Tag Archive: restaurant

RIP, Haus Edelweiss – Again

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Once again, Haus Edelweiss is closing. The following message was posted on on their Facebook page. it was also attached to their front door…

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It reads as follows:

Dearest Patrons of Haus Edelweiss,

We write this to you with heavy hearts. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control we must close Haus Edelweiss. Since the death of our beloved Fred it has been very difficult to run the restaurant alone. We want you ton know that our customers are so dear to us and we will miss all of you.

Thank you for all of your support.

Affectionately,

Carol and Sara Boerin
Owners

There had been a series of signs over the past month with extended closures, supposedly for vacation. the place was supposed to re-open August 31. Obviously, this sign countermands all of those previous notices. The restaurant is closed, and will not reopen.

And so ends an era. Haus Edelweiss had closed once before, and to me this closing wasn’t a surprise. I had noticed that the prices were increasing, but there never seemed to be enough clients to keep the place afloat. Now that I’m not working I had hoped to visit more often, but now it doesn’t look like I’ll get that chance.

Greenville really is faced with a dearth of German restaurants, and I just don’t understand that. With BMW and other German businesses in town, there should be a strong German cuisine presence in town. Schwaben Haus is excellent, but is high-end, and doesn’t have the wurst and kraut I crave. Bavarian Pretzel Factory and Hans und Franz are in town, but that’s only two places, compare to the explosion of Thai, Vietnamese, and other ethnic food places in town. So, even if Haus Edelweiss had survived, we really need more. I’m hoping some other place comes in to take its place.

Habiba Mediterranean Restaurant

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Habiba Mediterrenean

After our Georgia trek on Sunday, Glynda and I decided to get a bite of dinner. I had seen that a new place had opened on Haywood Road that looked interesting, so we drove by. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sundays. So, Monday on my way home late from work, I stopped by Habiba Mediterranean Restaurant for dinner. I was glad I did.

Atmosphere

Habiba opened late June in a building previously occupied by a wings place. I think some other restaurant had tried to make a go of it here, too. The architecture is a bit unusual, but the interior has been redone with Middle Eastern touches. Fabrics hang from the ceiling, and dark tones dominate.

Habiba Interior

The place is rather large. There were several more dining rooms that I couldn’t see from my seat. The outdoor patio is set up as a hookah bar.

When I first arrived there were two diners out on the patio, but no one else inside. Another couple came in later, and part-way through my meal my good friends Karen, Herman, Kyle, and Meghan came in for dinner. A couple of other groups arrive while we were there.

Dining Friends

Menu

As the name suggests, there is lots of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare. However, there are some surprises on the menu, too. Mixed in with the tabouli, kabobs, and falafal one can find a Mediterranean quesadilla and tandori. There is a section of salads and appetizers, ranging from about $5 to $8, and a section of “entrees” – lighter dishes such as wraps and sandwiches, for around $8 – $10. The dinner menu features kabobs and the aforementioned tandori for around $10 – $15, depending on the choice of meat. There is also a selection of desserts, and a list of flavors and prices available for the hookahs.

Habiba Menu

Prices look quite reasonable for the items on the menu. For $35 per person one can get a five course meal with items selected from each section of the menu. That was tempting, but I didn’t think I could handle it this evening.

Food

I started with pita and hummus. Overall the hummus was good, but there was a touch of bitterness that I couldn’t quite reconcile. It looked like there was lots of paprika, or harissa, or something like that. It wasn’t bad, but the flavor was just a bit surprising. I guess I’ve just gotten used to either plain hummus, or one of those flavored things you get at the supermarket.

Hummus and Pita

For my main course I ordered the mixed grill tandori. These were cubes of chicken, beef, and lamb marinated in yogurt and other spices before cooking. These were served with rice pilaf and vegetables. I took one bite, and the flavors were amazing. There was a savory flavor that’s hard to describe, but there was also a bit of heat that would sneak up on you. It was one of the best dishes I’ve had in awhile.

Mixed Tandori

I decided I had room for dessert, so I ordered the rosewater ice cream with pistachios. It was quite tasty.

Rose Water Ice Cream

My friends arrived about the same time as my dessert. I slid down and joined them, then ordered a martini while I sat with them for awhile.

