Tag Archives: Meat

Meat in Shapes, 7-11 Style

J writes:

In its continuing quest to see how many things it can make into a hot dog shape, 7-11 has nailed it. We all know about the failed attempt to put a bacon cheeseburger into a hot dog roll (they really just need to stop selling the big cheeseburger bite), but the new buffalo chicken rollers are a marvel of food engineering.

I discovered them last night on my way to class as I was looking for a quick convenient dinner. I’m told by my recent reading that 7-11 specifically caters to my demographic, that is men age 17 to 35 whose digestive systems can handle not only convenience store junk food but in a pinch could process the plastic wrapper it comes in.

That ain't a hot dog.

Here’s something else I didn’t know: 7-11 got its name because when it first opened it was open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., which were then unheard of hours. Everyone was impressed at the time. Now if you are a convenience store whose primary product is coffee and you don’t open until 7:00 a.m. people think you cater to rich, lazy, limo driving public school teachers on summer vacation.

I stopped at 7-11 and went immediately to those roller grills that spin the hot dogs and sausages all day long. You know what I’m talking about. The convenience store wizards had created a hot dog shaped buffalo chicken tender. I ordered one from my friendly Middle Eastern cashier, who mistakenly thought I had ordered the buffalo chicken taquitos. It was an honest mistake, I suppose, especially from someone who was new to the country. He apologized and got me the rollers I had ordered.

The rollers are in a class by themselves. Unlike taquitos, which are overpowered by the bread wrapping, the rollers are pure unfettered buffalo goodness. At $2.29 for two ($1.39 for one, so yes it’s worth it to get two) they are a bargain at three times the price.

I don’t want to get into how they got it to be that shape any more than I want to discuss whether square fish can swim with some old fart shilling for Wendy’s. They were the perfect hand-held snack.

And here’s the key. They were even better the second day, when I visited one of the local 7-11s in Philadelphia. This one was also operated by a friendly young man from the Middle East (does the chain have some kind of recruiting program in Yemen?) but my efforts were hampered considerably by some woman who couldn’t quite figure out how to order a hot dog with mustard (it’s on the condiment stand, lady. He shouldn’t have to tell you twice, this ain’t the Ritz).

But when I got my rollers (no mistaken taquitos this time, thank you Apu) I had the perfect snack for the rest of my walk.

Congratulations, 7-11, on a job well done.

(written to me by J via e-mail on 5/3/11, posted by me entirely too late and after one particularly expert guilt-trip by J)

Checkers

J emails me on Monday with this:

F— you Checkers. F— you and everything you stand for. OK, honestly I’m not sure what Checker’s restaurant stands for. I don’t see many signs that say “Eat Checkers and Free Tibet,” or “Eat Checkers–It’s What Nelson Mandela Does,” so admittedly there’s no moral equivalent to eating at Checkers. Maybe that’s why I went there.

Checkers is one of those places I keep meaning to go to. Unlike Sonic, which has brilliant advertising but no locations anywhere near me when I’m hungry, Checkers is conveniently located about a mile from both my jobs, so, theoretically, I could eat dinner there every night on the way home.

But having a Checkers so close by is a lot like living in a town with a major tourist attraction or knowing a hot girl who is terminally single. You could always see the Liberty Bell, or go out with her, so while you keep meaning to you never really do and then one day they either board up the museum due to budget cuts or she gets married and suddenly you’re left with the friggin pancakes and no syrup–don’t try to find the analogy, pervert, it’s not there.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Checkers has this unique system where there is no place to sit down. It’s just a drive-in. I guess some consultant in New York City told them, “You want to get an edge on all the other restaurant chains? The most profitable part of any fast food business is the drive-thru. If you want to make serious bank, have JUST A DRIVE-THRU!!!.”

“That’s brilliant,” said all the suits around the table.

“So what should we name this place?”

“Hey how about Checkers?”

