Review: Laurelhurst Market. Portland, OR.

Laurelhurst Market is the place in Portland that I’ve eaten at more than any other. It’s good and I love steak. It’s probably my favorite steak house I’ve eaten at in a long time. It isn’t fussy, quite casual actually. That doesn’t mean the meat isn’t superb local/grass fed cuts.

The place is a butcher during the day (super cool right?), offering sandwiches and the like. It’s got a very artisan feel. Very Portland.

The interior is nice and open. The decor is meat-centric. A high quality steak house like this is honestly refreshing compared to the larger-than-life types that are so prominent in my home town.

I always start off my meal with mussels/clams frites (whichever is on the menu at the time). You guys, these are awesome. The fries are seriously the best I’ve had in Portland and all the different preparations I’ve had are wonderful. These were prepared with dijon creme fraiche, scallions and preserved lemons. Another winner.

At laurelhurst, I’ve had the ribeye, the strip and multiple preparations of the the flank steak. The flank is the one I keep coming back to. I think it’s just my favorite cut of meat right now. This night they prepared it with fresno harissa, queso fresco and charred scallions. The harissa provided as nice amount of heat and the whole dish was simply prepared and wonderfully executed.

I’ve never ordered dessert here, so I thought I would for the purpose of the review. I ordered a chocolate banana cream pie with candied walnuts. They served a french press of stumptown coffee to accompany. It was a nice finish, but I do have an inherit problem with paying $8 for a slice of pie.

Overall, this place is the one I’ve eaten at more than any other in my travels (not including Chipotle). It’s a fantastic restaurant and if you’re in the area looking for a great steak there is no better choice.

RATING: *****

Laurelhurst Market on Urbanspoon
 

Review: Luce. Portland, OR.

Rolling up to Luce the week after Bon Appetit named it a top 10 restaurant in america last month, I was fully prepared to bombarded by a hipster apocalypse. To my surprise the crowd was surpisingly, even hilariously, geriatric (it was right at 5 afterall, who else eats that early?). The patrons were quite aware of the recent accolades garned by the restaurant. One older gentleman went so far as to read the BA the article to his wife in complete AD Club Sauce style. Hilarious.

The restaurant is really small and I arrived expecting a 3hr wait. It turned out to only be 45mins-1hr before I was sat, so that was nice. The meal however, took forever. About 3 hours in total. (That’s a 4 hour dinner experience folks, 4 HOURS! Ain’t Nobody got time for that)

The staff was super friendly, so I hate to say anything negative about the experience. But it’s not like they’re  hurting for praise these days. So let’s, as they say, keep it real.

The antipasti and charcuterie came out first. The charcuterie was absolutely nothing special. Let’s get that out the way. Out of the antipasti, the clams were really good. The potato salad was okay and the mozzarella with anchovies were not good.

The Salt Foccacia was good, but not as good as I expected it to be (I was really excited for this meal).

 For pasta, I got the spaghetti with hot peppers and clams. Since this recipe actually appears in the issue, I was expected a lot. Like a lot of the meal, it was just OK.

The hanger steak was definitely the best part of the meal in my opinion. This recipe appears in the magazine as well. The steak is cooked and served in a garlic rosemary olive oil. It was both simple and delicious.

I had a hazelnut chocolate cake for dessert, which I don’t have the photo of. It was good, definitely worth getting if you’re there.

Overall, I would say this is a good meal, but no way is it a top 10 new restaurant in america. Based on the comments of Andrew Knowlton I expected to be blown away by the quality of the ingredients and I just wasn’t. If you’re expecting to be wowed like I was, steer clear. If you want a simple, solid italian meal that takes 3-4hrs to get through, then give it a shot.

RATING: ***
Luce on Urbanspoon

Notes from the Road: The Farm Cafe. Portland, OR.

After the Bon Appetit top 10 New Restaurants in America was released last month, I rushed over to Luce to give it a try. Unfortunately, it was a Tuesday and Luce was closed. Disheveled and disappointed I staggered into The Farm Cafe for a self-pity filled dinner.

