Beer and a burger at Hopcat

The waitress asked me how the beer was. I replied it was very good, an automatic response when a waitress how my meal is.

I was lying.

I had decided on the Step Child Red because it was a Hopcat-brewed beer, and because I generally like reds (don’t tell my wife). It looked like a rouge-tinted Blue Moon, but unfortunately didn’t have the same caliber in the taste department. It was fine going down, but had an unpleasant aftertaste. Of the dozens of beers on tap, I had chosen poorly. Better luck next time.

Hopcat, Grand Rapids

Hopcat, Grand Rapids

Hopcat is located in downtown Grand Rapids, next to Van Andel arena. The decor was amazing, part bar of yesteryear, part beer can collector’s basement, party stylish pub.

Hopcat, Grand Rapids

Hopcat, Grand Rapids

And the bathroom! I don’t have a picture of that, but the men’s room is decorated with 50s pornography – racy drawings of scantily-clad women – and black and white photos of musicians and movie stars.

Onto the food. It was hard to decide between the Zee Bo burger (bacon and jalapenos) and the olive burger (olives, two kinds of cheese). I chose the latter, and I should have chosen the former.

It wasn’t a bad burger – the ingredients were quite good – but the sum of the parts didn’t do anything for me. And it just wasn’t olive-y enough, the taste of the olives being overwhelmed by the cheeses. Not at all a bad burger, just not what I was hoping for.

The olive burger at Hopcat

The olive burger at Hopcat

Criticisms aside, I would eat at Hopcat again. The beer selection was outstanding, with plenty of Michigan beers on tap. There were several good looking items on the menu that I would love to try.

Hopcat, Grand Rapids

Hopcat, Grand Rapids

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Nachos at Chili’s

I stopped in for a quick bit at Chili’s in Okemos on Monday night. This is a tale of two posts, the food and the service. I’ll start with the food.

I tried the 8-chip nachos, since I wasn’t too hungry, and 8 chips didn’t seem very much. And it wasn’t, but it was perfect for my appetite. Unlike a normal dish of nachos, each chip was decorated with toppings instead of throwing gobs of beef, cheese, etc. on a pile of chips.

And it worked. The beef and beans were good, and most chips had jalapenos. There wasn’t a lot of salsa, but enough for such a small amount of chips. Everything went together very well, and every bite was full of good stuff. To add to the experience, I had a $3 10 oz. margarita, a special on Monday nights.

Which brings me to the service. Apparently, the bartender (whose name was “Dude”, according to the recipe) didn’t like making 10 oz. margaritas. And he expressed this to other employees several times. Too much work, he claimed, and he wished they would be taken off the menu. And he did this while only about five feet from me, sitting there with my 10 oz. margarita that he had made for me. So he was either rude or stupid.

But fate is a funny thing. When I got my recipe, lo and behold, I had the opportunity to fill out an online survey. Which I did. So, “Dude”, I perhaps next time you’ll be a bit smarter when you bitch.

Brannigan Bros. for basketball

I did the unthinkable (for me) and ate at the same restaurant last week. Oh, the humanity! But I felt I had to. With the NCAA Tournament in it’s first – and best – days, I wanted to see as much basketball as possible. And with the sports bar picking really slim in downtown Lansing, I decided for a two-fer at Brannigan Bros. Sure, I could have walked to The Nuthouse, the best sports bar within walking distance, but it’s farther away, I didn’t have the WHOLE day to watch TV.

On Thursday, the place had the post-St. Patrick’s Day smell of stale spilled beer. Yummy. And except for the guy that sat next to me who made a stream of incoherent statement, I had a decent experience.

I tried the “Hot Roast Beef and Fried Egg” sandwich, because fried eggs on sandwiches rock! The beef was a little tough in places, but the flavor was good, and served on lightly toasted, buttery bread. It came with a pickle and chips.

On Friday, the stale beer smell and annoying bar neighbor had dissipated. I had eaten like a pig the past few days, so I went with the chef salad to make myself feel better. Nothing special there, just ham, turkey, cheese, tomatoes, and a hard-boiled egg on lettuce. Good enough for what I needed, and several dollars cheaper than salad as nearby restaurants. It will not win any awards, though.

One tip – don’t try to view the Brannigan Bros. menu on line unless you have a very fast connection. The PDF file is over 34 MB, which is insane file size for a menu. There is no reason to have that file so large. If you do risk downloading the menu, I recommend you save it on your hard drive for future use – your networking team will love you for it.

Troppo, the second time around

Our first experience at Troppo (when it was located far, far away – across the street, to be precise) was not good. It took 45 minutes to simply get a bottle of wine, the first two bottles we ordered were out, the food was nothing spectactular. And, since troppo is Itlian for “too much”, as you can guess, it was overpriced.

Three years later, Troppo has moved to its new location on the north side of Michigan Avenue, and perhaps the demon of bad service has been exercised. We are forgiving customers willing to give a local company another try.

Okay, the real reason: We had a gift certificate.

