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

Sadlack’s Heroes

There is a sad little bar in Raleigh that I’ve picked on for a countless number of years that I had never actually been to until a week ago. It is a small 40-year-old establishment called Sadlack’s Heroes, located on Hillsborough Street across from North Carolina State University.

I’ve maintained a long running joke about Sadlack’s. For some reason, it seemed that every time I’d get caught at the stoplight across from the building, I’d look over and see only one or two men sitting at the bar, heads hanging low, staring into their beer, looking depressed as all get out. I took it to be a very depressing place. I saw it as a sad, unkempt, run down place that old men would stumble to when their wives left them or they lost their job.

Last week I had some time to kill before meeting some friends in the downtown area. I decided to stop in for a beer so I could finally experience this bar first hand once and for all.

I should mention that I was there at 5:30 on a Monday afternoon. Considering the day and time, it wasn’t exactly bustling, and a single visit anywhere isn’t a true representation of the general customer experience.

Since this was an unplanned visit, I was there alone. I realized the irony of my circumstance. Passing motorists could see me sitting up at the bar alone, just like those sad, lonely guys I’d seen there in years past. In the eyes of passersby, I had assumed the role of a sad lonely guy drinking a beer at Sadlack’s.

When I arrived, I checked in on Foursquare in order to document my visit, and left a comment that the bar should post the number for the suicide prevention hotline over the door. I wrote that in jest, and I thought it was pretty funny.

Once I was inside, I found it to be small and somewhat dated. I read that the interior was remodeled in recent years, and I could tell that it had been. To my surprise, it seemed to be clean and well kept. That aside, the general atmosphere inside is, how should I say? Vintage? Let’s go with that.

They have only a handful of beers on tap, but the prices are reasonable. I was, however, put off by the use of plastic cups instead of real pint glasses. I suppose they don’t serve beer in glasses so people can walk around outside on the patio with their cups to converse and play darts and whatnot. I don’t enjoy drinking beer out of a small plastic cup, but it is what it is. I will say that the bartender was extremely nice and repeatedly asked if I was doing okay and if I needed anything. The level of service that I experienced on my visit was excellent.

As I mentioned, the bar has an outside area. In front of the building are a few faded picnic tables. In the back there is a covered patio with dart boards and a few more tables. Unlike the interior, the outside has clearly not been remodeled in any way, and looks like it has been the same since the beginning of time. They have live music on the covered patio area at some point during the week, but I haven’t been there when that was happening, and I don’t know the schedule for that. I can’t imagine that many people could attend the live music because the patio is pretty small.

I expected to see a lot of college students at Sadlack’s since it’s located directly across from the university, but there weren’t many at all (at least while I was there.) The clientele largely consisted of old leathery, grizzled-looking men. I assumed that these men had probably been going to this bar for decades. I actually sent a text message to a friend and said that in comparison, some of the people made Willie Nelson and Keith Richards look like newborn babies. Ha! In fact, the #1 tip for Sadlack’s that a Foursquare user had written said, “I’m pretty sure this place has the highest concentration of missing teeth in all of Raleigh.” There is some truth to that statement, but I digress.

Sadlack’s is definitely not my style. I don’t see myself going back there, unless I did so ironically. I felt out of place the whole time I was there. I checked their rating on Yelp and I was baffled to see that it has an average customer rating of 4 stars. I was surprised by that. After reading the user reviews, my negative outlook on the bar softened a little. I found out through the reviews that the bar plays all of their music on real vintage vinyl records. I think that is really cool. I suppose it has its own unique charms that their customers have come to expect and appreciate.

Despite my ugly comments about Sadlack’s, the bar has been in operation since 1972. They must be doing something right to have been in business for such a long time. I imagine that they have a steady stream of regular customers. I’m glad that I finally had the chance to experience it first hand. The scene at Sadlack’s is just not for me.

If you find yourself perched at the bar at Sadlack’s, I’d be curious to know what you think. You may love it or you may hate it. As with anything, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Sadlacks Hereos

Raleigh's Lame Copycat Traditions Are Baffling

In my city of Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, there are a couple of lame traditions that I have to call out as being stupid. Here goes.

Every New Years Eve, while the partygoers in New York City are living it up in Times Square waiting for the ball to drop, another copycat tradition is underway in downtown Raleigh. In Raleigh, we have the acorn drop. Yes, you heard right. It is a large acorn on a pole that they lower at midnight to celebrate the new year. Lame. What is the point of this? New York is in our time zone and people who actually have a life can celebrate the real ball dropping, in real-time.

Even more stupid is the fact that the acorn is dropped early every year at 8:00 PM so that families and small children can witness the drop, chiming in an hour that is absolutely meaningless to all parties involved. To artificially celebrate the new year before midnight is a complete disgrace. Let’s just do away with this. I’m embarrassed.

Today is Groundhog Day. Up in the city of Punxsutawney, PA, the famous groundhog comes out to see his shadow. Don’t get me started on how silly the tradition is. If you look at the historical records, you’ll find that ole’ Phil sees his shadow like 95% of the time. But I digress on Phil. My real complaint is that Raleigh, NC has to copy this tradition as well. We have our own groundhog celebration, except our groundhog bears the eye-rolling name “Sir Walter Wally.” Give me a break.

I’m curious if other cities and states have similar events to those I’ve listed above. All I can do is shake my head at what a complete waste of time and resources all this crap is.

The Pews and Observer

Today I emailed the editorial section of the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper with the following thoughts:

Dear N&O:

I have a great new name for the N&O. I call it “The Pews and Observer”. I don’t subscribe to the paper, but often glance through the papers of my co-workers. I find that nearly every day the Life section is filled with religious articles. Most of the Life section these days is actually the Faith section, which I find disturbing. In my opinion, the N&O is nothing more than a religious publication. It’s hard not to feel that way when I’m bombarded with regular features such as “The God Squad” and church bulletins.

Take away the advertisements, the religious propaganda, and most of what is left is collection of articles ripped straight from the New York Times and the Associated Press. That’s not much of a problem because those articles are clearly the best ones. However, I can read them in the actual New York Times, or on the Internet.

The only local N&O staff writer that I look forward to reading is Barry Saunders. He pens an insightful and entertaining column. Hopefully when the paper industry breathes its final breath, Barry find valuable work elsewhere. Sadly for the N&O, once the daily print newspaper is a thing of the past, nothing of value in Raleigh will have been lost.