O Sushi, Tucson

You don’t turn 10 every day, though my daughter had several birthday dinners, the first being while visiting Tucson a few days before her actual birthday. Being a fan of sushi, my wife checked the reviews and found that O Sushi looked good. And also, depending on how to say the name, you can sound either surprised or bored when telling people where you are going. Oh! Sushi. Or, oh, sushi (in an Eeyore voice).

The exterior probably won’t wow you. it’s located in a strip mall. Beige and brown, of course, because almost everything in Tucson is one of those colors. The interior probably will not wow you, either, unless you’re an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. The owner must really love baseball. The walls were covered with pictures of players, baseball cards, and TVs with the games on. He must also be a fan of dance clubs because of the turntable and other sound equipment. So if you’re a baseball-loving, techno-dancing sushi eater, this is THE place for you.

O Sushi

O Sushi

They had really good drink prices, which I like to see… well, anywhere. And the sushi prices were good, too. And as we sat down, we were given edamame and soup. Included. Not extra. Didn’t expect that. Though I’m not a big fan of soy beans, I ate them. It was the polite thing to do, and if you dip something in soy sauce, it’s almost guaranteed to make it better. If it doesn’t, try adding more.

As for the sushi, it was a nice, solid meal. We had six rolls – two Dragons, two Crunchy Dragons, one Eye, and one Yum Yum, the roll so nice they named it twice. All of it was tasty, and tasted about as fresh as you could get in a desert. The first few rolls were presented in this huge boat tray, and you could choose from low sodium soy sauce, and full sodium soy sauce. I also appreciated that the sushi was bite sized. You didn’t have to shove an enough piece in your mouth and risk choking, or taking a bit out of bigger piece and risk an enormous mess and public shame.

Actual sushi at O Sushi

Actual sushi at O Sushi

The thing I wasn’t impressed with was the service. Initially, things went fine. But we eventually had to send up a flare to get the waitresses attention. She didn’t so much look at our table until I went to go fetch her. And when she took my wife’s wine glass when there was still wine left in the glass, that almost caused an incident. Thankfully, the pours were very generous, so the one swallow remaining in the original glass didn’t seem like that much after all.

One Well Brewing, Kalamazoo

I’m normally not a fan of restaurants in strip malls. It’s not quite a phobia, just a preference. But the owners of One Well Brewing made their location work. Look, it has a well next to the door! And the outdoor seating looks like a place I could hang out during the summer months. But November wasn’t a summer month, and the area was full anyways, so inside I went.

One Well Brewing

One Well Brewing

As I walked inside, I was greeted with a blast of noise that had the introverted side of my personality (which is typically dominant) wanting to run for cover. At first glance, the main room looked full, but past the crowded bar, there was plenty of seating at one of the long tables a bit further back. But this was 5:15 on a Saturday, so your mileage may vary. At any rate, I had the whole table to myself, so it was either not as busy as I thought, or I had an unpleasant odor wafting about me that I was unaware of.

I ordered at the bar, because that’s where you order. The woman behind the counter was among the most upbeat, perky people I have ever interacted with, a day and night difference from the morose McDonald’s employee that “served” me in St. Joe earlier in the day. I was given a number on a stick to notify the food bringer of my location, and his mission, I was happy to report, was a successful one just a short time later.

The pulled pork sandwich was excellent, tender and tasty, and, if I may throw a third ‘T’, tangy, referring to the BBQ sauce. I made the error of thinking the coleslaw was a side, a mistake. It was, in fact, a sandwich topping. But the sandwich was solid without it. I had no doubt I made the right choice with my dinner selection -it was a definite winner. The smattering of chips were crispy and dusted with a spice of unknown origin. Forced to guess, I would say paprika.

Pulled pork!

Pulled pork!

Your entertainment choice are legion. A plethora of board and card games await anxiously to be chosen. If pinball is your thing, they’ve got you covered there, too. Or perhaps darts are you thing. Feel free to throw pointy things at the wall until your heart’s content. Remember, though – throw them at the wall, not fellow patrons.

Now that's entertainment

Now that’s entertainment

As for me, I’m more of a reader, so I enjoyed my dinner with a  pair of beers in a not-so-quiet corner, reading “Ready Player One” on my Kindle until it was time to return to Lansing. I had an excellent time at One Well Brewing. Good food, good beer, good times. I didn’t see Elvis in Kalamazoo, but finding good beer is even better.

The Lighthouse Café, Elberta, MI

It was a dark and stormy day in Elberta… Well, it was a slightly gray and windy day. We were heading north after visiting Inspiration Point north of Arcadia where we watched Japanese tourists taking selfies for 15 minutes. And the view of Lake Michigan. When the selfie sticks weren’t in the way.

We chose The Lighthouse Café as our lunch spot for a couple of reasons. It was the first place we saw heading north on M22. And it was open – very, very important. (Muy muy importante, as they say in California.) Be honest – those are two big factors in choosing a restaurant for you, too.

