Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ever Find Yourselves “Stuck in a Rut?”

We do. And it often involves dining.

Once we find a restaurant that we like, we keep returning over and over, not allowing for discovering new possibilities. And for us it is often a double rut. Not only do we repeat restaurants, we repeat meals ordered. But today the rut has only one track—familiar restaurants with different food.

We first find ourselves back at Studio Diner. Since we found our breakfast at D.Z. Akin’s less than totally satisfactory, we decided to see what the diner could do. And, while the entire menu is available all day, on this occasion we didn’t order the fried Ipswich clams.

The menu contained some interesting choices like the El Studio (a chorizo and egg scramble, served with refried beans and flour tortillas) and the Kosher Donut (lox and bagel served with cream cheese, sliced tomato, red onion, and sliced cucumber), but I am a sucker for variations of Eggs Benedict. At Studio Diner they offered the Crab Cake Benedict with two blue crab cakes and two poached eggs on toasted English muffins topped with hollandaise and served with a side of hash browns.
The crab cakes had been included on our New England Sampler at our first visit, so I knew that they would not be made with jumbo lump crab but with smaller pieces of what I think were back and claw meat. Still, they were nicely flavored with an Old Bay type seasoning. The eggs were poached medium, and I would have like a more liquid yolk. But since I don’t like uncooked whites this is a compromise that I sometimes need to make. And I would have liked a more pronounced lemon taste in the hollandaise—especially since the dish included seafood.

The hash browns, while nicely crisp on the outside, had an uncooked taste on the inside, and I suspect that they were frozen.

Combining breakfast with lunch, Chuck ordered the chicken fried steak with two eggs (scrambled) and the hash browns. (His favorite – home fries – were not available.)
The eggs were—well, they were eggs. What more can I say. The chopped steak was breaded and cooked on a flat top and was nicely crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The gravy, though, was pretty insipid and could have used both some meat to give it flavor. And he was no more excited by the hash browns than was I and thought that they had a somewhat “off” flavor.

All in all, the breakfast failed to measure up to the Studio Diner’s lunches and only earns 3.0 Addies. Clams for breakfast next time?
A few days later found us back at Phil’s BBQ in Santee. We had always ordered either the El Toro (thin sliced tri-tip) or the BBQ Broham (pulled pork) sandwiches. As much as we have enjoyed both, we took the opportunity to sample a few other menu items.

Under the heading of “Phil's Ticklers®” are the choice of three mini portions of pork ribs, beef ribs, or chicken that include two onion rings, a side of slaw, and a side of fries. I decided to order the beef rib tickler along with the pork one bone sampler.
I have to admit up front that part of my dissatisfaction with my choices is my own fault. I am not a fan of a lot of sauce on my BBQ and make a point of asking for sauce on the side. This day I forgot.

Of the two ribs, the pork was clearly my favorite with a large measure of tender meat on each side of the bone. The beef rib could have come from a mastodon, it was that large. It was full of meat and had great crusty bark. I think that I would have enjoyed it had it not been drowned in an excess of sauce.

The fries were as good as ever and Phil’s cole slaw may be one of the best that I have eaten outside of the South. But the onion rings were shriveled and chewy as if they had been sitting under the heat lamp for half of the morning.

Chuck ordered the half chicken all white with sides of fries and beans.
I had forgotten how good Phil’s beans are—nicely sweet with some bits of meat. Unfortunately, the chicken itself was rather dry that couldn’t be compensated by the thick layer of sauce. (He, too, forgot to ask for the sauce on the side.)

This was not our best Phil’s outing and only merits a 3.0 Addie rating. Note to self—stick with the El Toro and the BBQ Broham.

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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