#104: Daphne’s Greek Cafe

Today for lunch I went to Daphne’s Greek Cafe in the Safeway shopping center at Sierra College and Douglas.  There is one other Daphne’s location on Fairway Drive near Kohl’s.  Aside from these there are a few scattered around the bay area and most of the rest in southern California where they got their start about 20 years ago.  I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve been to a Daphne’s.  I know that I’ve only ever had the basic gyro pita, which is pretty tasty and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like slowly rotating, roasting meats?

That said, other than gyros, Greek cuisine is a bit of a blank spot in my food knowledge.  I had lots of time to examine the menu while a couple in front of me asked the cashier some questions.  The chicken pine nut salad sounded really good (Roasted chicken and mixed greens tossed in pomegranate dressing, topped with pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese) but I wasn’t really in the mood for a salad today.  I think I may come back and check that out sometime soon.  I kind of wanted a gyro but I also wanted to try some other things.  I found the Mix & Match plates where you can choose any two items from fresh-carved gyros, grilled chicken or steak kabobs, falafel or crispy shrimp.  In addition you get to pick two sides (choice of fire-roasted vegetables, tabouli, seasoned rice pilaf, fries, side greek salad, multigrain pita chips and premium hummus [original, roasted red pepper or pesto]).

When I got to the register I asked if the gyros in this mix and match plate was the same as the standard pita and was told that it’s just the meat itself rather than the full pita with the veggies.  This made sense because the plate is only a few bucks extra for a lot more food.  I asked if it came with flatbread or something and he said it comes with slices of pita bread.  With that I ordered the plate, choosing gyros and a chicken kabob.  I asked him if he had any recommendations for the sides.  Rice pilaf, fries, greek salad and roasted red pepper hummus were mentioned.  I’m not big on the traditional Greek salad and fries sounded kind of boring today so I went with the rice and hummus.  Adding a soda brought my total to just over $12.

I walked over to the soda fountains and filled my cup with Pibb.  Just as I was finishing I noticed some extra buttons on one of the modules that I’ve never seen before.  Flavor shots!  There was cherry, vanilla and orange.  I decided to check that out with a refill later.  I took a seat in the decent sized dining room and stuck my little order number card in the holder.  There is a ton of outdoor seating on the side and some out front by a big round fountain.  It was a touch on the chilly side so just about everyone was inside, but I always see lots of people eating out there when the weather is nice.  I thought the salt shaker / pepper grinder combo was pretty neat.  You turn the whole top block with salt to grind the pepper.

Not too long after I sat down, maybe 5 minutes or so, my order was brought out on a square plate and I was given a fork and knife wrapped in a napkin.  Everything looked pretty good so I dug in immediately after taking some photos.  The rice pilaf was really very good.  Hummus scooped up with pita bread was excellent.  I first tried the plain hummus and then took a dab of the roasted red pepper topper.  It added just a little spice but I could see it would be best if I mixed it up.  The chicken kabob tasted pretty good, particularly the veggies, though the chicken was a little dry.  The gyro meat was nicely spiced and very tasty as well, but it too was kind of dry.  Dipping it in the included pita sauce (I have no idea what this is, but man it’s good) helped out a lot.  The sauce is incredibly light and kind of refreshing in a way.  The Pibb was very weak.  It didn’t seem to be out, just a bad syrup mix (they must have taken a page from Panda Express on this).  When I left I gave the vanilla shot a try with it, but it was weak to the point that now all it tasted like was carbonated water with a strong vanilla flavor.  I ended up dumping it later after just a few sips.  Pretty disappointing.

This is the first time I’ve had gyros where it’s dry.  I just talked to someone that told me they don’t like to order the kabobs because they have also experienced dry chicken with those.  If both of these were juicier, and the soda fountains properly set up, than I think this would have been a home run.  The sides were a lot better than I expected.  The service was very good.  The cashier was patient and helpful and the dining room service was good.  Employees were constantly moving through and checking on the customers.  After my food was delivered I was checked on twice and right after I finished and set my napkin on the plate someone came by to take the plate and ask again how everything was.

Website: http://www.daphnesgreekcafe.com

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#103: Smallcakes

Bonus dessert post for today!  I probably ruined my dinner appetite with this one, but it might have been worth it 😉

I popped into Freshberry & Smallcakes to pick up some cupcakes to go for after the Habit.  This seems to be two businesses in one.  Each one has a smattering of locations scattered around the US, maybe a around a dozen for each one.  I wasn’t really interested in the Freshberry side of things as I’m not much for frozen yogurt or smoothies, but they have those in case you are.  I walked in a little before 11:30 and was the only customer.  There are half a dozen little tables and some counter seats in the bright and clean space.  As I approached the counter a woman came out from the back to greet me and she went over some of the popular cupcakes.  She told me if there were any that I wanted that were not already in the display, she could ice them up pretty quickly, which was nice to know.  I picked a Boston Cream Pie, a Lemon and a Strawberry Cream.  Just under $10 later I was on my way.