A little taste of Elberta, MI

A little taste of Elberta, MI

We knew it was good because we had to wait for a table. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but with a building full of locals, we figured it was decent. Yes, it was about the only thing open on a fall weekend in town, but Frankfort was just across Betsie Lake, so there were plenty of places to choose from. And yet, the crowds approved of The Lighthouse Café (hence fore know as TLC).

TLC was mainly a breakfast spot, but we zeroed in on the lunch page, it being after noon. I’m not one of these borderline sociopaths that eat breakfast foods after noon, after all. The turkey Rueben was calling, and it was a good thing. Though the coleslaw made the sandwich a bit soggy because, it was quite tasty. That’s really all I can say about it – it was basically a turkey sandwich, but trust me, unless you’re one of those breakfast after noon people mentioned above, you’ll enjoy it, too. If you are a breakfast after noon person, seek professional help.

The Lighthouse Cafe

The Lighthouse Cafe

Continuing on the theme of things you’ll enjoy are the homemade potato chips. Thick cut and mostly cooked to crispiness, I was of fan of them. You’ll probably want to add your own salt, but that’s a small price to pay. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome from excess shaker usage is quite rare, after all.

TLC is a decent spot to stop for lunch or (probably) breakfast. Most people seemed to be eating the latter, and I won’t judge them too much for that. But absolutely don’t go there for dinner – they’re closed.

Beware the nachos of Old Chicago

I went to Old Chicago under the assumption that the nachos would suck.

I just felt in being truthful right up front. It had been four or five years, and the last time I had the OC nachos, they hadn’t been good. Not really even close to good. But as a nacho aficionado, I felt I would give them another try. At least 1200 days had passed, plenty of time for the cooks to improve their nachos since my last experience there. Surely someone would have figured out their nachos were subpar and resolve that problem.

Nachos at Old Chicago

Nachos at Old Chicago

We’ll start slow. Let’s talk about the salsa. I couldn’t figure out if I was accidently given pizza sauce, or it was just bad salsa, or some bastardized, unholy combination of the two. I fear the latter, but it didn’t take long to figure out the bowl of red in the middle of the plate was something to be avoided. Flanking the bowl of evil  were two big globs of sour cream. Certainly enough to get me through my meal – much appreciated. Those globs completely covered a pair of chips, but as it turns out, two fewer chips on the plate was a blessing.

After much experimenting, I found that the best combination of ingredients were chips with cheese. That’s it. No beans, no meat, certainly no salsa. Because the cheese was the best part of the who meal. (Well, technically, the two pints of Two-Hearted were the best, but let’s stick with the food.) The cheese has a bit of seasoning that gave it a very mild, spicy flavor, and the chips were crispy. And I can’t fault them for volume – I ended up not finishing them, though only part of that was the amount of food.

Old Chicago charges $2 to put ground beef on their nachos. They should default to putting it on, and charge $2 to take it off. That was some of the blandest ground beef I have tasted. Add that to the equally bland black beans, and you have the making of a truly below average set of nachos. Really, it was disappointing all the way around. There were some vegetables, but they couldn’t make a mark is the badness that was the beef. Somehow, some green peppers snuck onto my plate, continuing the freefall of nacho quality.

So here is my advice: Order nothing with the word “Nacho” in it at Old Chicago. Take the $10 you would have spent on nachos and put it towards something they do well, like pizza. Or beer.

Jersey Mike’s, East Lansing

I’ll be honest, another sub shop in East Lansing wasn’t exciting news for me. The fact that it was in the location of the former Moe’s was just salt in the wound. I liked Moe’s burritos, but apparently not enough of you did, and Moe’s is done gone. This is why I other people suck.

I probably wouldn’t have bothered to go to Jersey Mike’s, but they sent me a coupon, and I thought it polite to check it out. The day I made the trip to the north side of campus from my location on the south side of campus (an easy trip with a bike and no students blocking my way), the chipper shredder crew was hard at work torturing a tree in front of the sub shop on Grand River.

After a minute of standing at the counter, one of the two employees said they’d be with me in just a minute. After a couple of minutes after that, one of them did decide to see what I was there for. In their defense, one of them looked like he was busy with a big order. In my defense, the people who made the order weren’t there, but I was.

I decided on the chipotle chicken Philly, an interesting sounding combination. The employee didn’t seem as thrilled with my choice, perhaps because it involved him grilling something instead of slapping cold meat on a bun. But that’s just conjecture. In any case, I eventually got my food thinking this would be my only visit.

Retreating to the back of the restaurant to avoid of the chipper shredder grinding away, I was greeted by a very good looking sub. Truly beautiful:

Jersey Mike's

Jersey Mike’s

But looks aren’t everything. Luckily, the sub was tasty as well. Generously stuffed with chicken and some substance resembling cheese, I was hooked. The chipotle sauce didn’t really do anything for the sub, but it didn’t detract from it, which is just as important. Everything came together quite nicely, good enough that I may return, even though my presence seemed to be an annoyance. That’s saying something.

Did East Lansing need another sub shop? Probably not. But at least Jersey Mike’s has good subs. It has a good selection of flavors, enough to keep life (or at least lunch) interesting. Try it – if you get decent service, you will probably like it.

