Monday, June 15, 2009

Last Stop: Time to Redirect Your Browser

Just a reminder that Breads My Way will no longer be covering the types of subjects that have been discussed up until this point. A parallel blog, Exploring Food My Way has been created with all of the posts and comments made since I started the other blog and will be the primary blog moving forward.

I'm excited to continue to provide you, gentle reader, with the same (mostly) fun experiences I've had up to this point. See you on the flip side.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Not-So-Traditional Patty Melt

T Meldrum's was a suggestion from a previous Massillon resident who grew up eating at this restaurant. It is located at 2144 Wales Road NE, Massillon, Ohio 44646 and can be reached at (330) 833-4729. There is no website currently at this time.

After listening to him talk about his experiences at the restaurant, I decided to leave work a little early and give T Meldrum's a try. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but do be aware that they close at 8 pm, so there won't be any late night runs for a burger or a malted. As you travel north on Wales Rd, as soon as you pass Hills and Dales Road, you will see this sign on your right:

The building sits in the middle of a parking lot for a larger strip retail outlet. It's hard to tell from the outside, but once inside, it looks as if the original T Meldrum's was added onto over the years as there are distinctive sections to the restaurant. Here is a photo of the exterior of the restaurant:

Once inside and seated, I got down to business of perusing the menu:

And a shot of the inside of the menu. Note the message to the customers:

And a shot of the condiment tray at the end of every table:

The food at T Meldrum's is based on pretty traditional diner fare. However, after looking at the menu, I noticed that they do their own twist on the classics. What finally convinced me to give them a try in the first place is when my friend said that they offered a really great Patty Melt. I am such a sucker for a really good Patty Melt. The combination of the juicy burger, the crispy rye bread and the grilled sweet onions is just something I crave every now and again. The best Patty Melt I've ever had is at Mary Kelley's in Dublin, Ohio, and it is the standard against which I compare all others.

T Meldrum's version is actually a "Sisco" Patty Melt. It is served on grilled sourdough bread and offered with not only grilled onions, but also grilled green and banana peppers. I decided to go with that. Here is a shot of my sandwich when it arrived at my table:

And a shot from the side showing the layers:

This was an excellent sandwich. I opted to go with the 1/3 pound burger instead of the 1/2. This made the burger not quite as juicy as I normally like it, but between the two kinds of cheese and the grilled vegetables, the sandwich as a whole worked nicely together. The big surprise to me was the grilled banana peppers. They added a nice acidity which helped to cut some of the fat of the sandwich and grilling them first helped to tame some of their heat. I definitely recommend including those on your sandwich.

I decided to upgrade my sandwich to a platter for a couple of dollars more. This gave me my choice of two sides. My first side was the Macaroni and Cheese casserole:

This definitely had a homemade feel to it. It was nice and cheesy but wasn't overly so. It had that "baked" look to it; somewhat dry from the heat of the oven without being too dessicated. It wasn't the best mac and cheese I've ever had, but given the location I was eating in, it was certainly acceptable.

They did offer fresh cut fries, but instead I opted to go with the home fries. The difference? Home fries are essentially another name for hash browns. Here is T Meldrum's version:

These were okay, but definitely not nearly as good as the hash browns I had at Wally Waffle. Having worked at Bob Evan's my senior year as a short order cook, I know good hash browns. These were just a bit overcooked. And unfortunately, the seasoning was off just a bit as well. A little ketchup corrected that problem as well as added a nice acidity.

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at T Meldrum's. The Patty Melt was good, but definitely didn't blow my mind. If I were to order it again, I'd definitely get the 1/2 pound burger instead. I think it would end up being juicier. I'd stick with the Macaroni and Cheese casserole as my side again and perhaps order something other than the home fries. The menu is quite large and you could return many times without ordering the same thing twice.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Eadie's Two Locations

Sometimes it pays to take a chance.

I happened to be driving down Wise Avenue today in North Canton for a completely unrelated reason when I first noticed Eadie's Fish House. Slightly intrigued and making a mental note to maybe return one day, I noticed that right next to Eadie's Fish House was a little drive-up place that advertised beer batter fish and onion rings also sporting the name Eadie's. I'm ALWAYS a sucker for a good beer batter fish and unfortunately, so few places really deliver a good one. With what seems like a split-second decision, I pulled into the parking lot and decided to give this little roadside stand a try.

Here is the building from the front of the road:

I walked up to the front and started looking over the posted menu:

I knew what I wanted; fish and onion rings, just like their sign advertised. But, as I looked over the menu several times, I was having a hard time seeing it listed. When I finally asked the woman running the order window, she said that they didn't serve the fish here. They only served it at the main restaurant next door. Well, crap! I was kind of in the mood for that and now I had to decide what I wanted to do. At that moment I wasn't really in the mood for an entire sit-down meal. So instead, I just decided to get a small sampling of the food here. I ended up ordering a BBQ pulled chicken sandwich, a small order of fries, and a small chocolate malted shake. I was a little nervous about the BBQ pulled chicken sandwich because I was concerned that they might use one of those over-the-top sweetened BBQ sauces. I needed have worried about the sweetness.