Of these three, the only one that shows up on the Smallcakes website menu is the Lemon (lemon cake filled with tangy lemon topped with our lemon buttercream and a dollop of tangy lemon).  The Strawberry Cream was a little more simple, strawberry cake with a creamy strawberry frosting (probably buttercream as well).  Those two were for others, who said they were very very good and extremely sweet.  Mine was the Boston Cream Pie, which was equally amazing and sweet.  I had a “got milk?” moment when I finished it.  The chocolate topping was thick and heavy, like a true Boston Cream pie, and the cake even had the custard filling.

Roseville’s other cupcakery, Sweet Stuff, recently announced limited hours, so I think this is the place to come for your cupcake needs from now on.  The cupcakes are just as good, and you can go in whenever you want!  I’m a fan.

Website: http://www.smallcakescupcakery.com/

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#102: The Habit Burger Grill

I set out today to go to Teriyaki Domo but I didn’t realize they are closed on Sundays.  I still had teriyaki on the brain so I headed further down Douglas to I Love Teriyaki, which is supposed to be open 7 days a week.  For some reason they were also closed.  Finally I thought to myself, “screw it, I’m going to Habit.”  In my frustration I went to the Granite Bay location rather than the Roseville one thinking it was on the Roseville side, but alas, I was wrong.  They’re pretty much the same anyway, so I’m pressing on.

This location is at the corner of Sierra College and Douglas next to the new Walmart Neighborhood Market.  Habit is almost exclusively a California chain, originating and highly concentrated in southern California.  They’ve been expanding rapidly in the Sacramento area in the last several years, the most recent location opening in Rancho near my work, which my taste buds are happy about but my scale and wallet are not.  They are primarily known for their charburgers though they have other things to choose from such as grilled chicken, albacore tuna and tri-tip sandwiches and a veggie burger.  I’ve never tried any of these though since the char burger is pretty amazing.

I arrived today a little after 11:30, which is usually around the time the lunch rush starts to pick up.  Business was fairly light but consistent and picked up a bit while I was there.  I hopped in line behind a family and soon I was up to order.  I went with the Double Char with Cheese plus avocado and bacon, minus pickles and tomatoes.  The regular char burger is plenty of food, especially with the avocado and bacon, but the double char makes for a great photo ;).  I also ordered onion rings and a soda.

The onion rings here are very good and aren’t much more than the fries, I think just 10¢, making them a very good value.  The fries are, well, a little boring to be honest.  I’ve come to love them over time though.  They’re always consistently crisp, which I appreciate more than great fries that might be crispy one visit and limp the next (like Five Guys).  The service at Habit is on par with In’N’Out and Chick Fil-a.  They’re fast, efficient, friendly and beyond polite.  Even the big, scary Samoan-looking guy.  Some time ago all the Habits started handing out pagers for each order.  It might seem excessive for a fast food type of place but it’s nice because you don’t have names or numbers being yelled out over the often noisy dining rooms.

After about 5 minutes my pager lit up and I picked up my food from the counter.  The burger is massive.  The presentation is nice, half wrapped in paper similarly to In’N’Out.  You can see everything from the side, and these toppings are plentiful throughout the entire burger, not just piled up at the front to make it look good.  This was such a loaded burger that just a couple bites in both sides of the bun started to fall apart under the strain.  Big chunks of avocado kept falling out the back as I ate, yet there was still a ton more inside.  Good, crispy bacon was also escaping here and there.  The burger itself is very good, perhaps a bit heavy on the salty side though.  This is something I’ve started to notice recently.  If I had to describe Habit in one word it would be salty.  Adding the bacon is a little overkill because it is also on the salty side.  It’s still a very good burger though.

The onion rings are very, very crunchy.  Almost Captain Crunch cut-the-roof-of-your-mouth-open crunchy.  These were tasty as usual, though I noticed as I ate them that even they seemed pretty salty.  With the last ring I could see little grains of salt on it which brought my attention to the tray they were served in.  At the bottom was a ton of extra salt, they must sprinkle it on after they come out of the fryer which I think is a bit much.

I enjoy the Habit quite a bit, but the more I go the more I notice how salty the burgers (and other things) are.  I think I may very well try one of the chicken sandwiches next time to see what they’re all about.

Website: http://www.habitburger.com/

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