Martini

They ordered an appetizer sampler platter, and reported that it was all excellent. Three of them also got the mixed grill tandori, but Kyle got the Jerusalem kabobs. The consensus was everything was excellent.

Service

Service was friendly and efficient. It looked like there was probably more staff on hand than diners needing attention. The owner came out occasionally to check on us.

Conclusions

Habiba made a great first impression. The food was fantastic, and prices are quite reasonable. I definitely want to come back. My biggest concern about a niche place like this – especially one that takes over a troubled location – is that they have the stamina to stick around. I hope they are able to maintain the quality of food and still turn a decent profit. I would like to have many more meals here.

America’s Pub and Grub

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I was looking for a new place to try for dinner, so I turned to Urbanspoon to see if there was someplace close to home I had overlooked. Since I’d had a large Italian meal last night, I was more in the mood for sandwiches or something lighter tonight. America’s Pub and Grub popped up, and had generally positive reviews, so I decided to give it a try.

The place had two things going for it. First, the word “pub” has good memories for me. Several years ago when we visited London the best food we found was in the pubs. Also, the reviews seemed to indicate that Cajun cuisine was available. This area is sorely lacking in authentic Cajun options, so I wanted to see what they might have. So, it was off to America’s Pub and Grub.

Background:

From what I could read online, the place has only been open for a year or so. This location has been problematic for restaurants. I still remember the incident at Benito’s Italian, which was located right next door. Guadalajara Mexican now occupies that space, but there are also two nightclubs in the area. I didn’t know what to expect.

Atmosphere:

The outside looks nice and invited. However, a sign on the door advertised a “hookah bar”, and also said that inside smoking was permitted after 9:00 pm. The lingering odor of smoke nearly had me turning around and walking out, but I headed on back in.

The interior has been done with urban black grey tones. It’s a small place, and a bar dominates one corner. Seating was a bit weird. There were a few tiny tables that would hardly accommodate one, much less a couple. The only other tables were in three alcoves that could easily seat six. I took one of the alcoves. These images are from their website… (more…)

Campobello Italian Ristorante

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Campobello May 29, 2012 7-23 PM

NOTE: This restaurant has closed.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a restaurant review here. We’ve either been going to our regular joints or just eating at home. With Laura away for the week I decided to try a couple of new places. Tuesday evening I headed over to Campobello Italian Ristorante on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Taylors.

Background:

This location started out as a Kentucky Fried Chicken place, and that architecture is still evident. When the KFC closed down, it reopened several years later as a breakfast place. The bit ceramic rooster from that incarnation is still out front of the restaurante.

I haven’t been able to find much about Campobello itself. The restaurant has been open in this location for several years. It’s not part of a chain, and it advertises “authentic Italian.”

Atmosphere:

It’s hard to escape the original design of the building. For example, the entrance to the restrooms are technically OUTSIDE of the main dining area, just one step shy from having to completely exit the building to find them. In that entryway the strong smell of garlic hit me, perhaps a bit overpowerlingly.

The dining area itself is small, with a capacity for about 40 diners. Typical Italian restaurant decor transforms the otherwise utilitarian interior. The tables and decor are nice and neat, but it seems a bit dated, and the drop ceiling tiles certainly looks like they could be updated, too.

Campobello May 29, 2012 7-24 PM

Tuesday night obviously isn’t a hopping night for the place. Three other tables were occupied – two with customers, and one with the owner’s family.

Menu:

The menu includes sections for pasta, veal, beef, lamb, seafood, and chicken, as well as a variety of hot and cold appetizers. There are traditional dishes, such as marsalas, lasagna, homemade ravioli, and fettuccini Alfredo, but there are other specialty dishes as well

Prices range from $12 for some of the pastas to $20+ for some of the seafood and beef dishes.

One surprising thing was that drink prices seemed VERY reasonable. Wine, either by the bottle or by the glass wasn’t as outrageous as some places. Campobello only recently has been carrying beer and wine. Previously they would allow patrons to brown bag their own bottles.

Food:

My meal started with bread with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese, followed by a salad with light Italian dressing. Nothing fancy, but it was good. This was matched with a glass of house chianti.

For my entree I ordered the Pollo Campobello. I figured a dish named for the place must be their specialty. There were three chicken breasts, each topped with a roasted red pepper, and served in a deep red sauce with sliced portabello mushrooms, garlic, and lemon. The mushrooms and peppers imparted a smoky flavor to the dish, which was rounded out nicely with the garlic.

