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Things I Think

25 Mar

I think…

the speed limit means that you can actually go that speed.

cracks in concrete are canyons for ants.

Escape from New York is the best movie Kurt Russell ever made.

the Jessi Colter and Waylon Jennings version of “Suspicious Minds” is almost as good as the Elvis version.

the iPhone is the most addictive drug in the world.

that only rocks live forever.

the Freedom of Speech is under attack from people who only want to what they want to hear.

more people need to like history.

John Wayne and Clint Eastwood should have made a Western together.

people who are famous for no reason should lose their fame immediately.

people who throw chewing gum on the ground should have chewing gum stuck on them.

trees communicate with each other.

a remake of Escape from New York is a bad idea.

married life is a great life.

football, my favorite sport to watch, will one day be banned.

truffled macaroni and cheese is terrible.

I need to buy more vinyl.

reality television is the worst form of entertainment ever invented.

chairs are better than couches.

blogging is awesome.

 

Things That Are Better Than Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

18 Dec

This weekend, we belatedly celebrated my birthday by getting a hotel room in Nashville and going out to dinner. The city has become a great food destination. Local chefs and chefs from around the nation are opening great restaurants in Nashville. We have been to several, but a new one is always opening. In other words, if you like food, then Nashville is the place to be.

This time, we decided to go to Jeff Ruby’s, an upscale steakhouse based in Cincinnati. We do not usually go for steakhouse chains. Our tastes usually run toward something more trendy and creative. However, a lot of people told us that it is a great place. I am sure that they love it. We did not.jeff-rubys

The decor is circus-like. When I think of upscale steakhouses, I think of something more refined. Maybe some wood. Maybe some lower ceilings. Maybe something more classy.

When I think of upscale steakhouses, I also think of steak. The steaks at Ruth’s Chris are awesome. The steak at Kayne Prime, a locally owned establishment, are awesome. The steak at Morton’s are awesome. The steaks at Jeff Ruby’s are nowhere near awesome. While they are tender, they are doused in salt and other flavorings. A great steak does not need all of that.

When I think of upscale steakhouses, I think of great side dishes. Every chain has great au gratin potatoes. Jeff Ruby’s potatoes are not that great. The bread is good if you do not use the truffle butter.

Anyway, we were not impressed with Jeff Ruby’s. They throw a lot of food on your plate. I suppose that is why some people like it. Quantity over quality. I am a bigger fan of quality. Give me something with a great combination of flavors, and I am happy. There are a ton of restaurants in Nashville that provide that, and we should have dined at one of them.

Hopefully, you can tell that our experience was not great, and we should have known by the name of the place. When I am going to say Jeff Ruby’s, my mind wants me to say Jack Ruby. I wonder if anyone thought about that before they named the restaurant.

Jeff Ruby’s was not good, but I do not want this to be an entirely negative post. There are some great “ruby” things out there.

Ruby Slippers

Ruby Falls

Ruby” by The Osbourne Brothers

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones

Ruby Tuesday’s Salad Bar

Ruby Dee

I can promise you that all of those things are better that Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

 

The Problem With Dunkin’ Donuts

19 Nov

There is a Dunkin’ Donuts down the road, and my stepdaughter likes to stop on the way to school. I am happy to do that because she likes it, but I have some issues with the restaurant. The title of this post proclaims that there is a problem with Dunkin’ Donuts. That should actually be plural.

First, it is a breakfast place, but it constantly runs out of breakfast food. Order a bagel, and they are out of that bagel. Order a donut, and they are out of that kind of donut. I do not understand how a breakfast food place could constantly run out of breakfast food. Stock up on bagels. Make plenty of donuts. It is the job of the restaurant to have the stuff available. After all, it is called Dunkin’ Donuts. It is not call Dunkin’ What We Do Not Have.dunkin

Second, people order dozens of donuts. I understand why they do it. It is their day to supply donuts for the office. They may be having a meeting and want to sugar everyone up. However, here is the thing. Each donut does not have to be different. Instead of getting one of each flavor, they should get a dozen of plain and a dozen of chocolate covered. Whenever I see a box of assorted donuts, the plain and chocolate covered ones are always gone. Just stick to the basics and get the stuff ordered.

Third, they do not have change. The other day, I pulled up to the window to pay a $9 tab. I handed the lady a $50, and she said that she did not have change. I asked, “You do not have two twenties?” Then, I asked, “You do not have four tens?” That is when she said that they were not allowed to take something bigger than a $20 until after 11:00.