I didn’t take pics, though I should have. I ordered the Lamb dish that night and it turned out to be one of the best (possible the best) lamb dishes I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in the area, you should give this place a try.

Farm Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Dexter’s. Orlando, FL.

Dexter’s
808 East Washington Street
Orlando, FL 32801

After spending a day at Disney World, we woke up with a lot of time before our flight and one goal in mind….. find some good brunch. I had done a little research, but not a ton. It seemed when people talked about brunch in Orlando, Dexter’s was a common theme. We decided to pack up and head into downtown to give it a try.

The neighborhood was nice and when we got in we were immediately seating (Side Note: generally I get scared not having to wait to eat brunch but I had walked all day the day before and was happy to be seated quickly).

The first plate we ordered was a skirt steak burrito. Steak and eggs with sour cream and guacamole on the side. It wasn’t spectacular, but wasn’t bad either.

The French toast came with vanilla glaze, fresh fruit compote and marnier glaze. I felt the same way about it as I did the burrito, good but not great.

The winner of this meal and probably the best thing I ate in Florida was the Eggs benedict with smoked turkey,tomato and honey hollandaise on french bread. This thing was outstanding. Simple, no frills, but outstanding. If you go here, please get this.

Overall, we definitely felt like this meal was worth the jaunt from Disney to Downtown. If you’re in the area and looking for a good brunch, this place gets the roadrunner seal of approval.

RATING:***

Dexter's on Urbanspoon

 

 

Review: The Floridian. St. Augustine, FL.

The Floridian
39 Cordova St.
St Augustine, FL 32084

I remember in grad school one of my economics professors loved to talk about the economic principles behind restaurant placement. One paper that he referred to often spoke of how the worst food was always found where there was the most foot traffic (read: touristy areas). Much to our delight, St. Augustine seems to buck that trend.

The Floridian was the restaurant we chose to eat at for Mrs. Roadrunner’s birthday. It came recommended by a hipster working at Hyppo (Side note: Hipsters are always reliable when it comes to local recommendations. When you need something good to eat, find the dude with the skinniest jeans in the area and ask him). We went there a bit late and it doesn’t get a ton of natural light, so the pics suck.

The first appetizer (yes, first. we were celebrating) was a golden summer scallop ceviche. It had nice bits of corn and some mango for sweetness and it was served with chips for sipping. It was a nice start.

The next appetizer was fried green tomatoe bruschetta. It was topped with basil, goat cheese and chili-cumin aioli and put on artisan bread. This was our favorite dish of the night. Super good.

 My main course was the “Southern Gentleman.” It was a burger on french bread, topped with goat cheese, house made bacon, chipotle mayo and peaches. It actually didn’t do a ton for me and was the low point of the meal.

East meets West was our other entree. It was  a tenderloin and shrimp with mango salsa, quinoa and fried zucchini. A solid dish. We were both stuffed by now and we didn’t want to skip on dessert (we were celebrating, remember?), so we didn’t quite finish this dish.

The dessert we split (we were watching our portions and we had just had a popsicle) was a coconut chocolate chip pecan pie. It was outstanding. Highly recommended if you like pecan pie.

Overall, a solid meal and a great suggestion from a local hipster. When he threw out that they were using local, organic ingredients, I knew that we were headed in the right direction. What we got was a nice little birthday dinner in the middle of a great town to spend the weekend in.

RATING: ***

The Floridian on Urbanspoon

Review: Hyppo. St. Augustine, Fl.

The Hyppo
48 Charlotte St
St Augustine, FL 32084

When you travel a lot for a living (or just for fun), you find that the places you visit that stick with you most are the ones that you stumble upon by happenstance.You can research as much as you want, but the ones that resonate most deeply with you are the ones that just kind of sneak up on you.

I walked by Hyppo the first time I had ever been to St. Augustine on my way to dinner. When I saw the sign said “gourmet popsicles”, I knew that we would soon cross paths. Sure enough, immediately after dinner I bee-lined there. That night I tried the Elvis (Peanut Butter, Honey & Banana) dipped in chocolate. One word: AWESOME.

