Rustle Up Some Grub @ Chuck Wagon

Driving home this evening, I saw a few cars parked at Chuck Wagon Burgers & BBQ. I popped in, hoping to catch someone outside and confirm an opening date. To my welcome surprise, I was invited inside right then. I had happened upon their unannounced soft opening. And that was the beginning of a great evening.

Situated just west of Kansas Expressway on the south side of Kearney Street, Chuck Wagon is a welcome and delicious addition to the north side of SGF.

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Interior

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Menu

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Now let’s get to the food. We went with recommendations from the owners: Applewood Smoked Tenderloin with Potato Salad, Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork with Fries, Cheeseburger with Slaw, and Chicken Strips with BBQ Beans for the kids.

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All the food was great. The burgers are made from fresh meat delivered daily, juicy and served with the basics: ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickle, onion. The fries are fresh cut. The potato salad tastes just like my aunt Janice’s (which is a good thing). The slaw is sweet, creamy and fresh with poppy seeds in the dressing. Barbecue meats are tender, flavorful, and have just the right amount of smoke. And the house made sauce is thick, sweet and tangy. The standout of the meal for me was the applewood smoked pork tenderloin sandwich. Throw on some onion, dill pickle slices and I’ve got what I think is my favorite BBQ sandwich in SGF. Oh, and the buns are outstanding. I would love to know where they get them. Buttered and toasted with a great mix of softness (not a word, I know) and chew–the perfect foundation for a great sandwich.

Overall Chuck Wagon made a great first impression. It is easily one of the best BBQ meals I’ve had in Springfield. And the burgers are fantastic as well. The two things they advertise, they excel at, and I hope they are here to stay. So hop in your cars, head over to the north side of town, support a great new local spot and fill your belly with some tasty grub. You can thank me in the comments section below.

PS
My 4-year old offered these thoughts: “They make healthy food and they have a drive-thru.” He also gave his chicken tenders two thumbs up noting “I like the frying”. Guess I may need to change his definition of healthy:)

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Dining Destin-ations, Part 1

Our annual road trip to Destin, FL was last week. This is our yearly recharge. A truly relaxing vacation where our most difficult decision is what to eat for dinner.

Destin is know for their powdery white beaches and emerald green ocean waters, not their food scene. But if you are willing to do a little looking, there are some hidden and not so hidden gems out there, including one of the 5-best pizzas I’ve ever eaten. Here are some of my favorites:

The Back Porch

Is this the best seafood you’ll ever eat? No. Is it crowded and “touristy”? Yes. Do they still serve their kid’s meals on souvenir frisbees? Yes (awesome since I forgot mine). But this is our stop every year on our first night in Destin.

The restaurant sits right on the beach and has the best view in town. The food is simple and appeals to the masses: grilled, blackened, fried seafoods of all types, the best being the local grouper, amberjack and Gulf shrimp. Crab claws are also in season. We like them broiled in garlic, butter and seasoning.

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They do a great traditional gumbo with a dark, rich roux and lots of seafood. It claims to be award winning for best gumbo on the Emerald Coast, and I believe it after tasting it.

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I was craving fried seafood this night and had the shrimp, crab cake & grouper combo. Everything was lightly breaded, perfectly crisp and not the slightest bit oily. The fried grouper was the standout on the plate. Sorry about the lighting it was getting dark at this point.

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We had a wonderful breakfast at Another Broken Egg thanks to a recommendation from @NomNomspgfd. Try the biscuit beignets, crab stack (think shrimp & grits with a crab cake) and omelette with bacon, chorizo, monterey jack and cream cheese. A breakfast worth paying for, which I hadn’t found before in Destin.

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A couple more to check out:

The softball-size Maryland crab cakes at Sarah K’s Gourmet are full of lump crab and almost nothing more, which is how a crab cake should be. This is gourmet take-out, so make sure you’ve got an oven and/or microwave available. This time around we dined on crab cakes, bacon spinach & parmesan polenta, teriyaki green beans and mushroom asparagus risotto cakes. Warmed it up according to instructions and dined on our condo balcony looking out at the ocean. A great way to spend an evening.

