#238: Pickles ‘n Brew

I did a little overdue scouting yesterday and noticed that Pickles ‘n Brew had a Now Open sign up, so I thought that would be a good way to do lunch today.  This new sandwich shop is located at the corner of Foothills & Junction right next door to the excellent Kazoku Teriyaki & More.  This used to be a Mr. Pickles, and it was an odd one.  It was apparently not part of the official Mr. Pickles franchise yet was allowed to use the name and sandwiches.  On top of that it had a bizarre Jim Carrey theme to it, with posters everywhere and menu items named after his characters.

Fast forward this year.  Mr. Pickles closed down several months ago and the new owners (who purchased it as Mr. Pickles but decided it wasn’t working out) revamped it as Pickles ‘n Brew, catering to a slightly more adult customer base.  I took a peek at Yelp right before leaving to make sure they would be open and noticed that they had a perfect rating of 5 stars (albeit with less than 10 reviews).  This is a big turnaround from the late Mr. Pickles abysmal less-than-2 star rating.

Click menu image for larger version:

I arrived a bit before 11:30AM and headed in.  It was unrecognizable.  They completely gutted the place and started from scratch.  The only things that remained were the patio tables outside, I think the beverage cooler, and the odd shaped beam on the ceiling which used to follow above the old counter.  The space is clean and straightforward.  Just a handful of nice new tables with stools, cooler and the kitchen.  Even the kitchen looked very spartan.  Only what was needed for sandwich making and ringing people up was there and it was well organized.  There were a couple finishing up their lunch when I arrived and one worker behind the counter.  He greeted me right away and I paused to a few minutes to go over the menu which was on the wall to the right.

It has a lot of similarities to Mr. Pickles but there are enough changes to make it unique.  I read pretty much all 20 of their specialty sandwiches, which range from $7.49 to $7.99, and then settled on the #1: Sunset Cruz (Turkey, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Avocado)[$7.99].  I picked Dutch Crunch for the bread and asked for no pickles or pepperoncinis.  The rest of the toppings included mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes & red onion.

While he worked on my sandwich I picked out a Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest [$3.50] from the cooler and sat down for a bit, eventually meeting him at the register when he looked about done, around 7-8 minutes later.  He had wrapped my sandwich to go by accident so the presentation in my photo probably wasn’t quite as nice as it would be normally.  The bread-to-fillings ratio was decent, considering the Dutch crunch roll was fairly thick and dense.  The roll unfortunately had almost no crunch to it at all.  Flavor-wise it was pretty good, and most of the produce was very cold, crisp and fresh.  The avocado was in indeed cold and fresh (I saw him slicing it up), however it was not at all ripe.  I love avocado and get it on everything.  Until now I don’t think I’ve ever had to chew it though.  The hummus was tasty, although I think I would ask for extra next time as it was somewhat thin.

Overall it was an OK sandwich.  There’s some room for improvement but they are on the right track.  Pickles ‘n Brew is already a massive step up from the old Mr. Pickles.  The service was friendly and it was nice to have a tasty beer with my sandwich.  I do think they have strong competition in town from Beach Hut and other Mr. Pickles locations (which are generally much better than the one that was here), but if they keep heading in the direction they’ve set out on then they should do just fine.

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#237: Land Ocean

I’ve wanted to check out Land Ocean since long before they arrived in Roseville.  This “New American Grill” originated in Folsom with location #1 on E. Bidwell St.  I drove by it many times at lunch but never made it out there for dinner.  Luckily, I waited long enough that they came to me!  Their new Roseville restaurant opened in the Galleria a few weeks ago.  They are located on the other side of the main entrance by Cheesecake Factory.  They have dueling patios now, and let me just say that Land Ocean’s is a lot nicer looking with their fire-topped walls.

I arrived with several family members for dinner at 5:30PM on Thursday.  The bar was hoppin’, and you could tell easily through the slatted divider between it and the Galleria’s interior.  Right behind the host’s podium was a window into the kitchen where chickens were roasting up by an open flame.

We decided the patio looked really nice so we opted to sit out there.  It ended up being far warmer than I expected next to the flame wall, but our server turned it down a bit to mitigate the heat.  This will be really nice in winter.  They also have numerous propane heaters attached to the pergola overhead so it should be very comfortable even on chilly evenings.

Our server got us started off with drinks as soon as we had settled into our seats.  I had an Alaskan Amber [$7] (the beer selection was a bit mundane but I suppose I can’t compare everything to Final Gravity, Porter’s House of Draft, Boneshaker Public House and Craft Beer Vault) and the rest shared a bottle of Stellina di Notte Pinot Grigio [$28].

We mulled over the idea of appetizers but instead decided to go straight for dinner. I was starving.  My La Bou soup and salad (check that out on Rancho Salads) from lunch was long gone.  A bit of bread and butter helped ease that hunger.  It was nice and super soft inside with a perfectly crunchy crust and soft butter.  We ordered everything up, and I added a side of Bacon & Jalapeño Mac & Cheese [$6.95], which our server offered to bring out first.  This came pretty quickly and was served on a plank of wood in a little cast iron dish.  Everyone had a bite and it went over very well for the most part.  I think the main weaknesses were lack of significant jalapeños in it and that the cheese was more of a sauce and less gooey/cheesy.  Otherwise it had good flavor and was a nice way to start off dinner.