On a recent weekend family vacation to St. Augustine, I got to introduce my girls to Hyppo. We downed about 20 popsicles over the course of the weekend, looking for any excuse to stop in again. All of them are made with local and organic (when they can) ingredients, all of them are awesome. They are flash frozen, meaning they’re not too hard or too soft. Above is my first of about 8 from the weekend (Vanilla Banana).

RATING: ****

The Hyppo on Urbanspoon

 

Review: La Empanada Food Truck. Orlando, FL.

Today’s review is a parable about turning a negative into positive. The negative, in this case, was a cancelled flight to Jacksonville. The positive, was me eating at one of the best food trucks I’ve eaten at.

The family and I were headed for a weekend in St. Augustine, Florida. Our 7:30AM flight to Jacksonville had been cancelled and in turn we decided to hop on the 7:45AM to Orlando. Once in our rental car, we decided to make a quick detour through Winter Park for some shopping, which is where we stumbled onto La Empanada.

Looking at the menu, we decided our selection would be “One of everything!”  with the addition of a Mexican coke. This is a sadly common selection for the Roadrunner family, but we’re learning to embrace it.

There really wasn’t a hole in the menu. I even enjoyed the vegetarian offering (Curried Cauliflower) which is not something you here me say often. The picadillo and chicken pesto were both fantastic. The kale and apple salad was delicious. And the dessert empanada with banana and nutella oozing out was quite amazing.

All of it was so good, we went back up and ordered “One of everything Round 2!” Also caused by the fact that I had a quick phone call and by the time it ended, Mrs. Roadrunner had finished the nutella empanada.

If you’re ever in the area, this place is worth looking up. I promise it won’t disappoint. Please bring me back some.

RATING: ****
La Empanada Food Truck on Urbanspoon

 

 

Review: Chicken Scratch. Dallas, TX.

Chicken Scratch
2303 Pittman St
Dallas, TX 75208

I should start this review off with a clarification: the original intention of this particular night was to go to Sissy’s. Unfortunately, we were spurned at the door (nothing available til 9:00PM…. it was 5:30 on a Wednesday). We quickly regrouped and decided to head over to Chicken Scratch (Side Note: the lady at Sissy’s told us they do To-Go orders, which was oddly annoying as well).

This was my second time eating here. My first experience was similar to Scott Reitz’s. The chicken was good, but the skin crumbled off the meat with any sort of agitation. I still liked it but definitely could have used some improvement. This time the chicken (and skin) were more on point.

Chicken Scratch is set up next to its sister bar the Foundry, and the two share a courtyard. What does this mean for you fellow texan? No Air Conditioning and yes I get as annoyed by that scenario as you probably do.

The whole bird fried was a lot of chicken (as expected).Tim Byre’s process of shallow frying the chickens lends to an extra crispy exterior. It’s an old school approach, which Byres seems to take in all of his restaurants.

There’s a certain sweetness to be batter, which I enjoy, though Mrs. Roadrunner is less a fan of.

One thing that we both agree on is that the chicken tamales are amazing. Probably my favorite tamales in the metroplex. One time I saw a video of Byres stepping through the process of making them and got really excited. I was quickly thwarted by the realization of the effort it takes to make them. I’ll just get mine from Chicken Scratch for now.

 The Mac n’ Cheese was good with the seasoning on top, but ordinary past that. The biscuits I found to be extremely dry and had me gasping for water after one bite.

The fries are delicious. I’m a sucker for good ones (who isn’t), and these are a favorite. Seasoned with a sweet and salty mix, I didn’t want to stop eating them.

The tenders appeared to be good. I tried to sample one, but little roadrunner bit at my finger (you’d think we never feed the kid).

Overall, this place is a solid meal and won’t disappoint. The chicken is different from most fried chicken you’ve had (which is a good thing to me), and the tamales are worth the price of admission themselves. The courtyard is a great place for kids to run around and play while you enjoy some food and beers from next door…. though you may want to wait until it cools down a bit.