Here is my message to Dunkin’ Donuts. You are a breakfast place. More people do business with you before 11:00 than after 11:00. The morning is when you need to be able to make change. I know we are moving to a plastic world, but some of us still like to use cash. I cannot imagine a restaurant not having two $20 somewhere.

Again, you are a breakfast place. That means you should be ready in the morning with plenty of bagels and donuts. It also means that you should have plenty of money. At no time have I ever heard anyone say, “Let’s have lunch at Dunkin’ Donuts. It is the middle of the day, and they have plenty of bagels, donuts and change.”

Four Corners – Maria and Lipbone

30 Jul

There are miracles in this world. That was proven when I convinced my family to go on a road trip. They had never been on an excursion that called for nights in different hotel rooms and days driving through different landscapes, which is exactly the kind of traveling that I was raised on.

When our trip to Europe was cancelled, we knew that something had to be done. Going an entire summer without traveling was not an option. We debated. We studied. We debated some more. Then, we put together an adventure through the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. It is part of the country that I wanted my family to see, and the next several posts will chronicle our journey.

Before daybreak, we made our way to the airport for a typical flight on Southwest Airlines. Except, our layover was not at a typical airport. We spent a few hours at Love Field, the place where John F. Kennedy started his tour of Dallas in 1963. A few hours later, Love Field witnessed the swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson as president of the United States.

Our second plane landed in Albuquerque. We got off the plane; got our luggage; and got our rental car. As we pulled out of the parking lot, my wife read that Southwest had a system failure and people were stranded all over the place. Our timing was perfect.

We drove to Santa Fe, where the Inn and Spa at Loretto awaited. However, that was not the only place on the agenda. When we started talking about the trip, my wife and I knew that we would definitely go to one place in particular.

Maria’s – the best New Mexican cuisine in Santa Fe. We wanted to make sure that the teenagers on the trip got some real food.image-24

After the meal, we went back to the hotel and to the first of thousands of pictures of the teenagers.image-23

I think we broke a record for pictures. My stepdaughter’s friend sent a ton of pictures to her mom. Then, her mom said she wanted some pictures of the scenery, too.

Taking the picture must have been tiring because my wife went to the room. I, on the other hand, took the girls to the plaza. They needed to see the real Santa Fe. I did not expect to walk onto a plaza filled with people dancing and listening to the music of Lipbone Redding.image-22

Eventually, we made our way around the plaza and to more spots to take selfies. The next day would start our real adventure.

 

A Local Business Called Cracker Barrel

16 Dec

Yesterday, my wife and I had lunch at Cracker Barrel. Since that chain has over 600 stores in 42 states, thousands of people across the country did the same thing. However, it was a little different for us.

In 1969, Cracker was founded in our town of Lebanon, Tennessee. Dan Evins owned a Shell gas station at one of the interstate exits and hit upon the idea of selling to food attract customers. It was not just any food. It was good old southern food like grits, turnip greens and biscuits.Cracker Barrel

Obviously, the concept proved successful.

I write all of to explain that going to Cracker Barrel in Lebanon is more like going to a locally owned place than a nationwide chain. As soon as we walked in the door, we saw people that we know.

While waiting for a table, we saw my dad’s childhood friend and his wife. They mentioned that they sold one of their farms to one of our county officials, who happened to be standing behind them. That led to a great conversation that people who had gotten off the interstate probably did not understand.

After getting a table, we talked to the corporate pilot for Cracker Barrel, who is also a part-time preacher. In fact, he performed a wedding that turned into a blog post.

Before finishing our meal, the mother of a former girlfriend was seated next to us. She stopped for a few seconds before sitting down with some family from out-of-town.

The corporate headquarters of Cracker Barrel are located in town, and it employs a lot of local people. However, the leadership is no longer local. They all came in from somewhere else, and many of them live in another Nashville suburb. That does not matter. Cracker Barrel remains a Lebanon, Tennessee business.

Years ago, I was in Montana doing historical research. I was driving down the interstate and looking for something to eat. Up ahead, there was a sign for a Cracker Barrel. I pulled in at a strange eating time and was the only customer in the place. The manager came over to talk and asked where I was from. I said that I was from Lebanon, Tennessee and asked if he knew where that was.

He absolutely knew where it was because Cracker Barrel is one of our local businesses.

Let Them Eat a History-Themed Cake

5 Dec

Last night, my colleague and his family graciously hosted a “End of the Semester” dinner for the History Department. Faculty and students got together for great food and great times. My job was simple. I was in charge of the dessert.