Lula’s Louisiana Cookhouse, Owosso

Years ago, my (now) wife and I took a trip to New Orleans, and it was the best food trip we had ever taken, and this includes trip to Paris, Italy, New York, and Lansing. The spice and seasoning, the selection, the freshness of seafood – everything was fantastic, and there was not a single meal that we did not enjoy. The fact that I added hundreds of strings of beads to my (’til then) non-existent bead collection was a big plus.

In recent years, the Lansing area has gotten several Cajun / creole restaurants, and I’ve been happy with the selection and taste that these places have provided. Though not the latest of the bunch (that prize goes to Creole in Old Town, Lansing), Lula’s Louisiana Cookhouse has the distinction of being the only one in beautiful, historic downtown Owosso, the only town near my home that has a castle. Owosso was also the location of the play my daughter was performing in, the reason we found ourselves in town.

Lula’s is hard to miss. Its spot on Washington is easily noted because of the enormous yellow sign. Once inside, the interior is only a shade less bright. Colorful bulbs and artwork add nice southern touches, and the impressive selection of Cajun / creole cookbooks. Though they may have a copy, I didn’t see Uglesich’s great cookbook among them. (The “Paul’s Fantasy” dish we had at Uglesich’s in New Orleans was amazing.)

First, the bad news: As of this writing, they don’t have a liquor license, so the strongest thing you’ll find is a Coke. But in their defense, the Coke was absolutely fine. I’ll update this posting when they have their license. Don’t let its lack of beer and wine stop you, though – the food it worth the visit.

A little more bad news: The photo is terrible. My phone doesn’t take the greatest of pictures – sorry!

Lulas

It was a tough choice, but I went with the catfish and hushpuppies, with fries as my side. The catfish was very tender and had a nice, mild flavor. I prefer my breading firmer than Lula’s provided, but the flavor made up for the firmness issue. Likewise, the hushpuppies had a subtle corn flavor – all five of them! I don’t usually share my food, but I was willing of part with a hushpuppy. Had I been given four, no way.

The fries covered half the plate – can’t knock their willingness to part with their potatoes. Again, good flavor. An extra 30 seconds in the fryer would have been perfect. Is it the New Orleans way of cooking fries? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t exclude them from future consideration. The taste made up for being a bit softer than my preference.

It sounds a bit like I didn’t enjoy the food, which isn’t the case. Though I nitpick, it was a good meal and I would definitely return to try another one of their amazing looking items. The jambalaya got positive comments from my co-diners, and there were a couple of German-themed dishes that looked tasty as well. Lula’s is a definite plus to the Owosso dining scene.

Oh, and the next time I eat there, I’ll get a better picture.

Burgies, Alpena

When I ask where you would go to get a great burger, you would probably say “Alpena”. What was that? No, that is not the answer you would give? Well, let’s see if I can change your mind.

Dinner time had arrived after my hiking and biking extravaganza in northeast Michigan. I rolled into Alpena, exhausted and hungry for a bite or a dozen. I was glad I had mapped the location of Burgies beforehand, because it would be an easy place to miss. Small and non-descript one could easily drive past none the wiser. (It’s the block southwest of the Alpena county building, in case you’re keeping score at home.)

Burgies

Burgies

The reviews on Yelp had been outstanding, which was the reason I had decided it was the dinner stop for HikeFest 2016. I squeezed into the small dining area. I’m not a large man, despite my love of food, but things are tight inside, so suck in your gut as you move around. I went a tad early, which probably also helped.

The waiter was super friendly and helpful, THE combination of attributes to have as a waiter. He brought over my Petoskey Brewing Horny Monk, which wasn’t an easy choice – Burgies has several craft beers on tap. As the knight said to Indiana Jones, choose wisely. I did.

2016 is the “Year of the Olive Burger”. Though a beef olive burger wasn’t on the menu (it was a turkey burger), they switched out the meat and I had a sizable burger topped with beautiful olives sitting before me in a short period of time.

Olive burger

Olive burger

What a great looking burger. It didn’t look nearly that nice after I was halfway through it – it was a scary sight, a true burger disaster. We’ll leave it at that. No pictures were taken of this even. You’re welcome.

The Burgies burger tasted even better than it looked. It was perfectly cooked (medium-ish) and not a hint of toughness. It has a good ratio of olives to mayonnaise, an important ratio for an olive burger. The large slice of Swiss complimented the burger nicely. And who knew arugula wouldn’t be disgusting on a hamburger? It added some crispness and a hint of bitterness that made the burger more interesting.

Can’t leave out the onion rings. The breading was not at all doughy, and was cooked just right. The onions were perfect onion ring material, firm but very easy to bite through – no gnawing required. You know those onion rings where, after biting them, you’re left with a big string of onion in your mouth and hollow tube of breading in your hand? Not so with the Burgies onion rings. Easily among the best onion rings I have had.

Everything about my experience at Burgies was excellent. I’ve seen many 5-star reviews, and they are certainly warranted. If you are anywhere near the pinky area of Michigan, it is worth a visit. In fact, you should visit. If you are a burger-lover, I would question your sanity if you didn’t.