#266: Vons Chicken

11:15AM / 12/12/2021
https://www.vonsroseville.com (local site)
https://vonschickenusa.com (corporate site)

Today I returned to one of my new, top chicken places in Roseville. I discovered Vons in early 2021 and have ordered from them a couple times since then. Today is the first time I dined in.

Vons is a Korean Fried Chicken franchise that seems strictly based in northern CA so far, with most of their <30 locations in the Bay Area. Just 3 that I can see, including this one, are in the Sacramento area. Some more reading on the main website reveals that it originated in South Korea itself.

They offer 2 main varieties of chicken – Roast Oven and Crispy Fried. For each type they have a variety of flavors to pick from, and you can get boneless, drums, wings or a combo of drums and wings. Sides include fries (some flavored fries as well), kimchi fried rice, fried shrimp, man doo (pot stickers) and rice cakes. Previously I have tried the honey butter French fries and the cheddar French fries.

I arrived a little after opening to an empty dining room but a busy sounding kitchen. I took some time to go over the menu and placed my order at the register. This time I went with a combo ($11.99), a mix of drums and wings, and chose the Crispy Yangnyeom flavor. This comes in a choice of mild/medium/spicy. I asked how spicy the spicy was. The cashier said that it will leave a slight burning sensation on your lips. I went for it.

My combo came with a choice of coleslaw or radish (I chose coleslaw) and steamed rice or French fries (I chose the rice and spent $1 to upgrade it to kimchi fried rice). I finished off my order with original flavor soju ($9.95). The cashier grabbed my soju bottle from the cooler near the entrance and also gave me a small glass for it.

I sat down and cracked open the bottle while I waited for my order. I remember drinking Soju (or what I believed until now was soju) in a cave bar in Busan on one of my first international trips. I remember it being cloudy and having a sweet fragrance and flavor. I haven’t had it since. A little googling is leading me to believe what I had that night was actually Makgeolli, which has a much lower ABV, and is much easier to drink, in my opinion. Here’s a couple photos from that cave and one of my hosts pouring a cup with a ladle.

This Soju had little to no aroma, was perfectly clear, and you could taste the 17% ABV. Somewhat similar to vodka it had an astringent flavor to it, while not being quite as “hot”. It was alright but would be best to share given its high alcohol content. I am curious to try the two other flavored variations they have available (Peach and Yogurt).

My food came out very quickly, it had probably been less than five minutes. Served on a tray and in one of the take out boxes with the top opened up I could see the pile of chicken leaning up against the orange-red kimchi fried rice. As with my previous experiences here, I was treated to a more favorable mix of chicken than the menu suggests. I received three drums and one wing rather than 50/50. My other orders have been generous not just with the wing to drum ratio but also with the total quantity, as I received 1-2 additional bonus pieces on those earlier visits.

First I tried a bite of the rice, which I’ve now decided is the gateway food I needed to fully embrace kimchi. It was mildly spicy and did not have the strong vinegar flavor that I usually associate with kimchi (and dislike). I picked at this throughout the meal and made sure to keep some to soak up any remaining sauce left by the wings in the box at the end.

The slaw was a tiny little container of a creamy, delicious and crunchy mixture. I do wish the serving size was a bit larger. It was about 4 bites worth.

On to the chicken. I had hoped to avoid repeating a previous flavor selection but didn’t remember that I had already tried this one before. As before, the drums were a good size and had loads of incredibly tender, juicy meat on them. They were coated with an exceptionally crisp fried batter and then drenched in a viscous, bright red sauce. The sauce was a bit sweet, a bit spicy and a bit garlic-y. Exactly as described, I noted a lingering, but not unpleasant burning sensation on my lips once I had finished everything.

I thought I’d mention the fries here, which I had previously. I was very curious about the honey butter and the cheddar flavored options and tried each one on different visits. Both consisted of a heavy powdery coating. The cheddar flavor was fine but felt a bit synthetic. The honey butter was really unique and bizarrely delicious. I never would have imagined a sweet French fry flavoring being so good. It really did have a sweet buttery flavor to it with a hint of honey. I think this would be interesting to try on the wings (both cheddar and honey butter are available options).

I have yet to check out the oven roasted side of the chicken menu. It’s way too hard to turn down known delicious fried chicken when presented with the choice. Maybe next time (I said that last time). Here are some more photos of the chicken I’d ordered before:

I love this place. I think the chicken is incredible, the sides are pretty great, and the prices are reasonable (especially now-a-days). This is an easy 5 out of 5 for me. I wish there was one closer to work!

