#155: Bar 101 Eats & Drinks

Last Friday I was planning on going to Bar 101 Eats & Drinks in Old Roseville to see a friend’s band play.  I had never been there so I took a look at their website to see what type of place it was.  They have a little video featuring the food and it made it look pretty solid, so I figured I’d do a post on it.  Bar 101 is located at the end of Main street near all the other bars and clubs.  I arrived pretty early, just after 6, for dinner.

The place was pretty quiet, a couple groups were seated and there were a few people at the bar.  The bar itself is on the small side given the size of the whole place.  Stick it on the opposite wall and it could have run the length of the room.  In the middle are regular tables and along the front wall some taller pub tables.  Past the bar is a somewhat separate room with a pool table, an arcade game and not much else.  TVs can be seen from most angles and a large projector screen hangs over what turns into the stage for live music at night.  I don’t recall if I was greeted when I walked in, if so it was a quick “how’s it going” type greeting and that’s it.  I took a seat at one of the tables by the front windows and sat for a few minutes, wondering if I should go to the bartender and ask for a menu.  Eventually he did come around and ask if I was going to be ordering food, then brought me a menu, silverware/napkin and a basket of condiments.

On the wall above the entrance to the pool table room is a big blackboard with the beer selection.  I’m not even remotely a beer guy, but I have to say I found it to be very standard.  There were a couple things that I don’t normally see, but all the typical domestic stuff was up there and nothing particularly noteworthy from the smaller breweries.  I settled on a Lost Coast Great White.  The bartender/server brought this out in a couple minutes.  He was the only guy working the front, though I did see another who was running food out from the kitchen now and then.  The menu was much more interesting than the beer list.  It starts off with appetizer/bar type items from wings and chicken strips to spicy panko calamari.  Some excellent sounding salads come up next, and finally the bulk of the menu, burgers, tacos sandwiches and a few other misc items.  Honestly, based on the descriptions, I think I would be down to order just about anything on this menu, which is rare I think.  I soon decided on The Package burger (Bacon wrapped, cheddar stuffed, topped with crispy onion strings and our house-made BBQ sauce on a toasted brioche bun)[$10.95].

I ordered it up and waited just a smidge over ten minutes for it to come out.  The other guy I saw running food brought it to me with the bartender just behind him, who then asked if I needed anything else.  I almost said ketchup but realized it was in the basket he set on the table earlier.  With that he turned his attention back to the bar and the other customers.  My burger was served in a largish metal pan with a light-brown paper liner.  It was presented open, showing off most of the ingredients.  The pile of onion strings was enough that I thought I would have a hard time keeping them in the burger.  A lot of it was small broken up pieces.  They sat atop the burger patty with a glob of BBQ sauce in between.  A couple slices of medium-thick bacon was visible curled around on one side.  There was a lot more there underneath the BBQ and onions.  On the top slice of bun was lettuce, red onion and a slice of tomato.  I didn’t realize how much onion there was until I assembled the burger.  It was a solid slice, which I thought might be a bit much, so I pulled a few rings off to thin it out.

Once I put it together I think I looked at it for a minute or so wondering how to go about starting to eat it.  It was a very sizable burger.  I snacked on the fries a bit while I considered this.  The fries were thin, shoestring cut, and they were pretty good on their own.  I had no desire to add ketchup to them at all.  They were crispy and had little salt, which they didn’t really need.  Finally I took the plunge, picked up the massive burger and started eating.  The first bite was a lot of bun, onion, BBQ sauce and one of the thick sliced pickles that was hiding under the patty.  I hit the bacon wrapped patty next.  It was pretty damn good.  The bacon was crisp and flavorful and the patty was full of flavor itself.  I had picked medium rare when he asked earlier.  The beef seemed to be cooked more medium as I didn’t really see any pink.  It was still very good though and plenty juicy, I’m not sure if medium rare would have even been the much of an improvement.  I didn’t really notice the “cheddar stuffed” part of this burger.  I didn’t hit an obvious cheesy pocket or even see bits here or there.  Either they forgot the cheese in this or it’s so well blended in with the patty that it simply enhances the beef without being it’s own discrete thing.  Despite this, it was still a really great burger.  Excellent, crispy bacon was in just about every single bite.  I’ve had many bacon-wrapped things, but this was my first bacon-wrapped burger, and I liked it.

