FYI: The Counter – closing this weekend

As reported on Roseville Patch, the Counter, located in the Fountains, will be closing it’s doors this Sunday.  Go get a custom burger before it’s too late!

I went last weekend and had this:

  • 1/3lb beef  burger in a bowl of baby spinach
  • Jalapeño Jack cheese
  • Grilled Pineapple
  • Black Olives
  • Jalapeños
  • Sautéed Onions
  • Avocado
  • Fried Egg
  • Chipotle Aioli sauce
It was amazing.

Burger Form

Burger

I also tried a Wyder’s Pear Cider.  It was meh.

Hard Cider

Website: http://www.thecounterburger.com/

 

#64: Granite’s Famous Cheesesteaks & Wings

UPDATED 9/15/2012 – Followup visit: See bottom of post

Granite’s Famous Cheesesteaks & Wings is located on Pleasant Grove near 65, cater-cornered from the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club shopping center.  Based on their Facebook history it seems they’ve been there since sometime in 2010.  I only noticed them a couple months ago and have been meaning to try their wings, you know, since they’re famous and all.

Yesterday I stopped by for lunch at about noon.  The little shop was about half full.  There are only a handful of tables, I imagine they do a fair amount of take-out business.  The menu isn’t all cheesesteaks and wings, they actually have a lot of different choices including sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, salads, fish & chips and lots of sides.  I was interested in the hot wings, which come in 10, 15, 30, 50, 75 and 100 count orders.  Based on a photo on the wall I gathered that they are made without batter.  Sauce options were mild, hot, inferno, insane & garlic parmesan.  I figured I should get a side to go with them and the New York fries caught my eye.  The menu said “Nacho cheese & N.Y. Hot Sauce”, which sounded pretty good to me.

I stepped up to the counter and after a couple of minutes the cashier came up from the back to take my order.  He didn’t really greet me, he just kind of got his pen and order ticket in hand and then looked up at me.  I went ahead and ordered my food, I chose hot sauce for the wings, blue cheese to dip and ordered them all as drummets for an extra buck.  I got a fountain soda as well.  They have a small selection of beers and other beverages as well.  I saw glass bottled coke in the cooler to the right of the counter but was in the mood for Mr. Pib today.  Since it’s such a small place they didn’t take my name or give me a number.

I got my soda filled and gathered some paper towels around the corner of the front and took a small table against the front window.  My order took about 10 minutes, maybe a little under, to be ready.  One of the cooks got my attention and handed me my tray over the front counter.  He was much more personable than the cashier and, with a smile, told me to enjoy.

The chicken wings were doused with hot sauce.  A pool of it had formed on the plate.  They were steaming like crazy, obviously right out of the fryer.  I started with the fries in order to let them cool off a bit.  The New York fries had a thick layer of nacho cheese on top, and underneath I found ground beef, which was not in the description.  I couldn’t tell if there was hot sauce on them just by looking.  The fries themselves were very crispy, which was good because they held up well under the beef and cheese without becoming soggy.  Unfortunately, they were very bland.  Not only were the fries bland, the cheese and beef didn’t really have a lot going on either.  I definitely didn’t taste any hot sauce.  Texture-wise they were satisfying, but they had little flavor.

The wings looked pretty thin.  Only one or two seemed to have a good amount of chicken on them.  When I picked up and bit into the first one I thought, oh, they do have batter.  I figured out quickly though that I was wrong.  In actuality, the wings were fried so long that they had become tough and crispy.  The little chicken that was on them was stringy.  The only good thing about them was the sauce, which was fairly hot and flavorful.  Even the blue cheese was a little disappointing.  At most places where I’ve had wings with blue cheese it’s strong and chunky, but here it was runny and medium strength as best.

Obviously I was very disappointed with the wings.  The fries were a little better but I still wouldn’t order them again.  With all the other items they have on the menu there’s a good chance something is good, but I would have thought with “wings” in the name they would be very good.  These were probably the worst, if not very close to the worst, I’ve had.  Maybe if I find myself starving and directly in front of the shop I would be tempted to try a cheesesteak, but I certainly won’t be getting wings here again.

UPDATE 9/15/2012:

After posting this I received many comments from people that had much better times here, as well as from the staff of Granites.  I decided I would revisit this place for a cheesesteak and possibly try the wings one more time to see if I just had an isolated experience.  Today I did just that.  I called in my order (as not to be recognized and have it possibly affect the service or food) and picked it up at around 1:30.  I had the same cashier (both on the phone and in person) with roughly the same customer service.  Once I paid I filled up a soda cup and my order was ready for my as I was putting the lid on.  I  ordered a Steak Combination (Cheesesteak with mushrooms, onions and American cheese) as well as 10 wings with original hot sauce and blue cheese.

I was going to eat at the nearby park but there was a huge event going on there, soccer or something like that, so I just parked by Home Depot in the shade and ate in my car.  Everything was heavily wrapped in foil, which I’m thankful of because like last time, the wings were in a pool of excess sauce.  The styrofoam container mostly held it all, but in carrying it and driving caused some of it to leak out into the foil wrapping, instead of into the bag and then possibly onto my car seat.  These wings looked identical to the last ones, but it was a night & day difference in terms of texture.  These had definitely been cooked for less time and were tender and very enjoyable.  My focus this visit was the cheesesteak but I ended up eating more wings than I planned on because they were great.

The cheesesteak was fantastic and despite eating quite a few of the wings I still ate the whole thing.  It was VERY hot when I first unwrapped the foil.  Everything was good about this ‘steak: taste, temp, texture, cheese/meat ratio, bread softness, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about it.