It wasn’t a great idea, but the guy who brought it up had been dating the hot, terminally single girl from accounting thus taking her out of the pool and everyone hated him for it. They figured the boss would smoke him out for the weinie he was, but he didn’t.

No one knew why, but they suspect it was because the boss was already calculating what he could buy with the $7.10 an hour he could save by not having to hire someone to mop the floors of a restaurant so he said, “Sure, what the hell, Checkers it is.”

What the hell indeed.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Doesn't the neon glow just make want to go in, sit down, and grab a burger? Well, you can't.

The first thing that should have tipped me off is their menu variety. Checkers has a lot of stuff on their menu. An overwhelming amount of stuff in fact.

Here’s a rule of fast food. Fast food is for burgers, and maybe chicken sandwiches. I know a lot of them serve fish sandwiches, but the less said about that the better, especially with the Lenten season almost upon us. Out of respect for my Catholic brethren who necessitated the Filet-O-Fish in the first place, I’ll defer.

Checkers sells buffalo wings, both boned and boneless variety, and they sell them in five different flavors. I love boneless wings. I love the fact that someone came up with the idea of boneless wings, because what they are really saying is, “Look pal, we know you’re too lazy to throw the bones away or put in the extra effort to get the meat off the bone, so we’ll go ahead and make some illegal immigrant in Lake Titicaca do it for you and, just to keep the joke between us, we’ll still let you call it a wing? OK pal?” Lazy bastards.

Needless to say I ordered the boneless buffalo wings. I got them in garlic parmeasan flavor, which I shouldn’t have done, but I did. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

Here’s the thing. I’m just putting this out there as an unpaid consultant. If I am going to make a restaurant where people can’t sit down, I’m only going to sell things that you can eat in your car. So I got the box of boneless wings out and the sauce starting dripping out of the box and onto my jacket.

WTF?

Oh well, I thought. I’ll wait until I get to work. If the sauce is dripping out of the box, they must really lather it on, this must be good.

I think you probably know where this story goes. The wing sauce, that managed to drip all over my coat, did not manage to coat a single boness wing. And they were dry.

Moreover, I had been talked into upsizing to “large,” so the whole experience cost me $9.39. What did I get for “large?” No extra boneless wings. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the tub of fries you get at most fast food places, but the french fries hardly seemed abundant either. What I got was a giant soda that made me want to pee so bad by vision started to blur.

So what have we learned today?

Don’t eat at Checkers.

Go see the Liberty Bell.

And for the love of God man, just ask her out, she’s not going to wait for you forever.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…again.

On 11/10/10 at 11:05 a.m. J writes:

So I’ve been on the road again a good bit this week, but not really on the road, which means that I get my food stipend and can eat in places that I normally wouldn’t, because, well, I’m cheap. So food trucks serve a special niche for me because of their low cost goodness.

And before everyone starts to get all upity on me, you should know that some very highly placed journalists and industry PR people have enjoyed food trucks as well, so smoke on your pipe and put that in, or whatever.

This week though I was taking some out-of-town friends and colleagues out for a Philadelphia cheesesteak. They said they wanted the authentic experience, which, of course, as we all know, means Pat’s, Geno’s or Jim’s. We eliminated Pat’s and Geno’s because it was 30 degrees and while I do have fond memories of eating a cheesesteak from Pat’s at 3:00 a.m. when it was 12 degrees out, with my friends and I all saying various versions of, “YOU GOTTA WANT IT!!!” I think I might have been drunk at the time. So my memory might be cloudy.

Anyway, we went to Jim’s. Jim’s is the cheesesteak place on 4th and South. It has pictures of famous people and it sells T-shirts and hats. I’m not ready to call this an iron-clad rule yet, but if you are selling hats and reminding people that famous people once ate there, presumably before veganism and vegetarianism became morally superior, you really aren’t thinking about your food anymore.