The service left something to be desired.  Granted, it was just the one bartender.  They weren’t all that busy though.  He seemed somewhat disinterested in our interactions.  He did apologize for the lack of service to an extent at the end, but this might just have been because he had guessed earlier that I was doing some kind of blog/review.  I left for a while and had drinks elsewhere until the show was about to start.  When I came back it was much busier and he had another server or two helping out.  I stood at the bar for a bit scoping out the small section of liquor.  In their video they claim to have “whatever your hearts desire”.  My heart desired a decent bourbon selection, but all they had was Makers Mark.  The same bartender served that to me, again, seeming very disinterested in either me or his work in general.

While the service I received could have used some major improvement, the food was almost good enough to overlook it.  As I said the entire menu looked pretty good and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself back here eventually to try some other things, particularly the carnitas fries (French fries topped with carnitas, melted jack and cheddar cheese, homemade guac, sour cream, pico de gallo, jalapenos and green onions)[$7.95].

#154: Cafe Delicias

Tonight I hadn’t planned on going out but by the time I got home, after a relatively long day and small lunch, I was starving.  I tossed out my plans for a quick meal at home and grabbed my camera.  I arrived at my destination on Harding Blvd, right next to the 7-11 and Chevron, Cafe Delicias.  I’ve been past here hundreds of times, maybe even thousands.  I’ve only been inside once, though not even to eat.  I dropped in on some friends towards the end of their meal.  That was years ago.  I couldn’t even remember what it looked like inside.  I thought this was a one off family run joint.  Indeed, it’s family run, but they have a few other locations in Rocklin and Auburn as well.

I arrived at 5:15 to a pretty quiet restaurant.  Just inside the doors you step into a small waiting area with a view of the dining room through an archway.  The couple employees I saw were both talking to customers.  Once I took a step through the arch I was noticed immediately and seated in a booth by the window.  There isn’t a lot to look at out there, just the old, cracked parking lot and the shopping center across the street.  I had a menu placed in front of me as I sat down and a minute later chips, salsa and silverware were brought out.  In addition to the salsa fresca there was a condiment-type bottle with another kind to try.  A 2nd small dish was provided for it.  The woman that brought this to me asked what I would like to drink.  I quickly scanned over the back of the menu, which was light on selection, and asked if they had horchata, which they did [$2].  She brought that out pretty quickly and then I met my server.  I said I needed a few minutes so she went off to the back while I perused.

I first set out looking for my favorite carnitas dish, but did not find it.  Additionally, I didn’t see carnitas, or pork in general, as an option in hardly anything.  Things were looking very grim.  Defeated, I settled on the #3, Two Tamales (Homemade pork tamales smothered in sauce)[$10].  I like tamales and it was one of the few items on the menu with pork, so I think I made a good choice.  When the server came back to take my order she said that the manager wanted to know what the photos were for.  I told her it was for my Roseville food blog and she asked if it was some sort of advertising, which I said no to.  With that she happily wrote down my order, asked what kind of dressing I wanted on my salad and was on her way.  That was probably the most anyone has ever asked me about it in the 2+ years I’ve been doing this.

I started munching on the chips and salsa while I waited on my food.  Several more people were seated while I was there but it never got very busy.  The chips were room temp and didn’t have a whole lot of flavor to them, but they did have a nice thickness to them and had a satisfying crunch.  The salsa fresca did taste very fresh, I would be surprised if they didn’t make it in-house.  It had just a tiny bit of heat that was cumulative.  There was something in it that was a bit strong, perhaps cilantro, that I wasn’t crazy about, so I moved on to the mystery bottle.  In it was a red sauce (something more like salsa roja?) with a much more bold chili flavor, though not a ton more heat to it.  I stuck with this through the majority of the chips.  My horchata was pretty good.  It was light on the cinnamon and sweetness overall, which was actually pretty refreshing.  I’m usually sick of sweet horchatas (even if they are delicious) by the end of a big glass, but this one I could  have kept going after a couple refills without a doubt.

Soon my salad arrived, which came with my tamales.  It was a tiny little bowl with perhaps a bit too much dressing on it.  It was a tasty blue cheese, there just wasn’t enough lettuce to work with.  The lettuce that was there was mixed with some slivers of carrots here and there and a decent amount of purple cabbage.  It was all fresh and crisp.