Our main entrees were delivered around 10 minutes after the mac & cheese.  There was the Balsamic Filet Mignon Pasta (sautéed tenderloin, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, housemade pappardelle noodles & toasted garlic bread)[$19.95], the Wood Fire Rotisserie Chicken (all natural Mary’s chicken, yukon gold smashed potatoes & chicken jus)[$17.95] and the Spice Crusted Ahi Tuna (seared rare over sautéed spinach & garlic black rice, topped with Asian roasted corn salsa & avocado mango puree)[$23.95].  My toddler nephew had the Rotisserie Chicken Breast (with Land Ocean fries & sliced apples)[$8.95] which he picked at and kept him busy in-between other distractions.  The fries were fantastic by the way, I would come and have a burger just to enjoy these alongside it.

Everyone was really happy with their dishes.  Apparently the spice crusted ahi tuna was quite spicy.  To his credit, our server warned that it would be in advance.  The rotisserie chicken dish was massive and will easily make another meal or two at home.  My mom had planned on taking half of the balsamic filet mignon pasta home but loved it so much that she ended up finishing the whole thing.

I had ordered the Macadamia Nut Crusted Sea Bass (coconut rice, sautéed broccolini & soy ginger glaze)[$26.95].  I’ve been trying to recapture the magic of my first sea bass, which I had on a Disney cruise forever ago, and I usually order it anytime I see one on the menu.  This one has seriously come the closest, but was’t quite there.  I recall that one literally melting in my mouth.  This one, while plenty tender, didn’t quite hit that level.  The coconut rice was incredibly delicious, which I admit I was not expecting because I’m usually not a huge fan of coconut.  It totally works in this though.  The broccolini had a nice bit of snap to it still.  Lastly, the glaze.  Oh man the glaze.  It was so much more potent than I anticipated, and it was fantastic.  By the end I had cleaned up pretty much every last drop with rice, sea bass, broccolini, it was all fair game.

This visit was pretty much everything I wanted it to be.  Our server was attentive, patient and professional yet with a good sense of humor.  A wine glass was dropped at one point behind us as a table was cleaned up and the staff was very careful and swept up the dozens of glass shards that had ended up under our table as non-disruptively as possible.  I thought that the ambiance was pretty excellent considering the patio is next to a busy mall entrance.  I suspect the glass barriers surrounding the fire feature help block a lot of sound from people coming and going.  At the end of dinner we were treated to a gorgeous sunset.  What a way to finish up the night.  My mom and I who have back to back birthdays coming up have already decided we will be coming back for the occasion.

Website: http://landoceanrestaurants.com

#236: Taqueria El Burrito

Taqueria El Burrito is a new Mexican joint that took that place of Ancho Mexican Grill (also previously, Baja Fresh) in the TJMaxx center on Douglas.  This is the 3rd of this local chain with locations in Davis and Sacramento.  I watched this place with interest for a long time.  They had the sign up early and worked on the place for quite a while.

Inside there have been huge changes.  I have to say that I really liked what Ancho did with the place before, it had a very modern feel, lots of seating and yet still felt very open.  Now the space carries a much more traditional taqueria vibe.  Bright, colorful tables, mostly booths around the perimeter with a handful of smaller tables towards the front door.  I walked in just after 11AM and made the semi-long walk to the back where the counter and kitchen were located.  The place feels huge now and has a lot of wide open, unused space.

It looked like there were just two people working at the time.  The cashier was out at a table delivering food when I made it to the register.  The cook saw me through a little window to the kitchen and said “good morning.”  I picked up a laminated menu from the counter and scanned over it quickly.  Pretty standard taqueria offerings with more meat choices than most (asada, adobada, pastor, carnitas, pollo asado, pollo desebrado, chorizo, chili verde, chili Colorado, lengua, cabeza, tripa, buche, carne molida & birria).

I decided on the chimichanga with carnitas (deep fried burrito, meat, rice, beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole & lettuce)[$7.95] and got a medium drink to wash it down [$2.25].  I paid and the screen was swiveled around for me to sign on (same thing that Green Boheme had).  There were tip selections, however the cashier reached over and hit “no tip” as soon as the swiveled the screen.  I signed, grabbed my cup and got my drink and a basket of chips from the salsa bar.

For my drink I went with an horchata first.  I really liked the decoration they had on top of the dispenser, it was a glass filled with rice and had a few cinnamon sticks in it.  It was a nice visual representation of the beverage underneath it.  The other two aguas frescas choices that usually are seen alongside horchata had similar displays.  The salsa bar had a nice selection of about 5 or so salsas.  I went with the Sinaloa Hot and a mild creamy avocado sauce.

The chips were very average, nothing special.  The avocado sauce has a pretty similar flavor to the sauce I love at Taqueria El Sombrero (my all-time favorite at Douglas and Sierra College), though this was seriously much more smooth, it was kind of weird.  The sinaloa I did not find to be very spicy and was lacking flavor in general.  The horchata was probably the biggest disappointment, it was the most bland I’ve ever had before, tasting more like a sweet low-fat milk than a cinnamon rice drink.  I ended up going and pouring that out in favor of Mr Pibb.

My chimichanga was brought out in very little time, just a little over 5 minutes.  It was a monster and was dressed up in a ton of sour cream and guacamole.  A little pile of shredded lettuce was on the plate next to it.  I sliced through the crisp tortilla and revealed the packed insides.  There was no shortage of carnitas in this thing, it probably accounted for 75-80% of the volume.  The carnitas itself was very tender and tasted pretty good.  It’s not the most incredible carnitas I’ve had, which usually has s little more flavor with some citrus coming through and nice crispy edges, but this will definitely do, and the price was very fair.  Guacamole is usually amazing or terrible in my experience.  Here they somehow found a middle ground and it was just OK.

I definitely was not blown away by El Burrito.  It was very satisfactory.  The thing is, we have many incredible Mexican food choices in the area, so even though it wasn’t bad I doubt seeing myself return in the long run.

Website: None (Facebook only): https://www.facebook.com/TaqueriaElBurrito

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here