But we were happily surprised. The service was much better and the food, though not stellar, was interesting. I had the Pork and Mac, pork chops on top of macaroni and cheese. I had never conceived of having these two things together.

Peanut butter and chocolate they were not, though. Both the pork chops and macaroni and cheese were good by themselves, but didn’t do anything for me we added together. Still, points for creating an unusual dish.

Soup was included. I had peasant soup, which tasted like minnestroni – salty, which is what I like in a soup. Rolls the size of doughnut holes were also served. The dessert menu looked good, but we were still trying to power through our Girl Scout cookies at home, so we skipped that course.

So we went away much happier than we did on our last visit, and will consider them for future outings. Troppo hasn’t completely redeemed itself from our awful first experience, but it’s on its way.

Bimbo dogs and margaritas on Isla Mujeres

Andrea and I spent a long weekend on Isla Mujeres and had some fantastic food that I will be sharing in the future. This post will cover just the first day’s rather brief eating experience, leaving out the snack boxes we had on the airplane.

We arrived late in the day, and while we waited for the ferry to take us from the docks to the island, I stopped at McDonald’s and had some tasty fries. I didn’t know how to say ‘fries’, but the guy at the counter said ‘papas’, so I’ll go with that. Papas frites is also acceptable.

Immediately after we arrived, we found the Bimbo dog stand, which Andrea had read about on Holly Eats and were highly recommended – 5 grease stain ratings. And they were fantastic. Bacon wrapped hot dogs topped with grilled onions – mmmm.

Bimbo Dogs on Isla Mujeres

Bimbo Dogs on Isla Mujeres

We took a taxi to our B&B, Villa La Bella, and the owners started us off with a couple of margaritas. Nice cups, huh? The margaritas were good, with ample salt on the rim, though they were a bit sour for me. The B&B did, however, serve some great pina colada’s.

Margarita's at Villa La Bella, Isla Mujeres

Margarita's at Villa La Bella, Isla Mujeres

And, if you are looking for cold beer on the island, they do have that too:

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

Nachos at The Nuthouse

I met my friend Tim at The Nuthouse for lunch yesterday. Being a nacho fiend, I decided on said dish. I had eaten Nuthouse nachos before, but it had been almost two years, so I decided to refresh my memory.

First impression – what’s with all the olives? And who though black olives on nachos was a good idea anyways? I should have looked at the ingredients before I told the waitress I wanted the nachos – I would have told her to leave them off.

Second impressions – what’s with all the lettuce? Apparently, rabbits are frequent eaters of Nuthouse nachos.

Once you get past the barrier of vegetables, the meat and cheese were good. The chips were fine, but there were very few of them in proportion to the toppings. Tim detailed his full order / half order theory. If you have the full order of nachos, you get the top two-thirds of the bag. People who order the half-order get the bottom third. And I tend to believe him – most of the chips were good sized, but near the end, I was picking through the cabbage patch, trying to find just a hint of a chip.

Here is what is looked like after I was done. It doesn’t appear that I ate much, did it? I did, and I was completely absent of hunger when I left the restaurant, but I skipped most of the lettuce and olives, which means I didn’t eat about half the nachos.

Nachos, The Nuthouse

Nachos, The Nuthouse

So while, underneath the lettuce / olive armor the core of the nachos was good, I would probably not order them again. At $10 for a full order, I just didn’t get enough of the good stuff to make it worth the price.

The Nuthouse recently replaced their bank of big TVs on the wall with slightly smaller flat screens. It’s a typical bar – a decent place to watch a game, but not something to go out of your way for. It was a short walk from my office in downtown Lansing to the soon-to-be-renamed Oldsmobile Park on Michigan Avenue.

The Nuthouse

The Nuthouse

The Blue Tractor, Traverse City

I was in Traverse City last weekend for a snowshoe excursion, starting in Ludington, stopping in Traverse City, and ending in Cadillac. While there, I met a friend at The Blue Tractor on Union Street.

The Blue Tractor, Traverse City

The Blue Tractor, Traverse City

This was my second visit to The Blue Tractor. The first time, Andrea and I split a basket of potato chips complete with a melted cheese dipping sauce appetizer, and a slider basket. The quality of the food made a good enough impression that I wanted to make a return visit.

This time around, I had the Black, Blue, and Bacon burger (they had me at bacon), which was very good. The burger was cooked perfectly, as was the bacon. My one criticism is that the bleu cheese wasn’t spread out evenly and was a bit too strong in parts. But that was minor – I’d have the burger again if the Crunch Burger didn’t sound so good.

The Blue Tractor, Traverse City

The Blue Tractor, Traverse City

The burger came with lots of crispy, tasty fries and a side of sliced sweet pickles. I met a friend there, so we talked for quite a while, long enough for the small child in the seat behind me to be replaced by a screaming baby, which is always great for trying to have a conversation.

Noise aside, it was another great visit, and I’ll be hard-pressed to avoid going there again because of all the other great restaurants in TC that I want to try.