There was a side dish of penne pasta with marinara sauce. I wasn’t impressed as much with the marinara sauce – it tended to clash with the sauce from the entree. I almost wished they had used the pasta as a bed for the main dish. I could have gotten the pasta without the marinara, and will know to do that if I order this again.

Campobello May 29, 2012 7-43 PM

I rounded out the meal with homemade tiramisu for dessert. It was light and very fresh. It was quite good.

Campobello May 29, 2012 8-15 PM

Service:

Scatterbrained and harried comes to mind. Even though there were only three paying tables, the waitress seemed constantly flustered. She initially forgot my wine, then almost knocked the glass into my lap. The food items came out at a reasonable rate, and she did check back on me regularly, but it was always under a state of clumsiness, confusion, and apology. I would hate to see this poor woman have to work a full house.

Conclusions:

The food was good, but the service was spotty. While the prices were probably consistent with dishes of this type and quality, they seemed a bit out of place in restaurant that still looks like an old KFC. Other than that, I enjoyed the meal. I would recommend coming back, but I’ll check out the menu ahead of time. I liked my dish, but would like to try others.


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The Trappe Door

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Friday evening Laura and I were in the mood to try something new downtown. Our friend and former neighbor, Josh Beeby, is the owner of Barley’s Tap Room, and several months ago he had opened a new venue called The Trappe Door. We decided to give it a try.

Background

Josh is from Australia. According to the restaurant’s website, while visiting his home country, he had his first taste of authentic Belgian cuisine, and wanted to open his own place.

Previously the only Belgian restaurant in town had been Belgian Delights on Wade Hampton Blvd. With its closure came a culinary gap – one Josh was more than happy to fill.

The Trappe Door takes its name from the Trappist Monks, famed for their brewing. As the name implies, craft-brewed beer is a large part of this venue, along with the Belgian cuisine.

Atmosphere

The Trappe Door is located in the basement of Barley’s Taproom. It’s a completely separate restaurant from that venue, with an entrance on Washington Street.

There is a good bit of space and plenty of tables, but the basement feel is hard to overlook, with low ceilings and exposed beams supporting the floor above. Dark colors and lots of brick add to the feel. In addition to the dining tables there is a bar on one side of the restaurant.

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The place was hopping when we arrived. Fortunately we were able to find a table, but reservations for popular weekend nights are recommended.

Menu

As implied, the cuisine is Belgian. There are is a nice selection of appetizers, from $6 – $9. These aren’t your typical deep-fried mushrooms or cheese dips. There are shrimp croquettes, scallops, and baked brie.

The entree’s include a variety of meat dishes, and range from $12 – $18. These include pork tenderloin, seafood, duck, and several others. In addition to these there is an entire section of Moules Frites, or mussels with fries. These are served with a variety of sauces.

Then, of course, there are the beers. The variety is so great as to be almost baffling. Don’t expect Bud Light here – there are authentic pilsners, ales, lambics, and lots of other obscure brews, including high gravity beers. Some of these can be quite pricey, as much as $30 a glass.

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There was also a nice selection of wines. The availability of single-glass servings was determined by which bottles were open at the time. Blackboards stationed around the place kept track of which were open and how many glasses were available. It was fun watching the servers mark off the availability, and from that determine which were the most popular.

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Food

We both started with drinks. Laura ordered a Cabernet from the blackboard. While the flavor was good, the portion size seemed a bit small for an $11 glass of wine. Upon consultation with our waitress, I ordered the Chimay Blue from the Trappist ale list. It was served in its own special glass, which is supposed to enhance the high carbonation of the ale.

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For her entree, Laura went with the pork tenderloin, which was served with a mustard cream sauce, potato cake and green beans. She declared hers excellent. I didn’t get to try a bite, so I’ll have to take her word for it.

I ordered the Carbonades flamandes, which is a traditional Belgian beef stew. Mine came with a salad and fries. Apparently in Belgium they use mayonnaise instead of ketchup for fries. I got to select three flavored mayonnaises for mine. I picked truffle, raspberry, and curry.

