A Pizza Bowl Of Toppings

Over the years, pizza chains have exhausted the list of possibilities of gimmicks to create a new form of pizza. Every few months a restaurant invents some slight modification to lure customers to order your next pizza from them. Pizza Hut is probably the most active player in this practice.

Do you remember the stuffed crust pizza? When it came out, they advertised it as “the pizza that you eat backwards.” I doubt that anyone actually ate it that way. Now that concept has been expanded to cheesy bites pizza, bacon stuffed pizza, and now hot dog crust pizza. I must say, the hot dog infused pizza crust both looks and sounds pretty nasty. I’ve never tried it.

A long time ago, my brother came up with a great new idea. It’s brilliant in its simplicity!

The idea: A bowl of toppings. Yes, a pizza bowl! It could rival the burrito bowl. It would be just a bowl full of toppings! Everything but the bread. I’d order one in a heartbeat.

Imagine sitting down to a bowl filled with a hint of tomato sauce, a hefty wad of cheese, and any toppings that you like on your pizza. Personally, I’d go for pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms. It sounds delicious!

Sure, such a pizza bowl is going to cost more than your average pizza. After all, it’s everything but the bread. The crust is easily the cheapest and most filling ingredient in making a pizza. If a pizza bowl can be priced reasonably, I say go for it. Why not? They’ve already stretched every other gimmick to the limit.

Somebody bring on the pizza bowl!

My Second Worst Meal Ever

This week, I had the second worst meal that I’ve ever eaten. No kidding.

I say second worst; because the number one worst meal I have ever had the dissatisfaction of eating was a god-awful nasty hotdog at Goodberrys that I bought many years ago. I wrote about that on this blog way back when. You can read about that here if you dare.

The cafeteria at my office has a refrigerator with prepared foods that you can microwave. I try my best to avoid such desperate measures, but one morning this week I was very hungry when I got to work. I was craving a hot breakfast sandwich. I decided to visit the refrigerated goods. That turned out to be a big mistake.

There were virtually no breakfast foods to choose from, and I was forced to settle for a spicy chicken, bacon and Swiss jalapeno cheese bagel. It was beyond revolting. I do not like spicy foods to begin with, but I was quite desperate. What I experienced was absolutely disgusting.

I nuked the bagel. The odor emanating from the microwave was very potent. I should have known I was in trouble from the get-go. The bacon had the floppy consistency of a paper-thin white strip of rubber. The chicken was extremely chewy, and beyond overly seasoned.

I was only able to eat a third of it before tossing it in the trash. My mouth and tongue were in flames from the extreme jalapeno spices. I couldn’t taste anything beyond salt and fire.

That morning, I made a vow to never eat a prepared sandwich from the cafeteria fridge again. It was that bad. No matter how hungry I may be, I can’t bring myself to experience such an atrocity again. Absolutely disgusting!

I took a picture of the package, which I have posted below. If you ever run across this bagel, please avoid it at all costs! You have been warned.

Bad bagel

Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles

I don’t know when the chicken and waffles trend started. I’ve always found it a little puzzling. There is an upscale restaurant downtown that sells them. I’ve wanted to try it, but it is often very busy. I found a knockoff version elsewhere in town called Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles. The name cracked me up and I had to eat there for my tour of crazy restaurants in town.

I got a take-out order from this hilariously named place last night. The meals that include waffles seem to be priced rather expensively, so I opted for a simple 2-piece chicken meal. The meal came with 2 sides and a roll.

My fried chicken was a little overcooked and a tad dry. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it could have been plumper and moister. It may have been better if I had dined in the restaurant instead of taking it home and having the delay before I started eating.

There were plenty of sides to choose from. I chose cabbage and macaroni & cheese. Both sides were delicious, particularly the mac & cheese, which I must say was truly excellent. Seriously, if you eat there, you must order the mac & cheese.

The service was friendly. It took a little long to get my food. I’m sure that varies from day to day. There weren’t many people in the restaurant when I was there, but there may have been orders phoned in ahead of me that I wasn’t aware of. I would eat there again if I happened to be in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Circus Family Restaurant

The Circus Family Restaurant is an odd place. It’s an old fast-food restaurant in Raleigh. I’m talking really old. Back in the late 90s I ate at the second location in Cary because I thought it would be funny. I joked about the old restaurant back then. The Cary location closed in 2012.

I drove past the Circus on Wake Forest Road recently, and to my surprise it is still in business. I had forgotten all about the place. It looks weathered and run down. I told myself I had to go eat there.