It was another 12 minutes after the salad had come out before my entree arrived.  She cautioned me that the plate was very hot as she set it down.  The sauce that the tamales were sitting in was bubbling, and I nudged the plate a bit further away so I could get a quick little video of it, and HOLY CRAP, she wasn’t kidding.  I feel confident in saying that this was probably the hottest plate I’ve ever received, anywhere (with a potential exception to one that was set in front of me when I was a little kid which I burnt my hands on.  I don’t remember it but I’ve seen a photo of me with bandages).  I seriously had to sit patiently for quite a while before anything was cool enough to attempt to eat without melting my face off.  Later it was confirmed to me, as I mentioned that she was not joking around with the plate, that they put the entire thing into the oven.  I kept testing it throughout my meal but it wasn’t until I was nearly done that I decided it was cool enough to keep touching indefinitely.  Crazy.

Anyway, as for the food itself, the tamales were…decent.  The amount of pork in them was a little disappointing.  What was there was somewhat tasty, but it didn’t blow me away.  I don’t think there was any cheese in it either, or at least I didn’t notice it if there was.  The corn wrap was OK as well, but again, nothing special.  It was a touch dry in some spots, suitably moist in others.  The sauce was pretty good with a nice rich chili flavor, though I wish there had been more of it to help the rest of the bites along.  I actually kind of liked the rice and beans more than the tamales (well, mostly the beans, I mixed them up after a few bites of each).  I left most of them for last.  They were a little above average (which really isn’t that impressive considering the rice and beans I’ve encountered thus far).

So overall, pretty meh.  I was satisfied with the customer service and my server in particular who was very nice.  After the manager had sent her to ask about the photos I felt like i was being watched almost the whole time by one or two people from just inside the kitchen.  Maybe I was just imagining it though.  The real kicker here was when I got up to the register to pay and looked around a bit, I saw a paper on the wall that said in small print “Special: Carnitas”.  You’ve got to be kidding me.

#153: Giraffe Restaurant (CLOSED)

When I first heard about Giraffe Restaurant a couple months ago I was curious, mostly because the name really doesn’t tell you anything at all, unless of course they served tasty giraffe meat, which for the record I would totally try.  I looked into it briefly once or twice and skimmed over the menu.  Nothing really popped out at me at the time.  As I was looking over my list this week to figure out where to go next, I visited their website once more.  This time, however, a good portion of their menu sounded really appealing.  I must have been in the right mood to process it.  They are located at the corner of Fairway and Pleasant Grove, across from Nugget near Lowes.  They serve an interesting mix of American, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.  American was represented by a burger, but most everything else seemed to be of the other two.

I met up with my mother at 6PM for dinner.  I was a bit early.  From out front it looked like they had two entrances, neither of which is very clearly marked, they kind of blend into the glass front.  I took a gamble with the door on the right, underneath the main Giraffe signage.  This turned out to be the correct one.  I found myself in a little waiting area with some chairs, a copy of the menu on a table to the other side and a woman standing there ready to greet me.  The other door leads right into the middle of the dining room.  I told her I was waiting for one more and she asked if I would like to be seated or wait.  I chose to be seated and we rounded a small divider wall  and came back to the front by the windows where I was given a booth.  The dining room is very open as is the kitchen, which you can see most of from your seat.  The ceiling above this side was crazy high.  Behind me was one of several giraffe decorations and some plants sitting on what must have been a counter people sat at in whatever this place used to be.  There was just one other person in the dining room, sitting in the center at a small table.  Eventually he was joined by one more.  Another couple came in while I was waiting and had apparently been here before because the waitress said she remembered them.  Finally, a mother and daughter showed up, curious what kind of restaurant it was (I suspect most people in Roseville are wondering this when they see the name), then after looking at the menu for a moment took a seat.

The waitress, who was the only person tending to the customers while I was there, brought me a large cup of ice water.  Soon my mom joined and she received water as well.  The waitress asked if we would like anything else to drink but we both stuck with water.  They have a very limited beverage selection right now.  According to their website they are waiting on their beer and wine public notice to be processed.  For the time being it’s soda, tea and coffee.  We went over the menu (which strangely opened like a wall calendar rather than like a book).  I think we both picked out an entree fairly quickly, and I then turned my attention to the starters.  I was curious about the “Chicken White Soup,” although by the time we were placing our order I forgot to ask about it.  Instead we ordered the Eggplant Dip (Roasted eggplant, onion, garlic and tomato with dairy sauce and pita bread)[$5.89].  For my entree I chose the Grilled Half Cornish Hen (Half a hen {13oz} with grilled tomato and sweet pepper, cup corn, garlic toast, with choice of pomegranate or mushroom sauce)[10.89].  I figured the mushroom sauce would probably be good although I was very curious about the pomegranate sauce and had planned on getting that.  I completely failed to notice that she didn’t ask me.  A minute after she had left she came back and very apologetically informed me that they were out of the pomegranate and asked if the mushroom was OK, so that’s how that worked itself out.