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My dish was OK, but not stellar. The beef dish was a bit heavy, but was tasty. Fries are fries, and eating them with mayonnaise just seems wrong, even if it does have fancy flavors. The truffle was almost too subtle, but it was good. I would like to try it on a sandwich or something like that. My favorite, though, was the curry. It almost masked the fact that it was mayonnaise.

Both dishes were very filling. Between that and the beer, neither of us had room for dessert.

Service

Our server was very knowledgeable and attentive. Our only complaint was that the drinks were brought early, but the food took awhile to bring out. Unless you knew to order an appetizer (which we didn’t), there was no bread, crackers, or anything else to cushion the drinks until the food arrived.

Conclusion

Overall it was a good, albeit interesting experience. I can’t say I’m a great fan of Belgian cuisine, but Laura certainly raved about her dish. Even with the expensive drinks, we got out for under $50 for both of us. I would recommend it for anyone interested in a new cuisine, and we will certainly be back.

Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant

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Mekong Restaurant

While on our photo trek Ed gave me grief about not doing any restaurant reviews lately. And he’s right – I haven’t. It seems that we’ve been either traveling too much, eating at home because we’re tired of traveling, or hitting our tried and true places because we’re too tired to cook but also tired of traveling. Laura had a dinner at Furman this evening, so I decided to try some place new – Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant on Wade Hampton Boulevard.

Background:

This location started out as an Arby’s. For some reason it closed within the past couple of years. Within the last year Mekong moved in, joining several other Vietnamese options within just a couple of square miles.

Atmosphere:

The owners have done a remarkable job of transforming a fast food joint into a nice sit-down restaurant. The interior is still utilitarian, but there is plenty of seating, and hints of Vietnamese artwork.

Mekong RestaurantMekong Restaurant

When I arrived there was only one elderly couple. Another family joined us later, and one other couple came in for take-out. Not exactly a hopping joint for a Thursday evening.

This is definitely a family run affair. The teenagers are left to serve as hosts and waiters, while the elders cook and run the place. There seemed to be more employees than patrons on this particular evening.

Menu:

As with many Vietnamese places I’ve visited, the menu is quite extensive. Of course, Pho is the featured dish, but they also have various sandwiches, rice platters and noodle stir-fry. Most of the meals were under $10. There were also several traditional appetizers and desserts.

One item I was pleased to see on the dish was hot pot. However, this dish is best enjoyed with several, and is the most expensive on the menu starting at $18.

Food:

I started with spring rolls. These arrived only a fraction before my main course, but I still treated them as appetizers. The rolls themselves were crispy and almost overdone. They also had a funky flavor I couldn’t quite identify. They were not the best spring rolls I’ve had.

Mekong Restaurant

For my main course I selected Pho with London Broil. This arrived in a huge bowl with accompanying basil and bean sprouts. As is traditional with this dish, the meat was still cooking in the broth when it arrived.

Mekong Restaurant

While I didn’t enjoy the spring rolls as much, the Pho made up for it in spades. The broth flavor was spicy, with overtones of mint and something that almost tasted like cinnamon. It was incredibly delicious. The rice noodles were excellent, as was the meat. The waiters kept coming by to see if I was done, and I kept shooing them away until I consumed as much as comfortable. It was by far the best Pho I’ve had in town.

Service:

The youngsters were eager and willing to please, but their timing needs a bit of work. My drink went without refill until almost the end, and I had to ask for it. The appetizer arrive almost the same time as the main course. Also, as mentioned before, they kept coming by wanting to remove my bowl long before I was done. They also wanted to bring my check by fairly early in my meal. It’s not like the place was busy and they needed my table. I think they just need to work on their waiter etiquette a bit.

Conclusions:

The Pho is excellent, and that alone will make me want to come back. Other offerings seem quite affordable, and you get a huge serving.

I’m hoping that they can work out the service issues. The problem with having a large family socializing in a restaurant is that they tend to do just that – socialize. And it can detract from service.

Two more things…

I drove around back, around the old Arby’s drive through, to exit. What I saw at the back was either a second career at the local farmer’s market, or one of the most impressive container herb gardens I’ve seen. I’m thinking the latter. They must grow their own for inclusion in their dishes.

Mekong Restaurant

And finally…

They had a item on the menu that was new to me – Bible tripe.

Mmmm, Bible Tripe!