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#265: Bad Bakers

7:15AM / 11/27/2021

https://www.badbakers.com/

I’ve been looking forward to this one. Bad Bakers is a donut shop and bakery located at N. Sunrise and East Roseville Parkway. They do specialty donuts, sweet bread (Staxx) and have some savory options as well. I’ll be focusing on the donuts.

Back in 2012 with my big donut post I posited that most donut shops fall into three distinct categories – Pink Box Donuts (your basic donut shop that has all the usuals and are hard to tell apart from one another), Krispy Kreme / Dunkin’ (both kind of doing their own thing, most donut lovers will be able to identify them easily), and Gourmet Donuts (Voodoo from Portland I think is the biggest example of this, but Sacramento did have Doughbot Donuts for a short time that fit into this last category). Bad Baker represents the Gourmet category, so now we have all 3 right here in town.

Bad Bakers have a handful of locations scattered around the Sacramento area. As far as I can tell they are a local chain, for now.

I arrived just after opening at 7:15, not sure if I was going to be walking into a crazy line situation or what. I really had no idea what the popularity of this place was, but there are notes on their website about things being limited in quantity, so I figured I should stop by earlier than later. There was just one person inside when I stepped in. The space is fairly small, maybe 10×10 feet. The register sits in the middle of a 90º counter with a medium display case on either side.

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I let the next person to step in ahead of me as I looked over the donuts in the case and the pricing shown on the menus. Individual donuts run from $1.75 for “Plain Jane” donuts to $3.25 for the Vegan and Mochi options. The cereal donuts I was very interested fell in the upper-middle range at $2.75 each, $14.50 for a half dozen and $27.50 for a dozen.

The person I let in front wanted something they didn’t have prepared yet and he let the cashier know how he felt about that. The cases were about a third to a half filled and I caught a glimpse of two or three people working in the back. Your mileage may vary with respect to the selection depending on the time of day. While I had hoped for more to choose from, I was satisfied that there were a number of cereal donuts.

I got a half dozen including one of each of the cereal options (there were 5), finished the half dozen off with a pumpkin donut, then had a brain fart and ordered a 7th donut thinking I still needed one more for the half dozen. They were boxed up I paid and was on my way.

Once home I fired up the coffee maker while Salted Butter (I swear I didn’t name her but it’s so fitting) got a little nosy and tried to get a taste out of the box. I shooed her away and got to work with some photos and started sampling each one.

The first thing I noted was that all the cereal donuts used an old fashioned as the base with a sweet, white glaze to hold the cereal in place. I love old fashioned donuts so this was a good start. I don’t know if they use name brand or generic cereals. I would be hard pressed to tell the difference, but I’ll use the name brands for simplicity.

Fruity Pebbles added a really interesting crunch on top of the already crunchy texture of the old fashioned donut. The sugary sweet of the cereal just amped up the sweetness and the flavor blended well into the glaze that kept it cemented in place.

The Apple Jacks were a little more distinct flavor from the pebbles. Pretty similar though. They were not quite as crunchy, probably just due to pebble vs O form factor.

Pumpkin with Chocolate Glaze – really wonderful pumpkin spice flavor to this, perfectly soft inside with a thin crusty outside for a nice texture. I enjoyed this one much more than expected, though the side without chocolate felt sort of boring after having a little of both sides. I would prefer if the whole thing was coated.

Apple with Caramel Glaze and Whipped Cream – The apple flavor was subtle and the cake was nice and soft, though not as soft as the pumpkin. The caramel and whipped cream seemed to finish the flavor off on this by coating the mouth and begging for a sip of coffee to wash it down. It had the similar light crunchy outer shell as the pumpkin donut.

Cap’n Crunch Berries – It was hard to get the Cap’n Crunch flavor here as the frosting was a bit thicker and it’s incredible sweetness overpowered the cereal flavoring. The cereal crunch was very nice though.

Fruit Loops – The fruit flavor came through early and actually persisted a bit on this one, as the frosting was lighter on the side I bit into. It had a similar crunch to the Apple Jacks.

Coco Pebbles – I seem to have missed making some notes about this one but I’d say the crunch was similar to the Fruity Pebbles. I don’t recall the chocolate coming through very strongly beyond the sweet glaze.