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McGuire’s of Destin
You can’t miss this place as you’re coming into the city. Green neon lines the sprawling rooftops. But don’t let the large size and crowds keep you away from some great burgers, steaks and Irish comfort food. The Reuben Egg Rolls (featured on The FoodNetwork show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”) were my favorite dish of the night. House cured corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese fried crisp in an egg roll wrapper and served with Thousand Island dressing. Thanks for the tip Robert Irvine.

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Shepherd’s Pie

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Stay tuned for Part 2. If you’re a pizza & BBQ fan, you’ll love the next post.

Black Market Dining

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It sits alone, unmarked and unassuming at the end of Massachusetts Ave in downtown Indy. You reach the door and it’s confirmed you’re in the right spot.

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Inside, a large chalkboard lists nightly specials. Communal tables invite you to sit down, share a meal and maybe make some new friends. The place has a very comfortable, cool atmosphere. It appears that most patrons are local, and many regulars. Once word gets out about this place, finding a seat will be difficult. The food is that good.

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Once seated we were handed clip boards with the current menu. The selections were limited, but varied and all sounded delicious.

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After quizzing our server, we decided to start with the Duck Buns and Tomato, Corn and Melon salad.

The Duck Buns consisted of house made yeast rolls topped with shredded duck tossed in a hoisin mustard sauce. We were blown away by these. The rolls were soft and light, the duck was moist and flavorful. Reminded me very much of a New American spin on dim sum. We were off to a great start.

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The salad was full of my favorite summer flavors: sweet corn, cantaloupe, and local tomatoes. And bacon, lots of bacon–a favorite for any season. The combination of sweet and savory was energized by a great sherry vinaigrette. A perfect (ending) summer salad, sure to be gone with the new fall menu. Did I mention the bacon?

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For entrees, I chose the Pork Schnitzel with a side of Lemon Poppyseed Spaetzle. This meal took me back to my trip in high school to Vienna, Austria. The pork was tender, well seasoned and fried to a perfect golden brown. It was accompanied by a slaw of cabbage, red onion and sweet corn and a wedge of lemon. Simple and comforting, yet sophisticated in it’s flavors. A great dish.

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And you can’t (or shouldn’t) eat schnitzel without spaetzle. The egg noodles were pan sautéed with nice crispy edges and pillowy interiors.

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My coworker went with the Black Market Burger: a fresh ground blend of beef and lamb, topped with goat cheese spread, grilled red onion and house pickles. It looked so good I had to try a bite. It did not disappoint. The meat blend was a great change of pace from an all beef burger. The goat cheese was creamy and tangy. The sweetness of the onion and acidity of the pickles helped cut through the richness. And I got all that out of one bite. One perfect bite. (I have to admit a slight case of burger envy)

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Black Market also does a mean side of fries with house mayo. Went great with the burger.

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Finished up with the lime curd and blueberries served over a shortbread cookie and topped with creme fraiche. This may have been favorite part of the meal. Only thing I’ll say, if it’s on the menu, order it. You. Will. Not. Regret. It. Oh, and I wish there was a little more of the micro basil. I love basil and blueberries.

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Black Market set the bar high and was not surpassed during my stay in Indy (and we ate some great food; stay tuned for another post).

If you’re local, make yourself a regular. If you’re visiting, make it a destination.

Blu Sesame – The Early Days

I’ve been waiting anxiously for this place to open. I’m a big fan of Asian food in it’s traditional and fusion forms. From cashew chicken (Springfield style of course) to sushi, you name it, I eat it. At first glance this place appeared to be a perfect match.
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After a brief deliberation we settled on Mozzarella Spring Rolls, White Pepper Crab Egg Drop Soup, Chicken Katsu w/ Asian Nachos, Start Your Night Off Roll and the Spicy Ramen w/ Chicken. Yes, I often over order when trying a new restaurant, but it’s a sacrifice I make to give you, the reader, a more thorough review.

The Mozzarella Spring Rolls were the first and best dish of the night. Perfectly crispy with melted cheese surrounding a crisp asparagus spear.