We got to Jim’s at around 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night and the line was out the door. There were people from Germany, Montreal and what I assume were other foreign countries because the line moved in an orderly non-disruptive fashion, so it’s unlikely they were all from Philadelphia.

My companions and I kept in good humor as we waited in line at the cheesesteak stand. By the time we got to the grill, I had in mind what I wanted to order. Whiz with extra whiz. My female companion behind me said she wanted the same thing, and the other dude ordered the same thing without onions.

We managed to find tables upstairs surprisingly easily given the crowd in the lobby, but while I enjoyed the company, the food was a total disappointment. I had paid $.70 for extra whiz, and I was left wondering what a normal whiz steak would have looked like. Part of the charm of a Philadelphia cheesesteak is when the whiz drips out onto the wrapper and you can sop it up with what’s left of your roll like a biscuit. But on this cheesesteak I couldn’t even taste the whiz.

In fact, all I could really taste were the onions, which were piled on top, rather than grilled into the meat like they are supposed to be and not quite cooked right. The bread was cold.

I paid $10.50 for the experience; money wasted.

On Tuesday night I wound up working late again and walked through the Gallery Mall. There’s a steak place there called Charley’s Fried Steaks, which gives out excellent samples on days when you are lucky. But here’s the thing- the actual cheesesteaks you pay for are not nearly as good as the sample.

I ordered the chicken club, which was supposed to come with cheese, bacon, tomatoes and lettuce. They grilled it, and didn’t put any bacon on it, which was my first disappointment.

Then they sent it down the assembly line to a surly little man who stood in front of the fixings bar. He stared at me. Not, with a “what would you like, sir?” smile but with a “what do you want?” look that didn’t have a question with it. I was going to say just put on what it’s supposed to have on it, but since they had already screwed up the bacon, I didn’t have much hope that they’d get the rest of the sandwich right so I proceeded to make my own creation.

And it didn’t work out. The combination of swiss cheese (yes, swiss cheese), ranch (I choked) and hot peppers (again, another mistake) made the whole sandwich a disappointment.

Equally disappointing were the cheese fries, which I had paid a premium for and which, well, wound up being far too soggy.

I paid $11.67 for the experience. Money wasted.

From now on, I’m just sticking with the food trucks.

Now who wants pie?

Chinese Buffets-An American Staple

I hate it when my eating plans get screwed up because it never works out.

I’m not talking about the sort of screwed up eating plans where you plan on eating a bowl of soup by yourself in your one bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, but instead you wind up sitting in a fancy french cafe with the new love of your life because of some fancy new app on your i-phone, which, if the advertising is to be believed, has the capability of making that love connection even if it can’t connect phone calls outside of New York City.

No, I’m talking about when I have set an eating plan for the day and it doesn’t work out the way I wanted.

Normally on Mondays, I eat lunch out and then eat my packed meal in my car on the way to class. Not to bore you with minutiae, but it takes me about one hour and ten minutes to get to my class door-to- door, so I leave at 5:00 and get there in plenty of time for a 6:30 p.m. start time, which is good because I have perfected the art of embarassing students who come in late.

Lately I’ve been rotating my lunch between the food truck that serves the good lamb gyros on 5th and Chestnut outside the Lights of Liberty ticket center; these have been particularly good lately because he’s switched from sliced lamb meat to a big hunk that he cooks and chops up. The other item in my rotation is the bacon cheesesteak with cheez whiz that I discussed previously.

But today, I was tired of both, so I decided to reward myself with Chinese food.

Now, Philadelphia has a lot of Chinese food options; so many as to be overwhelming.

First, there is Chinatown, which has everything you could want in a city where the population is actually mostly African-American or Italian, but our friends from the Far East do try to be as authentic as they can. That’s why I mostly stay away. For every good deal you can get on General Tso’s chicken, there’s the chance you might order General Tso’s chicken feet, which I’m not into. I suppose I could send it back, but what if it’s like their national delicacy or something? I don’t want to offend someone who can talk about me behind my back without me knowing what’s going on.