Since they are so close to Bob Jones University I didn’t know if this was some sort of commentary. Turns out it is a type of tripe from the third stomach of a cow, so-named because it resembles a book, or Bible. It’s apparently quite common in Vietnamese cuisine. The things you learn.

Tupelo Honey Cafe

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Tupelo Honey Cafe

Karen B had said that we absolutely had to try Tupelo Honey Cafe for breakfast while we were in Asheville. She also warned that it was very popular, and that we needed to get there by 9:00 if we hoped to get seated. We arrived in time to get a couple of seats at the “chef’s counter” and proceeded to have a fantastic meal.

Atmosphere

The same funky eclectic vibe that tends to pervade Asheville certainly is present here. I saw lots of tattoos on cafe employees, and our waiter had his dreadlocks tied back under a large multi-colored yarn cap. The cafe is located where College St meets Patton Ave, and lots of folks tend to gather and hang out at this intersection.

The cafe is a smallish place that has extended its seating on out to the sidewalk with covered awnings and outdoor tables. Inside local artwork adorns the warm yellow walls, while dark wood finishes complete that decor. There are several antique furniture pieces and unusual ceiling fans.

The crowd seemed to be a good cross-section of young and old, leaning mostly to the young side. As Karen had warned, the place became more crowded and more people were waiting outside as the morning wore on.

Tupelo Honey InteriorTupelo Honey Interior

Menu

Breakfast is available anytime. However, there is a day menu that features sandwiches, soups and salads, and a night menu with larger entree’s such as pork tenderloin and sockeye salmon. Dinner items tend to run from $12 – $20, with sandwiches starting at about $7.50 and hovering just under the $10 mark.

Of course, breakfast is the specialty. There is the standard fare of eggs with various bits of dead pig. They also have omelets made to order, a crab scramble, and perdu, a type of New Orleans French toast. Their specialty is sweet potato pancakes. Breakfast entree’s range from $8 to $12.

Food

As many restaurants as I’ve reviewed you’d think I would have learned. If a restaurant is known for a dish – try that dish. As it was I went with my breakfast default of scrambled eggs, grits, and bacon. However, Laura and I were seated where we could watch everything being prepared, and we saw (and smelled) some astonishing dishes being served up. The sweet potato pancakes looked fabulous, topped with butter, pecans (which Laura wouldn’t have been able to eat) and finished with syrup.

Laura at Tupelo Honey Cafe

The kitchen was a place of frenetic activity. We marveled over the number of sautee’ pans at the ready, and the coordinated effort it took to get the meals out.

Tupelo Honey Pans

While we were drooling over the dishes we didn’t order, we were served two massive biscuits with a blackberry-blueberry jam. These were incredible, and we ate them in layers, covering each layer with a bit of the jam.

Tupelo Honey Biscuit

It’s hard to screw up breakfast, but it takes more effort for extraordinary. Even though we ordered something mundane in comparison to all the other dishes we saw being served, our eggs, bacon, and grits were fantastic. The grits had goat cheese, and were much creamier and a bit sharper that just plain grits. They were were also garnished with more edible orchids. All in all it was a great meal to start the day.

Tupelo Honey Breakfast

Service

Our dreadlocked, goateed waiter never left us wanting for coffee, and kept very close track of us. Despite the frenetic activity we saw in the kitchen, things came out in a reasonable amount of time. Our waiter even provided us cups of coffee to go as we headed out.

Conclusions

I can see why crowds would gather to eat breakfast here. Tupelo Honey Cafe has a good thing going – great food in a cool atmosphere. It’s more than I would normally spend on a breakfast, but for a special weekend away it’s hard to beat. Next time I come back, though, I’m going to try some of those sweet potato pancakes, or perhaps the perdu…

Mela Indian

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Meli Indian Door

After a day touring Biltmore we were hungry, and specifically we were in the mood for something ethnic. A quick check of Google Maps showed an Indian restaurant within walking distance of our hotel in Asheville, so we decided to give it a shot.

Our walk took us onto Lexington Avenue and into a very funky, eclectic area full of second hand record stores, book stores, and alternative health stores. There we found Mela Indian Restaurant.

Atmosphere

The funky, eclectic nature of the street outside carries over into the restaurant, mostly in terms of its clientele and staff. There were a few unusual outfits, and people watching was fun.

