Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Free Play At Dave And Busters

Last week my good friend Vito Grandolfo and I took advantage of a couple of great freebie coupon deals, one was for Smashburger, and the other at Dave And Buster’s. The offer from Dave and Buster’s was for $10 worth of free play on their arcade just for signing up at FreePlayDay.com. For those not quite familiar with Dave and Buster’s, they are essentially a similar to a kid oriented Chuck E. Cheese restaurant which is basically a restaurant combined with a arcade of video games and games of skill. The difference is that Dave and Buster’s is for adults. Instead of crappy pizza, they have a full menu of a wide variety of food options, and a full bar to serve any kind of alcoholic drink you could want. Not that Dave and Buster’s doesn’t cater to kids, but they do reach a point where kids get kicked out and only people over 21 can go there.

While moving I found all my old Dave and Buster cards, including a couple of unused play cards from the birthday party I had there several years ago. I figured they probably had no value left and all the previously collected tickets that were put on my card, I was sure after this long they’d probably been wiped out. To Dave and Buster’s credit, all the points were still on the cards and I still had tons of tickets to redeem on the crap they have available to redeem points for. But I always like to collect the tickets and so I opted mostly to play the games that spew out the tickets and I was surprised my old favorite machines that were cash cows for tickets for me in the past were now down to only one machine and it wasn’t working. I was disappointed with that.

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Boston’s Gourmet Pizza Brings Canadian Pizza To Encinitas

It seems when it comes to pizza, you often are faced with several choices, such as New York Thin Crust style verses Chicago Deep Dish style. Then it’s often between mom and pop locations and the “chain” places. And even within the “chains” you get a choice between the cheap and mediocre places, like Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Domino’s, and Little Caesar’s which are to pizza what McDonald’s is to hamburgers. And there are even more premium chain places like Round Table Pizza, California Pizza Kitchen, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizzas, and Chicago UNO, that offer better pizza experiences. Joining the foray of the premium style chains, one of Canada’s most popular pizza chains, Boston Pizza, are expanding into the United States branding these locations as “Boston’s Gourmet Pizza” and positioning themselves as a restaurant and sports bar offering two experiences under one roof.

You may be asking, if Boston’s Gourmet Pizza originates from Canada, why do they call themselves “Boston’s” instead of some city in Canada? Well the answer to that lies in its history, as Boston Pizza was started by a Greek Immigrant to Canada in 1964. When he was looking for a name for his pizza place that he was starting in Edmonton, Alberta, he felt with The Boston Bruins, The Boston Red Sox, The Boston Celtics, and even Boston Creme Pie, the name Boston was recognizable and established. In the words of founder, Gus Agioritis, Boston meant “Big Leagues.” The company grew quickly through franchising quickly and today has over 325 locations throughout Canada and over 50 in the US since the company first expanded into the US in 1998.

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A&W Root Beer Served The Way Root Beer Should Be Served

On my way out of Palm Springs along Interstate 10, I found an A&W Restaurant just outside the Morongo Hotel And Casino. This was not a combination A&W store with another one of Yum! brands like Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, etc. This was an A&W restaurant that was just an A&W restaurant. This was exciting since all the San Diego A&W’s were combination stores and all of them withdrew the A&W portion of the stores, it means the only chance to sample A&W is on the road outside of San Diego.

When I got there, it was about a half hour before they opened. I was surprised they weren’t opened earlier as it was 10:30 am when I stopped by. I didn’t want to just find the next A&W because I might not see another one on the road ahead, so I went for a quick fill up on gasoline at Morongo’s gas station and then just waited for the A&W to open. At about 10 minutes left to go before the placed opened there was a line forming outside the door. Apparently I wasn’t alone in my want for A&W Food. Sure it’s not what I really should be eating but it’s an out of town treat.

Once it opened, I opted to get a burger combo and removed the bun, like I usually do at burger joints. But I was interested in the upgrade of the fries to Wisconsin Cheese Curds. Thanks to my friend Caroline Bender for introducing me to what Cheese Curds really are, I was anxious to try these. I had never tried Cheese Curds until Caroline introduced me to them because I didn’t know what a curd was and it sounded disgusting. So now that I’ve been corrected and know that cheese curds are delicious plain, let alone deep fried like they were here at A&W.