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Kai & Haruno sell a similar (and superior) dish, Asparagus Mozzarella Tempura, although I would definitely order this again.

Next out was the White Pepper Crab Egg Drop Soup. The actual egg drop soup was a good enough rendition. Didn’t detect the white pepper mentioned, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as too much of it can quickly overpower a dish. My biggest issue with the soup was the “crab”. Can we get a law passed that any restaurant selling the pink, rubbery, artificially sweet fish slurry, have to spell the word with a “k”? Crab is one of my favorite things in the whole world. The imitation stuff is an insult to the word. I’d rather pay $6 a bowl and have real crab meat. If not, leave it out of the dish and call it Egg Drop soup.

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The other winner of the night was the Chicken Katsu with Asian Nachos we ordered for the kids. The chicken was tender, flavorful and I love anything fried in panko. The Asian Nachos were also good, topped with teriyaki sauce, a creamy, spicy sauce, pico and black beans. The dish is very similar to the nachos aggressively sampled at Chomp Champ in the mall food court…so much so that we wonder if both are owned by the same team. Very tasty.

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The Start Your Night Off roll sounded interesting, topped with shrimp guacamole (there was very little shrimp present). The guacamole itself was good and fresh, but my nemesis “krab” made another unwelcome appearance in the Cali roll underneath.

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Spicy Ramen with Chicken was not very spicy and overall lacking in flavor. Had potential, but just didn’t quite deliver. The boy thought the noodles looked like Rapunzel’s hair. They love Tangled.

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All that being said, I will definitely be back. There are a lot of other items I would like to try on the menu. The staff was also fantastic, super friendly and service was amazingly fast. I also take into consideration that the place has only been open for just over a week. I will give the kitchen some time to get on the same page with the menu and recipes, then give it another shot. I really want this place to succeed. It’s a welcome, unique addition to downtown and the prices are reasonable enough for lunch or dinner. So give it a try and let me know of you have any recommendations. And beware of the krab.

BONUS REVIEW: SIDE-BY-SIDE
Blu Sesame is adjoined to another of the owners concepts, Side-by-Side dessert lounge. It has it’s own entrance or can be accessed from inside Blu Sesame.

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As you can see, the place looks great, as do the desserts. They get high marks for presentation. Staff recommendations included cupcakes (all of which include yogurt) and cheesecake. We were told that they make all their desserts. We decided on the tiramisu.

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Unfortunately the cake was dry, there was no discernible coffee flavor, and not nearly enough of the creamy mascarpone in between layers.

That was one choice out of a myriad of options. I am really hoping the others don’t follow suit in the “looks better than they taste” category.

eAT-Lanta

For the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to have a conference scheduled in Atlanta in September. Had a blast checking out the latest home technology at the CEDIA Expo and just as much fun eating some of the best meals of my life. These are some of the highlights.

Flip Burger Boutique
Top Chef All Stars winner Richard Blais was near the top of my list of “Chefs Whose Restaurants I Want To Eat At”. His familiar flavors and chemistry experiment cooking techniques intrigued me and excited my appetite. Liquid Nitrogen milk shakes? Yes please. Deep fried burger with house pimento cheese? A must. And the array of fried sides (pickles, fries, onion rings, okra) and accompanying sauces were paired perfectly. This was my first gourmet burger experience (it was a few years ago) and still one of the best. I can still taste the chilled delight that was the Toasted Marshmallow Nutella milkshake.

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Antico Pizza Napoletana
The. Best. Slice. Of. Pizza. Ever. (That I’ve eaten to date). Everything from the glass case of cannoli at the counter, to the large communal table, to the kitchen dining where all the acton takes place and diners sit at mismatched picnic tables, the place transports you to Italy. When you go here, order your pizza and find a seat in the kitchen. There you will be surrounded by Italian music blaring from a small radio, bags of imported Italian flour and San Marzano tomatoes. You’ll see the pizza masters tossing fresh dough, piling on fresh buffalo mozzarella, sausage, herbs and whipping them into one of three ovens for their 2-minute trip to bubbly crispy pizza perfection. Then you’ll be served your perfect pie on a baking sheet covered in craft paper. And you’ll savor every delicious bite, all the while trying to figure out when you will be able to get back to Antico for another meal (a big challenge when you live in Springfield, MO). Their hours are 11:30 – Until We’re Out Of Dough. Don’t be late.