Fast food Chinese is almost always a bust. I have a cast iron stomach, or I used to–I feel like I’ve been more susceptible lately, but Chinese fast food is almost always disapppointing whether they call it China Express or Panda Village or House of Hung Lo where they serve Creme of Sum Yung Gy, it all sucks. I’ve never had a good experience with fast food Chinese.

And then there’s the truck. Now everyone knows I am a huge fan of food trucks, but the Chinese trucks always disappoint. As far as I can tell, they just deep fry chicken and then put sauce on it. Yes, I know that’s essentially what Chinese is, but we can at least pretend it’s something more when they serve it on a plate with white table cloth.

So my plan was to hit the Super China Buffet on the way to class where I can get a delicious as-many-courses-as-I-care-to-consume for $10.95.

Deep fried meat in sauce...more varieties than colors in the rainbow.

China Buffets are a wonder of modern capitalism. The food is always good, and, this is key, you can avoid the vegetables.

This has always been my beef with Chinese food. Whatever is really good about it often comes mixed with snow peas or brocolli or some other such nonsense that can have the effect of ruining what was otherwise a previously delicious combination of deep fried meat and sauce. But with a China Buffet you can always go back for more if you’ve been overcome by vegetables.

Sometimes I’ve even taken food items that were half meat and half vegetables, left the vegetables on the plate and pushed them aside. When my waitress comes to take my plate, she asks if I’m done and I say “Yes I am.” Yes, I know I’ve left half the food on my plate, but I ate the part that suffered for me and thus kept the balance of the universe in tact, so it’s all good.

N-if I gave you my vegetables next time we are out for Chinese would that be considered sharing?

 As you might guess, the China buffet didn’t work out. I wound up getting out of work too late because of some stupid meeting about a meeting that won’t happen until next year. Moreover, the meeting actually accomplished no action items, which is far too typical of most work meetings, but this blog isn’t about work, which is good because if it was I’d probably use a lot of meaningless phrases like “action items” that almost got caught in my throat as I said it out loud because it’s the sort of corporate gobble-di-gook I said I’d never use, but there it is.

So I would up getting an Italian chicken sandwich from Steak Out to go and woofing it down before class. It’s not a bad sandwich, but its chicken cutlet with provolone and brocolli rabe. No, I don’t pick out the brocolli rabe, but can someone please tell me what’s Italian about brocolli rabe?

And that’s all that is.

Now who wants pie?

Airport Musings

J was traveling (now we’re both on the road), but at the time, I was still at the office. He writes:
First, “your participation is wonderful news,” is a nice touch. To me, it looks like you were getting bored with saying the same thing over and over again, but to the outside world it appears as if you are almost enthusiastic. 
 
Second, did you know the airport had a Chic Fil A? I was sitting at Gate A7 waiting for my flight when I heard over the radio the commercial for food including, “the Original Chicken Sandwich from Chic Fil A.” So I started on my quest.
 
It wasn’t down my hall. It wasn’t down the International Hall that was the other side of Terminal A and yes, is about a mile long.
 
The nice woman who runs the pretzel stand informed me that yes there truly was a Chic Fil A in the airport but it was in terminal B.
 
A lesser man with less time on his hands might might have said, “screw it just give me one of your pretzels.” Not me. I took the express walk way to terminal B.
 
You know how far $25 goes at Chic Fil A? Yes, I’ll take the Chicken Nugget meal, please. No not the eight piece, the twelve piece, thanks. And yes, I would like it large. Lemonade costs extra? Damn the costs! Fill her up and while you are at it throw in an extra chicken sandwich. I may eat it, I may not, but put it in the bag anyway.
 
Oh, and yeah, I’ll need a chocolate brownie for dessert.
 
I ate it all, including the brownie, which, incidentally she initially didn’t remember to put in the bag–it’s nice to know that incompetence (or did she intentionally leave it out thinking I wouldn’t come back asking for it? We’ll never know) is the same at every fast food restaurant.
 