Less than 10 minutes after we ordered we received an appetizer of fried pita chips with a white dipping sauce.  The chips were very crunchy and warm.  The sauce was light, cool and had a definite cucumber flavor to it.  She returned just a minute or two later with the eggplant dip and asked if we liked the sauce, then listed off some of it’s ingredients and compared it to Tzatziki sauce.  It was really good and this seemed to be a standard complimentary appetizer.  I saw her deliver one to each of the other tables.  Our eggplant dip was warm and was served with soft triangles of pita bread.  It was pretty difficult to scoop any of the dip up with the bread alone and we had to use one of our forks to assist.  Neither of us was really into this, but I think it’s because we’re not that crazy about eggplant (I’ve not had a lot of eggplant, so I didn’t really consider it when ordering it).  It wasn’t bad at all, in fact once the initial eggplant flavor in a bite subsided, allowing the other ingredients to shine, it was pretty decent.  While we finished all the pita bread, there was probably about half of the dip remaining.  Our waitress offered to bring more bread out when she came by to clear the two plates.

It was roughly 15 minutes between when these appetizers first arrived and when the entrees came out.  The presentation was nice on both.  My moms Beef Stroganoff with Rotini (chopped beef, mushroom, bell pepper, white sauce and three-blended cheese with fresh herbs and vegetables)[$8.49] came in a big bowl that was mostly rim.  After digging in she realized that the bowl was deceptively deep and that there was considerably more there than we thought.  She ended up taking half of it to go for leftovers.  She said the beef was very tender and that overall the dish was quite good.

My grilled half Cornish hen was quite large and covered in the white mushroom sauce.  The sauce had lots of good sized slices of mushrooms along with a full mushroom off to the side, next to a colorful trio of grilled veggies consisting of a big slice a zucchini, half a tomato and a full sweet pepper.  On the other side was a little cup of corn, topped with a bit of shredded cheese.  I took a bite of this and was surprised at how peppery it tasted, as if it had been covered in invisible black pepper(though some coarsely ground pepper was clearly visible, it just didn’t seem to match what I was tasting).  It was buttery and good, just wow, really peppery also.  Each of the veggies were soft from the grill and cut easily with my butter knife.  The zucchini and tomato were very tasty.  I didn’t get to the pepper before I started to get full.  The hen was outstanding.  Perfectly prepared, the white meat portions were moist and tender, and the dark meat was fatty and full of flavor.  A bit of delicious skin here and there and it was a real treat.  The mushroom sauce was better than I anticipated, it was very rich and the mushroom slices themselves were wonderful as well.

The amount of meat was a lot more than expected and I had enough to take home for a small lunch tomorrow.  I might have attempted to eat it all there but after my mom had requested a container for hers, the waitress suggested dessert and described a special.  She was very soft spoken the entire time and so I didn’t catch the name of this dessert, only some of the description, and I had to have her repeat part of it again.  It was described as being similar to flan, which had me mostly in on that alone, with raspberry sauce on top.  I went ahead and ordered one.  It came out in a mug and appeared to be a white custard.  The raspberry sauce was drizzled on top in the shape of a heart.  It was pretty awesome.  My mom best described it as a very good vanilla bean ice cream, but not frozen.  It had the consistency of something between a mousse and creme brulee custard.  Overall, pretty amazing.  I asked her what it was afterwards and she told us Panna Cotta.  I’ve heard of it but I’ve pretty certain this was the first time I’ve ever had it.  I’m a fan.  I didn’t take the receipt with me but I think it was something like 5 or 6 bucks.

So Giraffe Restaurant, an oddly named place with mixed cuisine.  Our waitress was excellent from start to finish and all the food was fresh and delicious.  Given the quality and portions I would say that the prices were extremely reasonable, even on the low side in some areas.  I would definitely return.