I would say in general that the cereal adds a touch of flavor, but most importantly the texture experience is just on another level from every other type of donut I’ve tried. Its a fun variation on your typical donuts that isn’t too wild to turn people off. I remember going to Doughbot years ago and the flavors they were working with were highly varied and many were simply not appealing to me at all as a sweet breakfast treat. I would happily enjoy any of the 7 I had tried today. Of the items I didn’t check out, I know the sweet bread can be delicious, a co worker brought some to work once, still warm, and they were incredible. I’d be interested to check out their other non-donut offerings in the future.

I’m would give this a 4, based on the quality and taste of the food, but I’m knocking off 1/2 for lack of selection, which I simply expect to be significantly better on a weekend at opening.

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#264: Timmy Ginger’s Sandwich Shop

11:45AM – 11/21/2021

https://timmygingers.com/

This weekend I decided to check out this sandwich shop that opened earlier in the year. Timmy Ginger’s is in the spot where Mr. Pickles and a number of coffee shops have previously resided. It’s a nice little corner location at Pleasant Grove & Foothills with a medium patio. The sign above the door hasn’t been installed yet, but the one on the Foothills-facing side of the building is up.

I’m just speculating but this could be the same owner/operator as the previous Mr. Pickles. It wouldn’t be the first time in Roseville that a Mr. Pickles owner dropped the franchise and took the shop in their own direction (see Pickles ‘n Brew). Inside, the dining area is nice and spread out across the familiar black & white checkerboard flooring (common to all the Mr. Pickles I’ve seen. Along the back is the kitchen and counter where you order. Above that along the wall is a giant line of black boards with text descriptions of most of the sandwiches. I say most because there are a number of signs, both at the door and posted along the kitchen counter, detailing additional specials and new sandwiches. It’s a lot to take in, so I took a few minutes to skim over every one of them before making a choice.

A few things I took note of:

  1. Sandwiches are their primary and almost sole focus, aside from a handful of salads and simple sides.
  2. A bunch of vegan-friendly options.
  3. Great, varied beverage selection.
  4. While I picked one of the pricier sandwiches, most are nicely in the $10-12 range.
Along with fountain drinks (Pepsi brands), they have a bunch of bottle / can options including fruit drinks, kombucha and seltzer waters

For my sandwich I picked out the #2: Brisket, Creamy Horseradish Spread, House Slaw, Bacon & House Dressing [$14]. I got it with “everything” with consists of mayo, mustard, garlic spread, hot pepper spread (optional), lettuce, onions, tomatoes, banana peppers and pickles. Looking at “everything” again I wonder about that hot pepper spread and why it says optional. I don’t recall tasting anything like that. Maybe it comes with “everything” on specific sandwiches or you really have top ask for it on top of “everything”.

Anyway, I got this on a Dutch Crunch roll and soon I was beckoned to the register at the other end of the counter to get rung up while my sandwich was being finished up. I picked out the potato salad [$2.50] and a fountain drink [$2.20] and grabbed a table with my food in hand.

The Dutch Crunch roll was nice and crunchy up top (but nowhere near the Capn’ Crunch levels of mouth-shredding like some Dutch Crunch rolls achieve, this is a good thing in my opinion) and wonderfully soft throughout.

The sandwich itself was packed with thinly sliced, tender brisket that was mouth watering. The bacon was thin but had enough flavor to not be overshadowed by the brisket. There was quite a lot going on in this, with “everything” added it’s a heck of a list of ingredients. I thought the creamy horseradish sauce stood out as the star condiment here, followed just behind by the banana peppers and pickles. The slaw added a nice crunch and some extra color with it’s purple cabbage base. The tomato was a bit overwhelmed here.

I love a good potato salad, even more if its got eggs. No eggs in this one, unfortunately, but it was creamy, seasoned well and the potatoes were nice and soft.

No idea if this phrase has any specific meaning/reference but I love it 🙂

I feel like there are a few main things that can set apart a sandwich shop. One is unique sandwich creations, another is brands/quality/in-house made ingredients. This shop seems to use both to its benefit with a bunch of options you won’t find in every other shop, and a great use in combining the right flavors to make a memorable sandwich. Combined with a friendly staff and this is yet another solid offering here in Roseville. I dig this shop and I’m planning to return this week on Black Friday to snag a shirt on sale. I need more local shirts to represent when I’m traveling.

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