Granite’s has won me over.  I believe that my first visit was atypical, at least in terms of the food.  Clearly they are capable of making some very good cheesesteaks and wings here.  I will say that I still think they have a lot of room for improvement as far as customer service goes.  I think a more appropriate rating would be 3.5-4 out of 5 now.  I am leaving the original post untouched because it still represents exactly what I experienced on that visit and is certainly possible that it could happen again, but take into account this followup as well as reviews on Yelp if you are hesitant in visiting Granites.  I think you’ll find that for the most part they are generally well respected.

Website: http://www.graniteswings.com/

Scanned Takeout Menu: Click Here

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#63: Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop (CLOSED)


Today I decided to go to Mr. Pickles for an early dinner. They have two locations in Roseville, one in the Bel Air shopping center at Cirby/Sunrise and one in the Famly Fitness shopping center at Foothills/Junction. I went to the Foothills location for no other reason than I forgot about the other one at the time. I’m sure you’ve seen the guy in a pickle suit on corners with Mr. Pickles in the Sacramento area, there seem to be a fairly large number of these little sandwich shops.

From what I’ve been told, the main corporation will set up a shop and then turn it over to be locally owned and operated. Each store, while still very clearly a Mr. Pickle’s, then takes on it’s own distinct personality. I used to try to go to the one in Roseville Square but was thwarted by bizarre hours. Eventually I managed to catch them while they were open once or twice. Service-wise they left a lot to be desired. Obviously they did not survive. The one I frequent the most is in Rancho Cordova and is the largest one I’ve seen so far. I go at lunch and similar to Subway or Togos you work with an employee who builds your sandwich while you wait directly on the other side of the counter from them. The sandwiches are consistently excellent. They always have a good number of employees and everyone is always extremely nice. Of course, this post isn’t about the Rancho store, but that shop sets the bar for Mr. Pickles in my mind.

This Foothills location is way off to the side in a small strip of businesses between a Burger King and a KinderCare. It is a very small location, smaller even than the Roseville Square store was I think, and that one was pretty small. Inside there are four 4-person tables and outside are 2 smaller tables. Off to one side there is a rack with a “take a penny, leave a penny” sort of collection of books, magazines and DVDs. A sign taped to it reads “Help yourself to a book, DVD, magazine or video. If you have any laying around the house, bring them in and share with your neighbors.” An interesting idea, but it just kind of feels out of place here. It seems like something you would expect to see in a small coffee house.

Probably the oddest thing about this Mr. Pickles is the theme: Jim Carrey. Movie posters, photos, you name it. Even the sandwiches are named after Jim Carrey’s characters and lines, such as The Fire Marshall Bill (Chicken Breast, Teriyaki,and Melted Jack), The Alrighty Then (Chicken Breast, Bacon, Avocado and Jack) or the Harry and Lloyd (Ham, Salami, Pastrami, Provolone and Italian Dressing). The sandwich I went with was called the Jim Bob Ken, and this was one of a couple in which I actually didn’t know the reference. I did some Googling when I got home and I’m still not sure. If anyone knows what “Jim Bob Ken” has to do with Jim Carrey, let me know.

Anyway, when I arrived at around 4:30 there was one customer eating and watching the TV which was turned up a little loud. The single employee came out of the back a bit later with her arms full to restock the self-serve cooler (which has sodas, tea and macaroni/pasta/potato salads). In doing so she dropped one of the macaroni salads which spilled. I continued to study the menu while she cleaned it up. After reading just about the entire thing I finally found the one I was looking for, hot pastrami, avocado, cream cheese and “phat sauce,” whatever that is. I meant to ask but it slipped my mind. This is the sandwich I regularly order at the Rancho location. I get it on Dutch Crunch with mayo, mustard, garlic oil, lettuce and onions. Here, she took my order and said she would bring it out to me when it was ready. I paid, grabbed a can of Coke from the cooler and sat down near the front door.

The canned sodas were $1.50, which I thought was pretty steep. At $8 the sandwich seemed to be about in line with what I pay at Rancho, maybe about 50¢ more. She took a large order after mine and then got to work on the sandwiches. Total wait from payment to table was between 5 and 10 minutes. When it arrived it looked a little sad. The Dutch Crunch roll looked like it had been crushed and at first glance it seemed like a good portion of the sandwich was lettuce. There actually wasn’t quite that much lettuce, but some of the thicker white parts of the head of lettuce were taking up a good amount of room. The roll did not have it’s distinct crunch, but was instead rather soft. The flavor of the sandwich was still quite good. The pastrami was hot and juicy, and everything else seemed fresh and tasty.

The overall construction was somewhat poor however. Toppings were unevenly distributed. Some bites had a little of everything, and others were just cream cheese and some stray lettuce. To contrast, the sandwiches I get at Rancho are always very well constructed with even amounts of all ingredients in from one end to the other. In addition, their bread is always very fresh and crunchy. There was something about this one, perhaps the “phat” sauce, that was really good. I think it was just heavier garlic oil than Rancho uses though. I might ask for that next time I go there and see if it has the same effect.

Despite the taste being good, I wasn’t particularly impressed with this Mr. Pickles. The sandwich construction needed a lot of improvement, portions seemed a bit smaller than Rancho at a higher cost, the soda price was way too high, and the professional “feel” was lacking overall compared to Rancho. In addition, you get a chocolate chip cookie with your sandwich at the Rancho location (and it seems from many others, based on some reviews I skimmed over). Here there was no cookie :(. I think the Jim Carrey theme will be the most memorable thing of this visit.

Website (corporate): http://www.mrpicklesinc.com/

Scanned Foothills location specific menu: Click Here

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