RATING: ***
Chicken Scratch on Urbanspoon
 

Review: Il Cane Rosso Pop Up, Swiss Pastry Shop

When talking to any knowledgeable Dallas foodie type, and you start a sentence with “Il Cane…”, expect the phrase “Best Pizza in Dallas!!” to be injected into the conversation before you can ever finish your thought. There’s an unbridled enthusiam for Jay Jerrier’s (proprietor of Il Cane Rosso) product. Most of it comes from an open and constant acknowledgement of the standards, ingredients and process used to make their pies. He is also quite approachable on twitter, endearing him to the foodie-type following as well.

When I heard about the Pop Up in Fort Worth, I was excited. Visions of ironic mustache clad hipsters riding their fixies to get their taste of the metroplex’s premiere pizza immediately ran through my head. Pop ups these days seem to draw nothing but that ilk. This pop up however was much more low key than expected. And while it doesn’t challenge Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese as the gold standard for hipster pop up restaurants, it does in fact serve a great meal without any chicanery.

The set up was basically this: The famous  Il Cane Rosso mobile oven was set up outside the Swiss Pastry Shop. We were sat by an ICR waiter and waited on by him inside. If you wanted pastries from SPS, transactions were separate.

Mrs. Roadrunner and I went with our favorite couple to eat with. We ordered 2 apps,2 pizzas, 2 desserts and planned on splitting the bill. This is what the Roadrunners deem as “optimal set up”.

First up was the foccacia, a flat bread cooked in their high temp oven and delicious in its simplicity. Topped with olive oil and rosemary, the bread is wonderfully blistered on the outside. This stuff is goooooood.

Next up was the caprese. Really good as these things go, but I was ready for the pizza at this point.

The first pie was the Delia. This thing is a winner. I’m generally more of a red sauce pizza guy, but I supremely love this. Fresh Mozz, (amazing) roasted grape tomatoes, spicy bacon marmalade, topped with arugala. Wonderful. It’s worth the price of admission.

Next Up: The Zoli. Red Sauce, Mozz, Sorpressatta and Jimmy’s Sausage. The sauce is wonderful and the toppings pack a nice amount of heat. You really can’t go wrong with either of these pies.

For Dessert, we ordered an ICR dessert pie and the signature Swiss Pastry Shop Dessert, Black Forest Cake. The cake is wonderful, light and fluffy with a nice crunch. Nice almond flavor mixed with chocolate and cream.

Our dessert pizza, the bella mella, was nice. Caramel, mascarpone, sea salt and caramelized fruit. It was a nice way to finish the meal. Everyone was stuffed, but we still managed to finish this bad boy off.

Overall, this is a fantastic meal and the price point is great as well. It comes with a caveat, and one that I’ve learned over the last couple of years…. don’t expect to look at pizza the same way once you start eating at places like this. You can’t. It’s not the same.You will be ruined.

You’ll walk into random pizza shops and ask what type of flour they use for their dough. You’ll check around to see if you can tell what kind of tomatoes their sauce is made of and ask a pimply-faced worker what temp the pizza oven is set to (probably met with a pizzled look). It’s a curse, but also a blessing. You’ll know what good pizza, real pizza is all about. Coincidentally, you’ll also find yourself yelling “Best Pizza in Dallas!!” when anyone starts a sentence with “Il Cane….

RATING: ****

Cane Rosso on Urbanspoon

 

Notes From The Road: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Following up on my meal at Smoque, I decided to seek out dessert. The only sweet option at smoque was cobbler (which I wasn’t in the mood for), so I decided to look elsewhere.

In moments of desperation, I go to my place of last resort, the Yelp! app on my phone. This time it came through for me to the tune of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate.

I didn’t know anything about it walking in, but apparently the propietor Mindy Segal won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef 2012. Sounded like a pretty strong place to stumble into!

 I ordered the brioche donut squares with fudge and caramel corn. Also a cup of french press coffee. Both the coffee and the dessert were really good. There was about 10 other items on the menu that I would love to try. Next time I’m in town, I suppose…

If you’re ever in Chicago and are looking for a place to go to for a post dinner dessert, check this place out. The dessert menu was quite impressive!