I went to Circus with a friend this week, just for laughs. When I got inside, it was quite warm. It was a very warm evening and inside the restaurant was warm and stuffy. If the air conditioning was on, it was set very high. Everything about the place looked old and dated. A little greasy. I checked the sanitation rating and they have a respectable score.

There are a lot of items on the menu. I ordered a double cheeseburger and onion rings. The food was good. I honestly didn’t expect it to be. The onion rings, in particular, were great. My burger could have used a little more lettuce, but overall, it was really good. I heard that they serve good shakes, but I didn’t order ice cream.

Circus doesn’t get a lot of business. My friend and I were the only people in the restaurant for more than a half-hour. Only a handful of customers came the whole time we were there. They have a drive-thru, but I only saw one car drive around. Perhaps it was just a slow night. Otherwise, I don’t know how they survive.

Circus doesn’t look like much, but I was pleased with the food. I would eat there again. The staff in the restaurant was very friendly on my visit. The building could use some remodeling, but maybe that run down look and feel is part of its charm.

Circus Family Restaurant

The India Mahal

There is a sad little restaurant on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC called India Mahal. I have driven past this lonely place for countless years. It looks like a hole in the wall.

It’s amazes me that they have been in business for so many years. I hardly ever see any cars in the parking lot. I’ve always wondered if anyone actually eats there. I don’t really know how long they’ve been in business. I wasn’t able to find that information in my limited research. I can attest that it has been open for at least a decade, at minimum.

I decided to put my curiosity into action and dine at India Mahal myself. I had a hard time finding someone who was willing to go with me. No one in their right mind would intentionally eat there, I was told by a few friends.

After talking it up for weeks, I finally had the chance to go over this past weekend. I went for lunch around 12:30. To my surprise, they offered a lunch buffet. I was even more surprised to find other customers inside. There were two couples eating lunch when we arrived. Another young gentleman came and went while we were there.

Once I arrived, I realized that I had never really taken a close look at India Mahal, at least not on foot. I’d always driven by in a moving car and only had glimpses of how it actually looked. When I parked and stepped out of the car, I was a taken aback by the worn appearance of the structure. It looked worrisomely small and aged. I couldn’t help in that moment but wonder what I’d gotten myself in to.

The interior isn’t as small as the outside would have you believe. Booths lined the outside wall and there were tables in the center of the room. Inside, it was fairly well decorated, to my surprise. It did seem very aged. The ceiling tiles had a few water stains on them and the vinyl seat covers in my booth had a few tears, exposing some of the inner foam. That said, I had honestly expected worse. The sanitation grade is a solid 95. I was pleased to see that.

I only saw one lady working in the restaurant. She was nice. She tended to everyone’s drinks and stirred the food on the buffet cart. She didn’t say very much and was rather quiet. In fact, the whole restaurant was very quiet. Too quiet. Some weird, repetitive music eventually began playing from overhead speakers, but even that didn’t add much life to the lifelessness inside the dining room.

I can’t specifically recount the names of the things that I ate. I don’t know what the dishes were individually called, as I ate from the buffet. There were worn handwritten place cards on the buffet line, but I didn’t pay enough attention to them. I got a variety of foods on two plates. Several were chicken and rice dishes.

So how was the food? I’ll be honest. It wasn’t very good. It was all rather bland. All of the dishes had very little taste, which is not what you would expect from an Indian restaurant. I’ve eaten at Indian buffets before, and it seems as though food prepared for the buffet has less spices in comparison to when you order directly from the menu. A light use of spices is to be expected on a buffet. The problem is, the food at India Mahal was super bland. The quality of the food wasn’t really an issue, just the lack of flavor. It wasn’t very satisfying. Also, parts of the rice were dry from sitting out on the buffet.

Overall, it was an interesting experience. I don’t quite know how to summarize it all. I read the reviews on Yelp and found it to have 2 stars out of 5. I would agree with that assessment. My experience fell short of liking it, which would grant it 2 stars from me as well. I’m glad that I finally went and tried it firsthand. Having said that, I don’t foresee going back to eat there again. The price was very good for a lunch buffet, but there are much better alternatives for a few dollars more.

India Mahal

Tuesday Deals at The Fresh Market

I love shopping at The Fresh Market. We have a few locations here in Raleigh, NC. In fact, the store originated in nearby Greensboro. Today they have locations in 20 states. They are dedicated to providing fresh local foods.

I can attest to the quality of their groceries, particularly their abundant selection of fresh raw meats and seafood.

If you are fortunate to have one of these stores in your city, I want to inform you about a great way to get delicious discounted meats. Every Tuesday, they have a “buy one, get one free” special on selected cuts of meat. The item on sale changes every month.

