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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Go Grotto, Great Burgers

I was craving a great burger last night, didn’t feel like firing up the Big Green Egg, and the first place that popped into my head was The Grotto. They never fail to deliver a thick, juicy, perfectly cooked (medium for me) and well seasoned burger. That is exactly what I got last night.

My personal favorite is the Grotto Bleu, add bacon. If adding bacon is an option, it’s always a go for me.

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I would usually opt for the Bleu Cheese Chips as my side, but my wife wanted some as well (and I didn’t feel like sharing), so we went with an appetizer order. Quite possibly my favorite app in 417, the fresh chips, awesome on their own, are taken to new levels by the creamy, just-right tang of the bleu cheese sauce.

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And yes, I doubled up on my fried starches with a side of sweet potato fries with my burger. Lightly battered and crispy, they go perfect dipped in the house avocado lime ranch dressing. It’s an extra $.50, but well worth it. The flavors go great together.

Fresh, flavorful, California-inspired cuisine. Great burgers, sides and gourmet pizzas (try BBQ Chicken, add bacon of course, and yes I have a pic).

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Over the past few years, The Grotto has cemented itself as one of my top 5 favorites in SGF. Try it for yourself and find out why.

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.