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Woodfire Grill
Home of my other favorite Top Chef, Kevin Gillespie, master of all things pork (down go the pig tattoo), this was my must stop destination last year. I happened to be in town when Chef Kevin was out cooking on a cruise ship, but was assured by the staff that I would enjoy the same quality experience. They did not disappoint. Splurge when you’re here and order the 5-course chef’s tasting. I tried things I never would have ordered off a menu. And enjoyed every one. For anyone wondering, properly prepared pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth, smokey, salty goodness. Other highlights included the seared scallop with corn and truffle puree, the wood grilled duck breast and the blueberry semolina cake. In reality, all dishes were stunning. I’ve included a shot of the menu (ask for one and they will print out what you ate). All in all, start to finish, the best fine dining meal I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. Thank you Chef Kevin (and Woodfire Grill kitchen staff). And thank you Crestron for paying the bill.

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Varasano’s Pizzeria
#3 on my list of best pizza I’ve ever had. Behind #1 Antico and #2 Pizzeria Mozza (LA). The owner has one of the most viewed pizza blogs on the Internet and decided to put all his research and testing on display and opened a restaurant. It was a good decision. The house sausage and caramelized onion with Emmenthaler cheese was a standout. Bottom line, ATL is a pizza lovers destination.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed these highlights from my dining in the ATL. Bummed the conference got moved to Indianapolis this year. Any restaurant recommendations in Indy?

Grad School gets an “A”

If you haven’t been to Grad School, it’s time to register. Not for class, but for one of the best casual meals in 417.

Story goes that the owner opened this place in lieu of graduate school (hence the name). Judging by the killer food, owner’s passion and large crowds, his decision was a wise one.

This particular Saturday I was craving a tasty burger. If you find yourself with a similar craving, The Full Ride will not disappoint. Hands down one of my top 3 burgers in Springfield. Crispy edges on the double beef patties, thick-cut bacon, loads of oozing soft sharp cheddar, lettuce and tomato. Served with perfectly crisp and deftly seasoned fries. The pictures speak for themselves. Try not to drool on your screen.

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We also had the Ali Baba: hummus served with fresh fried tortilla chips and grilled pita. Tons of flavor. Would have liked more pita, less chips, but both were great.

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Other favorites here are the Long Beach Tacos (best fish tacos in town), Rasta Pasta (improved version inspired by owner’s previous days at Rasta Grill) and The Cuban (house baked ham, chorizo, swiss, pickles, pressed on the grill).

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My 4-year old also wanted to contribute to this review. He took his own photo and all comments are his words. On his chicken nuggets, Ollie had this to say:

“I like the frying.”

“It’s better than Wendy’s.”

And overall, “Pretty yummy.”

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Grad School
434 S Jefferson
Springfield, MO 65806

Eating, Photoing, Cooking, Tweeting, Blogging the Foods We Love

–Foodie Additives

The Pizza House

There is no other food I crave on a more frequent basis than a pepperoni and sausage pizza from The Pizza House. A Springfield institution for over 50-years, they still crank out the thinnest, crispiest, tastiest pies in town. Bite-size square after bite-size square you will work your way from the perfectly burnt edges (my favorite) to the gooey center. Before you know it, you have eaten the entire pizza.

Stick with the basics here: pepperoni, sausage (amazing), ham, peppers, onions, cheese. If you are looking for gourmet pizza, head to The Grotto or Minsky’s. Want authentic Italian style pizza? Bruno’s is your place. This is Springfield style. And I love it.

Great pizza, great location (north-side!), great owner. Say hi to Stacey for me.

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The edges are always the first to go. (Mouth watering as I write this)
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Our Valentines Day tradition: PIZZA! Stacey makes it extra special for my wife and I.
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Yes, they have salad. Nice and simple: lettuce, tomato, lots of cheese and Ott’s French dressing. Reminds me of dinner at my grandma’s when I was a kid.
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