The interior has dark walls with a red ceiling and yellow highlights. A large bar takes up one corner, and a counter opens into the kitchen with views of the ovens and food prep areas.

When we arrived at 6:00 there weren’t very many patrons. By the time we finished, however, the place was hopping. It seemed to be quite popular.

Menu

Most of the traditional Indian dishes you would expect are available. There is a large variety of appetizers, soups, and salads, ranging anywhere from a couple of dollars to $15 for a dinner salad.

The entree’s include vindaloos, curries, and other traditional dishes, available with chicken, lamb, and even salmon. There is an extensive list of vegetarian dishes. These range from $11 to $16.

Our menu included a separate sheet with the evening’s specials. These were priced similarly to the regular meals.

Food

We started with an order of mirch pakoras. These were hot green peppers dipped in chickpea flour batter and then deep fried, then served with mint and tamarind chutney. The mint chutney had almonds, to which Laura is allergic, so the waitress was able to bring her a side of the tamarind chutney. Both were excellent. The peppers had a heat that kept accumulating, and the chutney did nothing to calm it. By the time we were done with the appetizers, my mouth was ablaze, and I consumed every drink at hand to quench it. It was good.

The appetizers also came with papadam and more of the mint and tamarind chutneys. The papadam was light and tasty, and not greasy like some Indian places I’ve been.

I had ordered a chicken tikki masala, and Laura had ordered Kashmeri curry from the specials list. When these arrived they looked lovely, but the waitress had a distressed look. She told Laura that the curry also had almonds, although these weren’t listed in the ingredients. Laura and I switched dishes. She was disappointed at not getting curry and that they hadn’t said anything about nuts in the dish, and that somewhat tainted her view of the meal.

I tried a bit of both dishes. I had actually wanted to order the curry, but decided on something else when Laura ordered it so that we would have a variety. That turned out to be fortuitous. The curry was spicy, and provided no relief from the heat of the peppers eaten previously. There was a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but it was still good. The naan and rice did help calm things down. The curry also came garnished with an edible orchid.

Chicken Kashmeri Curry

The chicken tikki masala was a bit tamer. It was a tomato-based soup with onions and other vegetables. The flavors on it were excellent, as well. Both entree’s came with a small bowl of lentil soup.

Chicken Tiki Masala

Service

Service was a bit spacey at times. Drinks weren’t refilled very often, which was a problem with the very spicy food. However, our waitress did catch the problems with food allergies, and the omission of ingredients from the list wasn’t her fault. Her solution of “why don’t you just switch?” seemed a bit flippant, but worked out in the long run.

Conclusions

Apart from the problem with the food allergies, the overall experience was positive. We liked the food, and the prices weren’t too bad. The chef needs to realize the potential dangers of food allergies, and make sure alternatives are available.

The Green Room

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This weekend is Restaurant Week in South Carolina. In towns around the state participating restaurants are offering special deals on limited menu items so that people will be enticed to try a new place.  Having been cooped up with snow all week, we decided to take advantage of this, so Sunday evening we met our friends Karen and Herman at The Green Room on Main Street.

Background:

The Green Room has been open for about a year or so now in the space that was once occupied by the Paris Cafe.  That’s really about all I know about it, and their website isn’t much more forthcoming.

Atmosphere:

The Green Room purports to be “Upstate Casual,” whatever that means.  The walls are brick with local art work, and a large bar with dark wood tones dominates most of the space.  Several booth/tables line the remaining space, and there is sidewalk seating outside for nicer days.  It was relatively quiet this Sunday, with a few dinner patrons and a few people at the bar watching the football game.  I have passed by on nice weekends when this place was hopping, so I know it’s not quiet all the time.

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Herman had made reservations, and we were able to get one of the best tables – one of two in the windows that look out over the street.

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Menu:

Since this was a special situation, we were ordering from a limited menu. We had our choice of three starters, three main dishes, and three desserts for $30 each. Drinks were not included in the special pricing (of course.) On their normal menu they have about ten starters from $9 – $12, and a small variety of meat main courses starting at $18 for a chicken dish and going as high as $34 for the filet. In this case, “casual” does not equal “inexpensive.” There is also a breakfast and lunch menu.