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Smashburger Comes To San Diego

It seems that there’s always a new competitor out there in the field seeing to claim ownership of the best burger title, and this month a new competitor is throwing their hat into the competition here in San Diego. Smashburger, a chain of premium burger joints, has opened their doors of their very first store in San Diego county. Their first location is located in downtown La Jolla, home to some fine restaurants and premium shopping experiences. Perfect for a place offering superior quality burgers.

I’ve actually been to Smashburger twice now. The first visit was with a couple of friends. I met them there after I got done with work. They had driven up from San Diego and I was heading South from work. The restaurant itself wasn’t jam packed with people yet, but the parking in La Jolla was a challenge. The only unfortunate side about La Jolla is that parking and getting around there are not the most enjoyable experiences. So until Smashburger opens some more locations, the La Jolla location is just going to be an occasional visit depending on how willing I am to put up with frustrating parking.

The second visit I went with another friend who was out of town at the time I went with the first two friends and while we were there my friend had a suggestion for their manager and he came out and talked with us for a few minutes. Apparently the success of the new La Jolla location has been far exceeding expectations so they’ve been readily welcomed into San Diego. At peak meal periods they’re struggling to meet the demand and that’s always a good sign.

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Trying Out A Sonic Drive-In In Vista

To most of the rest of the country, Sonic Drive-In restaurants are a common, everyday sight and experience. Perhaps, one hardly worth taking note. However, they are relatively new here in San Diego, with their first store appearing in Santee about a year ago. I still have not visited that location, but on my way to my Post Office Box in Carlsbad I was driving through Vista and found they had put in a Sonic Drive-In near the recently redeveloped Main Street area. In fact, it’s really close to the old Peppertree Frosty shop that has an amazing variety of milkshakes and other ice cream treats.

I decided to give Sonic a try as I haven’t done a “drive-in” experience in years and thought it might be fun. I pulled into an open stall, decided on what to have then pressed the button to call the store to let them know I was ready to order. Once the order was placed, I loved the fact I could just pay with my Debit card (using it as a Mastercard) right at the menu board right next to the speaker and within a few minutes a young girl on roller skates was out to deliver my order and receipt. It was really cool. I know once the drive-thru was introduced, the drive-in’s were pretty much existing on borrowed time and nearly disappeared permanently, fortunately Sonic has been able to revive the format and make it accessible to folks who might never know the concept ever existed.

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Farmer Boys Hamburgers Uses Twitter To Reach Out

Yesterday, I decided to stop for some food after work and while driving through Escondido, I decided to stop at the Farmer Boys Restaurant on Valley Parkway. Farmer Boys is a chain of restaurants throughout Southern California although they have next to no presence at all in San Diego County. They have 2 stores in Escondido, but are mostly located in Riverside and San Bernadino counties. (They even have 2 locations in Las Vegas.)

The restaurants are pretty cool as a kind of hybrid fast food/sit down restaurant. You place your order at the counter like a fast food place and if you’re dining in, they give you a number and serve your order to your table on real plates with real flatware, not the disposable paper products of traditional fast food places. The place has a more rural appeal in terms of appearance and fits in with a country style home feeling, and is really quite a pleasant environment to dine in. And the service is quite friendly too.

Farmer Boys has the tagline “World’s Greatest Hamburgers” and while many places make that claim or something very similar, usually it’s just over inflated hype. Would I consider the burgers at Farmer Boys to be the World’s Greatest, no, not by a long shot. But what I would say is that they’re definitely on par or slightly above the average sit down restaurant. And while the tagline really focuses on burgers, they really do offer quite a selection of different things, burgers are just a small portion of the menu. They do offer a rather large breakfast menu, so they have a greater bit of variety than you’d expect for a place claiming to be a “burger” joint.

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Indulging In A Little A&W

As some of my readers may recall, a few weeks ago I had a craving for some A&W food, and to my surprise discovered all the locations in San Diego County had closed up shop. (Click here to read about it if you missed it.) Since I was in Orange County for Robert Shadbolt’s birthday at Disneyland, I decided on the way home I was going to seek out one of the A&W’s on the way home from Disneyland. But I wasn’t really hungry and by the time I found the location in Mission Viejo with a slight diversion off the highway, it was a few minutes before they closed.