But here’s the crazy thing. THEY HAVE FREE SAMPLES AT THE AIRPORT FOOD COURT!!!!!! And not just any free samples, free samples of the garlic balls from Sbarro with the garlic dipping sauce that I thought only existed in the pizzas from Papa Johns where you had to order an entire pizza just so you could dip your crust in the sauce that was not quite butter but oh so very good.
 
I took two of these garlic balls before I got a glare from the flunky who was passing them out. Hey pal, if you don’t want people taking your samples, don’t give them out, know what I mean?
 
That’s all for now.
Cheers,
J
______________________________________________________________________________________________
I enthuse:
THIS MADE MY DAY IN A WAY YOU CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE.
 
I LOVE that just when I was sadly thinking to myself, “Self-you’re just going to have to get over the fact that you won’t be getting any hilarious emails from J until Monday at the earliest” you go and send me a gem such as this.
 
Bravo.
 
And yes. I was getting bored with saying the same thing over and over. I also figured I’d give answering actual questions a shot, because hey, gotta start sometime, nah’ mean?
 
I’m surprised you didn’t get a milkshake a Chick Fil A. I’ve never heard one but I heard they’re absolutely delish.
 
Just sayin.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________
J responds:
Ha!
 
Here’s the thing…they didn’t have milkshakes. The Chic Fil A at the airport has, how do I say this, a limited selection. No milkshakes and interestingly no spicy chicken sandwich.
 
Want to know what’s not cool? Carried on this time because I only needed one change of clothes and they confiscated my toothpaste and my shaving cream. Not cool. I thought it was just fluid.
 
Oh well.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Me:
That is so NOT cool.

I do not dig that airports have an extremely limited food selection. Especially the pizza places. How hard is it to recombine the dough, cheese, and sauce into something other than pizza and ziti? I mean, really. It can’t be that hard. That’s why it’s next to impossible to screw up Italian food. You can have different degrees of deliciousness when it comes to Italian, and differing levels of goodness as well, but no one in their right mind takes a bit of something that contains dough, cheese, and tomato sauce and spits it out with, “That is complete crap.”
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
J:
I don’t know man. There was a perfectly good Italian place in my terminal that I passed by. They did have a chicken sandwich, but….
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Me:
…you’d rather have Chick-Fil-A.
 
No, it’s cool. I get it.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
J prophesizes:
Because I got the distinct feeling that this place WOULD screw up Italian food.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
True dat. Such is airport food.

Hey…there’s a Chick-Fil-A back there!

Adventures in Lunch

Monday at 2:05 p.m., J writes:

Lunch is risky in Philadelphia. Today is my first day of class, which means I eat lunch out and eat the lunch I packed in my car on my way to class. Makes for an interesting foraging expedition.

I often supplement my lunches with items from the food truck, but food trucks, for all their merits, have a severe lack of options when it comes to chips and dessert. So I went to Washington Square Pharmacy today, where I expected to find something good.

Most pharmacies are really mini-grocery stores anymore, but not Washington Square Pharmacy. The lighting was dim, the place smelled like old ladies and it really did have nothing but drugs and associated vitamins, oh and canes, yeah this store, which had less square footage than my office, had an aisle with canes. Nice ones too. I wasn’t in the market for canes, but I suspect the clientele, who may appreciate that the place smells like home, would be.

Anyway, because of the overabundance of drugs and canes–did I mention the canes?–they didn’t have much in the way of chips or dessert. I had been hoping for a lemon fruit pie, but walked out with a Reeses Cup and a Butterfinger, because when you can’t decide it’s best to get them both.

The candy bars didn’t disappoint, but the experience of Washington Square Pharmacy most certainly did. And to the guy who was sorting tampon boxes at the counter while I waited for him to ring up my purchase, would it kill you to smile or say hello, or is that part of the charm of the place?