My wife said that she would order a cake from our local Publix because they make awesome cakes. However, she needed to know how to have it decorated. That is when I came up with what I considered to be a clever idea. Have it say, “This Semester is History!”

Get it? The semester is over, and we are the History Department. Funny, right? At least, that is what I thought. When my wife told the ladies at her boutique, they apparently thought it was corny.

It had to have more than words. We needed something more decorative. That is when I came up with what I considered to be another clever idea. We would put a $20 bill on the cake. Now, this one needs some explaining.

Our students wanted the teachers to have a debate about who should be on the Twenty. Actually, they just wanted to see the teachers argue, and a debate was the only way they could make that happen. Anyway, we held a debate that was open to the public.

The debaters included our resident expert of the Jacksonian Age, who defended Andrew Jackson’s appearance on the bill. There was also our other historian, who championed the image of Eleanor Roosevelt. Our anthropologist, a member of the Choctaw Nation, argued for the inclusion of Wilma Mankiller, former Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

I served as moderator because I study prostitutes of the Old West. As much as I would love to see Big Nose Kate on money, it will probably not happen.

Anyway, the students asked the questions and thought it was awesome to see the teachers go after each other. The debate was serious and funny at the same time. It was certainly the highlight of the semester for the students.

Because of the debate, I everyone would get a kick out of seeing the $20 on the cake.image-4

I have no idea what my wife and her coworkers thought about that addition, but I can imagine.

It is too late to make a long story short, but, to make a long story short, the cake was a big hit. Everyone thought it was clever and funny. Now, I am wondering what that means about the humor of historians.

The Orange Side of Savannah, Georgia

26 Jul

Last week, we spent some time in Hilton Head, South Carolina, but, in my mind, the best day consisted of a drive to Savannah, Georgia, the settlement established by James Oglethorpe when he first colonized the area. It is an old city with lots of history, and we rode a trolley through it all.

We saw the squares for which the city is famous filled with Live Oaks with Spanish Moss hanging from the branches. Each square is surrounded by a church and stately homes. One home was the headquarters for William Tecumseh Sherman when he captured the city on the completion of his march to the sea. Another home belonged to the family of Johnny Mercer and was the site of a murder that inspired Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – both the book and the movie.

Since movies were brought up, we saw where Forrest Gump sat on a bench and told his life story but missed an entire square because Adam Sandler was in the process of filming a scene. I was hoping to see where Burt Reynolds filmed parts of Gator, but the tourism folks do not promote that one as much as others.

We saw a lot of interesting places. The location of John Wesley’s first sermon in the New World. The docks where cotton was loaded onto ships bound for England. Of course, no one mentioned the slaves who worked the cotton. To make up for that lack of information, we saw a building used by the Underground Railroad.

Savannah is a beautiful city of architectural wonders and almost three hundred years of history. It was also filled with people trying out for American Idol. Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of that stuff. Our trolley ride made photography difficult. No pictures of Live Oaks. No pictures of monuments or statues.

However, I was able to take a picture of this place.image-44

When it was time for lunch, I asked the man at the visitor center counter a simple question.

“If you were going to lunch where would you go?”

He started down the typical list that included Paula Deen’s and other places where tourists are directed. I knew that he would not pick any of those places but could not deviate from the script. We wanted to eat with the locals, and this guy offered no help.

On the trolley ride, we passed a place that looked like what we wanted. Clary’s Cafe had a few outdoor tables and was off the beaten path. It did not take long to choose that over standing in line at one of the other places. We got out the trusty GPS and made our way through the squares and around Adam Sandler.

We pulled into the parking lot and made our way to the door. However, my wife was nowhere to be seen. She was standing behind the car talking to someone. It turned out to be the owner of the restaurant who saw the orange T on the front of my vehicle. For those who are not from around here, that is my signal to everyone that I am a fan of the University of Tennessee. As it turns out, the owner was also a fan of the Big Orange.

We talked for a while about the upcoming football season and the orange shrine her husband built at their home. They are from Tennessee and make it to as many games as they can. She has high hopes for the upcoming season and thinks Butch Jones has the program on the right track.

Eventually, we made our way inside and found what we were looking for. Sweet tea was in the pitcher, and lima beans were part the day’s special. It was a true southern restaurant that did not involve a television personality. However, that was not the best part.

As we finished our meal, the owner told the waitress to give us the Big Orange discount. After all, we were part of her college football family.