I didn’t really want food, so I elected to just get a Root Beer Float, except using the Diet Root Beer instead of the regular. Officially even those are a no-no items on my Belly Fat Cure program, because the ice cream has sugar in it, and the Diet Root Beer has aspartame in it. But as a Dr. Edward Taub frequently states, “Everything in moderation….including moderation.” And so I had a small Root Beer Float with two bad ingredients. On the Belly Fat Cure, I’m not supposed to have a meal that exceeds 5 grams of sugar and 2 carb servings or a 5/2. The Diet Root Beer Float was a 17/2, which is okay on the carb end, but 2 more grams of sugar than I’m supposed to have in a whole day. Still far better than the 57/4 getting the regular root beer version would have been. So I cheated on my program a little.

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Paramount Builds Theme Restaurants Of Entertainment Properties

Following the great day at Disneyland to celebrate my friend Robert Shadbolt’s birthday, our group decided on dinner at Anaheim’s Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant. The chain of Bubba Gump restaurants takes it’s name and inspiration from the 1994 Forrest Gump film originally directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks in the title role. As a themed restaurant, Bubba Gump offers a seafood dining menu in addition to a themed gift shop and effectively offering a unique way to keep the spirit of Forrest Gump alive and well in the mind of consumers long after the original theatrical run of the film.

According to the press kit, Paramount Pictures originally approached Rusty Pelican Restaurants, Inc. about extending the brand of Forrest Gump into the realm of casual family dining. And by 1996, the very first Bubba Gump Shrimp Company themed restaurant opened it’s doors in Montery, California. The company specifically targets tourist destinations for their restaurants, such as the Anaheim location which is a couple of blocks away from Disneyland, and other locations including Universal’s City Walk in both Hollywood and Orlando, Times Square in New York, Pier 39 in San Francisco, and the Mall of America in Minnesota. Bubba Gump is Paramount’s most successful foray into themed restaurant licensing, but wasn’t the first.

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Filled Up Which Wich? Loyalty Card

In what will most likely be my final visit to Which Wich? for the year, I went to redeem the loyalty punch card for my free sandwich. I had collected the necessary ten stamps from the purchase of ten sandwiches over the course of the last couple of months. I have to admit I love these kind of gimmick programs as I find the collection process of the program nearly as much fun as the redeeming aspect of the process. It’s almost like a mini-goals card, and each punch brings you one step closer to that free prize, in this case a sandwich.

When you think about it, it’s really a good deal for the restaurants or other businesses that offer these kind of loyalty programs. In the case of Which Wich?, the value of a completed card is the price of a single sandwich, here in the San Diego area, that means a full card is worth $5.25. But in order to get that $5.25, a total of $52.50 needs to be spent. That’s just the bare minimum that must be spent, that doesn’t include the chips, cookies, or drinks people may buy in addition to the sandwiches. Which Wich? even takes it a step further and adding an end of the year deadline for the punches to be collected and redeemed. This card when full expires on December 31. Any unredeemed cards or ones that didn’t collect enough punches are voided and the whole process starts over on January 1.

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Economy Dinner Night At Rubios

Economy Dinner Night At Rubio'sOn Wednesday night some of my friends got together for a little get together at one of the local Rubio’s restaurants. It was dubbed an “Economy Dinner Night” due to one member of our group of friends, Jason Murillo, works for the corporate office of Rubio’s which is here in San Diego (or rather Carlsbad to be more specific). He was able to allow us all to get together and use his 50% off employee discount.

Rubio’s was started by a fellow San Diego State University Alumni, Ralph Rubio, on the basis of a fish taco inspired by the fish tacos Rubio tried and loved on a surfing trip into Mexico. Rubio brought the concept north of the border and hasn’t looked back ever since. His fish tacos were a huge hit here in San Diego and the company has been expanding out to bring the concept of fish tacos as well as many other Baja inspired menu items to all parts of California as well as Rubio’s restaurants in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. I remember being very hesitant to try my first fish taco, but I was hooked and I usually offer to take my out of town friends to try one, although I’ve had a few just not be able to wrap their minds about fish being inside of a taco. It’s their loss because they’re quite good.

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