Anyway, after selecting my desert I went to my favorite truck to get my latest and greatest creation, the bacon cheese steak. He hit another home run. This time, instead of pork bacon he added turkey bacon. Maybe he was out of pork bacon, maybe because I’m a regular customer he was concerned about my health, I don’t know. But he got the taste exactly right, the sandwich fit inside the bun, which he kindly toasted, and the cheese whiz didn’t spill out, which often happens.

Cost today, $5.50, fifty cents less than last time for you avid readers. Why? I don’t know and I don’t care. The sandwich was pure deliciousness

I write on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. (I was out Monday):

I love it.

I’m glad that “The candy bars didn’t disappoint” because one would think that with candy bar purchases you’re guaranteed to get the same level of candybarness each and every time. Not true.

Have you ever had a stale Reeses Peanut Butter Cup? They’re terrible. They’re not even worth eating.

J replies:

Actually, I’ve never been disappointed by a candy bar. Never.

Me:

You’ve never had a Reeses that was literally CRUMBY?

It happens when they’re stale.

J muses:

Haven’t, and oddly I feel like I’ve missed out on one of the great joys of life.

I retort:

It’s not one of the great joys of life.  It’s TERRIBLY disappointing.

There’s nothing like looking forward to biting into a nice, moist Reeses, and having your teeth meet with tasteless peanut butter dust. Awful, simply awful.

ALMOST as bad as looking forward to some ice cream you’ve put in the freezer (which you’ve watched your diet all day for), only to open and fruitlessly search the freezer’s frigid depths to find out your mom ate it.

One of the main reasons I moved out.

J agrees:

When your roommate, wife, mother, father, brother, pet sheep, et al. eat your food it is the end of the relationship, or beginning of the end, people should just know not to do that.
_________________________________________________________

Yes. They should.

Post-Lunch, Pre-Labor Day Observations

I begged J to write a blog post, thankfully, he acquiesced today at 1:18 pm:

So today was a rather productive lunch hour.

First, I went to Borders. Rather disappointing. I had gone because the store had enticed me with a 40 percent off coupon that had to be used before Labor Day and I’m going to be busy all weekend. Thing is, the Borders at 13th and Chestnut doesn’t really have a non-fiction section, so I wasn’t sure where the book I wanted, “MORNING MIRACLE: INSIDE THE DECLINE OF THE WASHINGTON POST,” was going to be.

So I went to the computer and typed it in. Within about three seconds some pimple faced kid was on me like I was going to discover his porn collection with the ubiquitous, “can I help you sir?” I told him I had done a search for the book I wanted and it was showing, “not in store.” He said that was right, but if I wanted they could order it for me and it would be in within three to eight business days.

That seemed an inordinately long amount of time for a business that had a separate online operation that can deliver things in 24 hours, so I thanked him for nothing and went on my way.

And here’s the thing that really annoyed me about Borders. I used their bathroom. It was painted bright yellow. I don’t want to quibble, but should we really be painting a place where you pee bright yellow?

I’m just saying.

Is that little boy holding a GUN?

On my way back I walked through the Gallery. Sampling was a mixed bag today. They had the Charley’s Cheese Steak samples out, but she had gone back for a new sandwich when I passed through the first time. Out of three places that serve Bourbon chicken, only one was giving it away. And my little retarded friend that gives away chicken nuggets was nowhere to be found.

Auntie Anne’s was giving away free pieces of their pretzel covered hot dogs. I took two samples and got a glare. Is it coming out of your pocket pal?

Speaking of Chic-fil-a, I finally bought their Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It was a little disappointing. I mean it’s basically just a spicy version of their regular chicken sandwich, which I suppose I should have expected, but it still left me with a certain emptiness.

And for reasons I have never understood, Chic-fil-a puts just pickles on their chicken sandwich. Not free lettuce, not free tomatoes. Free pickles.

Pickles have a very distinct taste and they don’t really add anything to the sandwich.

Again, I’m just saying.