Food:

Since there were four of us we were able to try several things on the menu. We did order from the special menu, though, rather than the regular menu. For starters, Karen and I ordered the long-stemmed artichoke, and Laura and Herman ordered the salad. The artichoke was not quite what I expected. It was deep-fried with a pepper aoili sauce. It was OK, but the breading was rather thick and tended to obscure the flavor of the artichoke itself. The sauce helped. By all reports the salads were excellent, with a warm bacon vinaigrette dressing.

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Once again Karen and I matched our orders for the main course by selecting a braised lamb shank with polenta and baby carrots. Herman got pork chops with garlic mashed potatoes and spinach, and Laura ordered flounder with a lima bean succotash. The lamb flavors were subtle, albeit a bit greasy. The polenta was OK, but improved when combined with the au jus from the lamb. Herman and Laura both praised their selections. Laura said that the flounder was very light and tasty, and one of the best dishes she had in quite awhile. She even finished off the succotash, even though she’s not a huge fan of lima beans. THAT is saying a lot.

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For dessert once we one more time split the table, with Karen and I ordering a mint chocolate chip pound cake, and Laura and Herman ordering a blueberry cheesecake. The cake was slightly grilled or toasted, and was not very sweet. It would have been too dry if not for the dollop of creme anglaise on top. I really couldn’t taste the mint in it. It was good, but I think the winner was the blueberry cheese cake. This was a small round cheesecake topped with blueberries, rather than the traditional slice.

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Service:

Our waitress was spacey at times, but overall service was good. Things arrived on time, but not too fast, leaving lots of time for conversation.

Conclusion:

My meal was good, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had at a nice restaurant in Greenville. The flavors never quite measured up to the descriptions nor my expectations. Others really enjoyed theirs, though. Based on that, I think I just made the wrong selections.  I think I would like to come back and try something from their regular menu. However, this place does tend to be rather pricey, and we would want to wait until a special occasion to give it another shot.

Pho 99

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Pho 99

Laura had a Furman function, so I was on my own for dinner. I was in the mood something savory, but also something that would accommodate sore braces. I was on my way home, planning to do something simple, when I spotted Pho 99. Soup, noodles, and soft meat sounded pretty good, so I turned in.

Truth be told, I’d spotted a reference to Pho 99 in the blog A Greenville Life. The review in that blog was really about Pho Noodleville, but the comment was that Pho 99 was better. Having tried Noodleville and two other Vietnamese places in town, I decided to give 99 a shot.

Atmosphere

Pho 99 is located on Wade Hampton near Bob Jones University, in a strip mall populated with other Vietnamese businesses. The place isn’t large, but there are a fair number of tables. The decor was clean and fairly modern.

Pho 99

There were two young American couples, possible college kids, but there rest of the patrons were Vietnamese. I always take it as a good sign that a particular ethnicity patronizes a restaurant with that food from that country.

Menu

While it doesn’t have a 35 page menu like on of the other Vietnamese places in town, the menu is quite extensive. It can be broken down in to several groups – pho, two types of rice dishes, and a couple of types of of noodles. I don’t pretend to be even slightly familiar with Vietnamese food, so I can’t really comment on the dishes. Prices ranged from $6.50 and up.

Pho 99 menu

Food

Not knowing anything about Vietnamese, I ordered the first pho dish on the menu – “Beef broth with thin sliced raw premium tenderloin.” Yep, you read that right – raw. Don’t worry, though. This isn’t some weird sushi or steak tartar. The broth comes out very hot and the meat cooks as it sits in the broth, very much like Chinese hot pot.

The broth was quite savory. I added a touch of red sauce to spice it up a bit, along with a few bean sprouts. The noodles were light and cooked to perfection. They separated easily, and were no problem to manage. The meat itself was tender, and did, in fact cook through thoroughly in the hot broth.

Pho Beef

Service

Service was passable. I was waited on quickly, and the food did come out in a reasonable amount of time. Beyond that, though, the waiter offered no help with the menu, nor did he come back to check on me or offer to refill my water.

Conclusion

All in all it was quite good and quite filling. I must say that the flavors were the best of all of the Vietnamese Pho places I’ve tried in Greenville. The food is relatively inexpensive. Service was a bit lacking, but I’m hoping that the waiter was just having an off night. He seemed to be very attentive to the other patrons. Pho 99 may be one of those places that you just drive past, but it’s worth a try.


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