiness and then JAX swathed the roll with a spicy house-made mustard. The combination was outstanding, and the spicy mustard really kicked up the heat. Next time I will make sure it is grilled.

I cannot wait to return to JAX when it is in full swing. For now I will just have to work my way through a few more sandwiches…is “The Che,” “The Chicken and Waffle” or “The Spread” up next? It’s a tough decision.

46 North Main Street – South Norwalk, CT – 06854

203. 857.1414

http://www.jaxandcoct.com/

info@jaxandcoct.com