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

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

Tierra (Westport) – Big Bold Burger

CTB 1
When someone says, “you gotta try this burger,” I place on the list and visit as many as possible. Last week a buddy told me that I needed to visit Tierra and try their burger, and on a beautiful afternoon I journeyed to Westport, grabbed a table outside and ordered the “Tierra Burger, Topped with Home-made Chorizo, Chihuahua Cheese, Pequillo Pepper Aioli.”

The burger was served open faced, accompanied by a mound of blue Terra chips. On one side was a generous patty topped with a thick layer of melted cheese…and I could see sautéed peppers and onions (not described on the menu) peeking from under the cheese. The other half was covered with a liberal swath of the aioli. I cut the burger in half and it was perfectly prepared to medium-rare, the darkish red of the interior glistening with juice. The kitchen also took great care in keeping the medium grind intact, avoiding the tendency to compress the patty.

US3
I always taste a little of each of the ingredients. The beef was mild and not overly seasoned, while the crumbled chorizo, as well as the slivered sautéed Jalapeño peppers and onions were spicy and delicious. I wondered how it would all work in unison. The first bite was an explosion of flavors. The most notable was the chorizo, Jalapeño pepper and onion combination. Together these three items were fantastic. The Chihuahua cheese (similar to a mild cheddar) calmed the spiciness of these other toppings. The aioli also contributed a cooling aspect to the composition. The bun was one of the most buttery brioche I have tasted in my burger quest, but was out of balance with the other ingredients, almost fighting with them versus complementing.

Overall, the Tierra Burger is one of the most flavorful burgers in Fairfield County. The chorizo and Jalapeno peppers were the centerpieces of the combination. The beef patty was more a complement to these ingredients, versus vice versa. The Chihuahua cheese and aioli were great additions to soften the spiciness of the chorizo and peppers. If you are looking for a bold, Latin-inspired burger, Tierra is a great choice. For me, the combination of ingredients was more aligned to a fantastic taco than a burger.

Tierra on Urbanspoon

Proprietors Bar & Table (Nantucket) – Absolutely Outstanding

Proprietor’s is located on India Street in downtown Nantucket and the chef is creating some of the best dishes I have ever enjoyed. From the first bite of the bread to the last bite of the Moroccan Donuts, Proprietor’s is a restaurant that everyone who enjoys creative and delicious food must place on their list while in Nantucket.

The meal started with what I thought was going to be a simple slice of bread, but this was no ordinary bread. It was filled with a small amount of meat, and the texture of the bread was like none I have ever tasted. My instincts immediately kicked in…this might be one of those hidden gem restaurants that soon become a difficult reservation to obtain.

Our first course was the “Tuna Sunomono.” Several slices of tuna were topped with Peruvian Soy, Red Chile Sauce, Crispy Yucca, Yuzu, and Sesame. The fish was fresh, mild in flavor and the toppings added a touch of heat and just a smidgen of saltiness. It was a great beginning to tease the palate. The “Tater Cubes” were like none you have ever tasted, they were outstanding. Crispy Shredded Potatoes were perfectly fried and topped with Joppiesaus, Farm House Gouda, and served alongside a Beet Pickled Egg. The combination of the fried potatoes and the melting cheese delivered textural differences and great flavors.

This was followed by the “Cuchifritos,” the dish that most in our group thought was the best of the evening. A plate of Pork Riblets were topped with Sweet Chili Mojo, and served with Cheesy Masa Fries, and Annatto. The riblets were crisped on the exterior before the sauce was applied. The riblets remained crispy under the outrageously delicious sauce. My issue with the dish was the fries, they were grainy and a little off-putting.

Next to arrive was my favorite dish of the evening, the “Shaved ‘Pork-Umms‘,”comprised of Berkshire Pork, Scallion, Sesame BBQ sauce encased in a house-made Kimchee Biscuit. The meat was perfectly prepared, soft and moist with great flavor, and the Kimchee Biscuit made this dish spectacular, it was divine and created a combination that ranks as one of my favorites of all time. Following the pork was the Apalachicola Shrimp, which included 6 large shrimp, topped with Garlicky Green Sauce, Chili Threads, Corn Nuts. The biggest issue was that it followed the pork dish and the bar was very high at this point in the evening.

Last to arrive was the “Grass Fed Bavette Steak,” which was also delicious. It was served with a Potato Purée, Aigre Doux, and a Marrow Baste. The beef delivered a deep, rich flavor that worked really well with potato purée and the combination of the sweet and sour components of the aigre doux and additional richness of the marrow delivered a great flavor combination. I really liked this dish but the meat was a little tough.

Overall the meal was outstanding at Proprietor’s, from the bread through the desserts, it is a must go to restaurant on Nantucket.

Proprietors on Urbanspoon