For example, last month (August), the Tuesday special was for bone-in organic chicken breasts. I went twice during the month to load up on the chicken special. This month the special is sirloin steaks and pork tenderloins. Scrumptious! Again, happens every Tuesday of the month!

I’ve been trying to spread the word about this awesome bargain since I discovered it. Everyone can buy fresh, quality meats at a terrific discount. To find out more, visit The Fresh Market website. Be sure to tap on the “View Specials” tab for information about the Tuesday special, and other deals as well.

Go forth and feast!

Zephyrhills: The Bottled Water Debate

Last week I was involved in a friendly debate about bottled water, as to which brand has the best taste. I’m rather neutral on this issue. I think that all bottled water is basically the same. I can’t tell the difference among any of them. I don’t stockpile bottled water, but when I do occasionally buy some, I buy the cheapest brand on the shelf.

If I had to pick a single brand as the best, I’d choose Fiji. Why? Because it costs more. It must be better, right? It also helps that the bottle is uniquely square. The water has a way of shimmering down the side of the plastic, which makes it look more appealing. Of course, I’m sure that these are all calculated efforts to trick the mind into thinking that their product is better than the competition. I still believe that all bottled water is pretty much the same.

I have two coworkers who are originally from Florida. They both swear that the best bottled water on the planet is Zephyrhills. Supposedly, it is gathered from natural springs in the state of Florida. These two people insist with all of their might that no other water comes anywhere close to tasting as good as Zephyrhills. Personally, I can’t tell any difference at all. Zephyrhills tastes no better and no worse than any other water.

After listening to them go on and on about it, I felt inclined to tell them that there are only two kinds of water: salted and unsalted.

Zephyrhills isn’t sold where I live. One of these two coworkers is so enamored with this water that she gives money to another woman in the office to buy cases of it when she travels down to Florida. She buys a whole carload of it at once. I’m not exaggerating! Personally, I think that is crazy. Not only is it a terrible waste of resources, there is simply no way that this water is any different than the others. It’s hilarious to see how elated she is to get her hands on a bottle of Zephyrhills. I’ve tried to tell her that it’s no different than other brands, like Deer Park or Aquafina, but she firmly insists that I am wrong. She can taste the difference, she says.

I took to the Internet in search of evidence to support my argument. It didn’t take long to uncover some interesting facts.

First, FDA regulations allow water bottlers to say that their water comes from a natural spring even when it doesn’t. Any company can claim that they are selling natural spring water. It is a meaningless term.

Now for the kicker! It comes from a report in the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida newspaper. The article clearly states that both Zephyrhills and Deer Park bottle their water at the exact same plant using the exact same water. That’s right — two different labels, two different prices, but the exact same water. Boom. I rest my case.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go take a drink straight from the faucet at my kitchen sink.

Burger King Sucks

In my opinion, Burger King has become the worst fast food chain in the nation. I think that most people can agree that their food has gotten worse over the years. I almost never eat there, but the few recent times that I have made the poor choice to do so have only proven my point all the more.

There are two Burger Kings in my close vicinity. Neither of them ever has more than a few customers inside. One of the two was completely rebuilt from the ground up not long ago. They demolished the old building and built a brand new restaurant. Despite that effort, there are still hardly ever any cars in the parking lot.

When the rebuilt location reopened six months ago, I went there with a friend for lunch. Sadly, the food tasted like the same low-grade stuff they were serving before. I ordered the original chicken sandwich, which in essence is an overpriced tube of processed meat, salt, and breading. I don’t understand how they can call that chicken. The average chicken nugget have more real meat in it than their original chicken sandwich does. I’ve since been back and ordered a Whopper, which had nearly no taste to it. It was oddly bland and tasteless.

As if to illustrate Burger King’s decline, soon after the new building was complete and open for business, their electronic sign at the drive-thru that displays your order stopped working. To this day, more than six months after the display broke, the sign has still not been replaced. What remains is a large glaring empty hole on the drive-thru menu. The sad display says it all. I see it as a metaphor for the entire company.

This morning was the last straw for me. I stopped by my local Burger King to pick up a sausage, egg, cheese Croissan’Wich — a product which I used to enjoy. At a cost of over $3, what I got today was a dried out breakfast sandwich that looked like it was made more than two days ago. The edges of the dried egg were a dark discolored yellow-orange. The sausage was noticeably dark and dry. When I ate it, it tasted like a mass of salt. After a few bites in, I bit into a hard rock-like pellet in the sausage. I threw the rest of it away.

Burger King is due for a complete overhaul. Until then, I’m done. I’ve decided not to eat at there anymore. These days, there are far better alternatives.