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

Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop (STM) _ Pretty Tasteless Burger

IMG_0112
Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop is a throwback to the days of Frankie and Annette, Lost in Space and Ed Sullivan. The interior offers ten large booths, four smaller booths, tables & chairs plus ten stools at the counter. The table tops are made of black Formica with mini rubber band design, each table has a juke box with nickel-tunes (selection range from Chubby Checker to Journey). Black and white photos from the 50’s and 60’s adorn the walls. The only thing missing are poodle skirts, leather jackets and slicked back hair. This restaurant is a time machine to simpler times when a burger and milkshake were the definition of a cool Friday night.

IMG_0108
I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries and when the server (that would be a car hop) asked me how I would like my burger prepared I was impressed and ordered it medium rare. As I waited for the burger the server arrived with a canister containing unwrapped blue straws. Well, times have changed and it is flu season, so I passed on the straw.

IMG_0113
The burger and fries arrived and it was a good sized burger and a large mound of fries. My bacon cheeseburger was also topped with lettuce and tomato. I cut the burger in half and it was actually cooked to medium rare. Nicely done. I then tasted one of the fries. They were basic frozen fries out of a plastic bag. They had a processed flavor to them, but were well salted. The first bite of the burger was disappointing. The meat was very ordinary, the patty was tightly compressed and not very tasty. The Cheddar cheese was well melted, somewhat tasteless as well and the bacon added the third leg to the flavorless stool. The tomato was even worse…it was less than supermarket quality and never should have left the kitchen.

IMG_0109
I understand that Lucky’s is a diner, but the price of the bacon cheeseburger and fries was over $13 with tax and tip. For that price I expect something better than a burger served at a Sunday fair.

Lucky's Classic Burger & Malt Shop on Urbanspoon

Chiu FAI Garden (Norwalk) – Alternative to a Sandwich?

General Tso
There are times when having another sandwich for lunch at the office is just not what you are in the mood for. Maybe look for some pizza, or hamburgers or a to-go platter…Chinese take-out is always an option. There are very few options in the area. I’ve constantly driven by the multi-colored sign for Chiu FAI Garden near Stew Leonards and I tucked it away for future reference. Today, I finally made the journey for one of its lunch specials. For ~$6 it is the same price as a sandwich and I was in the mood for something different.

Interior
The interior is standard NYC-style Chinese take-out. The rear of the building is the kitchen with several cooking stations, there is the obligatory picture menu (faded by the sun) above the ordering counter and there are tables and chairs for 16 people while either waiting or eating. I am not sure dining in is the best choice as the space is very sterile…this is definitely a grab and go. The menu is extensive, with Cantonese, Hunan and Szechuan choices. What caught my eye was the number of Lunch Special offerings…33 in all, ranging between $5-$6 and includes a choice of an entrée, rice and either a soup or an egg roll. I chose the General Tso’s Chicken, fried rice and an egg roll.

The egg roll was medium sized. It had a good, thick crust, crispy and the interior was all vegetables. It was a good basic lunch egg roll.

The General Tso combination platter was quite large for the price. It contained a good heaping of chicken, an equal amount of fried rice and two broccoli florets. The chicken was fried very well…the exterior was crispy and the chicken was cooked through without being over-cooked. Unfortunately the coating was very thick and you could barely taste the chicken, which was moist and tender. The pungent sauce delivered a lot of flavor, was sweet, maybe a touch too sweet, and was less than medium spiciness; do not be scared by the pepper icon on the menu. The fried rice contained a teeny smattering of roasted pork and onions, was very bland, but was good to coat the sauced chicken piece.

Overall it was a good $6 lunch. Is this a go-to Americanized Chinese take-out restaurant? I would not recommend for dinner at home but for a quick lunch that does not include a sandwich, Chiu FAI Garden is an OK option.

Chiu FAI Garden 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

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