After about 10 minutes, my food finally came up. First, the chocolate malted shake:

This wasn't bad. It had just a slight hint of malt to it. Personally I would've preferred a more intense chocolate and malt flavor. The texture was super thick, causing me to basically leave it for a while and then drink it when it was more melted, lest I suffer the headache induced by sucking on the straw too hard.

Next up, the fries:

When I went to pick up my order, I asked the young man behind the counter whether the fries were fried from fresh or frozen. He gave me this almost ghastly look and said, "Oh, frozen. We just wouldn't have enough time to make them fresh." Sigh. Apparently they didn't have enough time to cook them from frozen, either, because these were greasy, flaccid and seriously undercooked. Honestly, who wants to eat undercooked fries? I ate about three of these before giving up.

Finally, a shot of my BBQ pulled chicken sandwich, both wrapped and unwrapped:

Visually, this was just unappealing. The bun was smashed and the filling that peaked out of the sides looked ominously similar to what it might appear like later on were I to see it again (I'm trying to be delicate here). But, being a brave little culinary soldier, I tasted it. My worry about the BBQ sauce being too sweet was mollified; it wasn't. However, missing from this sandwich was any kind of really stand-out flavor. And unfortunately, the filling was so wet that the inside of the bun had essentially turned to mush. This definitely required a toasted bun to stand up to the filling. Three bites of this and I decided that something was seriously amiss at this little roadside stand.

On the side of the building is an advertisement for 24 different flavors of soft serve that they offer here.

Upon checking out the website for the company advertised on this banner, I came to discover that this "system" for offering so many flavors is nothing more than artificially flavored syrups that are added to a standard frozen custard base, whizzed up, and served in the vessel of your choosing. I was seriously unimpressed with my experience at this roadside stand.

Having only eaten three bites of my sandwich, three lousy, limp fries, and about 1/4 of my shake, I decided to see if the mother restaurant located right next door might redeem my shaken faith. I wasn't in the mood for a sit-down dinner before, but I quickly decided to change my tune. And since the beer batter fish and onion rings were only served there, I figured, what the hell. It couldn't get any worse, right?

I didn't manage to get a photograph of the sign or the building known as Eadie's Fish House as it had started to rain and I didn't particularly want to get wet. After walking in and getting seated, I started to peruse the menu. I began to see items on the menu that made me believe that I should've just chosen this place first. Proprietary beer battered cod, special beer battered onion rings, smoked chicken wings with lots of interesting sauces, the list goes on. They did have fries on the menu as well, and in fact, most of the dinners came with them by default. Worried that these would be the same awful fries that were being served by it's sibling namesake, I decided to pay the extra $1 and get the onion rings instead.

I ordered the two piece beer batter cod and onion rings. Here is what came out:

Hallelujah! Homemade, homemade, homemade! You could tell just by looking at these that they had never seen a freezer in their lives. The fish is kind of buried under the MOUND of onion rings they give you.

Once I ate a few rings and repositioned the rest, I was able to get a better shot of the fish:

While ketchup is on the table when you sit down, when you order the fish and onion rings, the following two condiments show up with your meal:

On the left is a chipotle horseradish mayonnaise for the onion rings and on the right is a homemade tartar sauce with sweet pickles. Before even tasting a single thing I could see a 100% transformation from what I had been served just 30 minutes prior. But the proof, as they say, is in the tasting.

For the most part, the meal lived up to my expectation. Both condiments brought to the table were excellent and definitely complimented the food with whom they were meant to be paired. Normally I would eat my onion rings with ketchup, but the chipotle horseradish mayonnaise was a nice foil for the onion rings. And the tartar sauce added a nice bit of acid and sweetness to the fried cod.

The crust on the onion rings was wonderful. Light, crispy, flavorful. I loved everything about the onion rings except one thing: the rings were too thin. They just weren't meaty enough to allow the sweetness of the onion flavor to compliment the oiliness of the outside of the crust. That's not to say that the onion rings were greasy. But there will always be some inherent grease remaining in any fried product. The batter on the fish was wonderful and crunchy, but unfortunately, even my nice thicker pieces of cod were just a tad bit overcooked and kind of dry. The excellent tartar sauce helped to mitigate the dryness factor, but things being what they are, this could've been a slam dunk if they had managed to keep the fish moist.

Oh, yes, the cole slaw. Almost forgot about that. It was nice, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Across from my table was a sign that read the following:

Something about the irony of the sign just caused me to chuckle. Can you spot it, too?

I will definitely be going back to Eadie's Fish House; Eadie's the sit-down restaurant. The drive-up stand next to Eadie's that actually advertises the fish and onion rings on it's banner? Um, not so much.

After I finished my meal at Eadie's proper, I returned to my car with my leftovers only to discover that I had left the 3/4 of my malted shake in the cupholder. It was now the perfect consistency to drink. It had melted just enough that it was still cold but was finally drinkable without having to resort to a vacuum cleaner to get the liquid up the straw. And while I agreed with my earlier assessment that this was not a great malt, it at least gave me a sweet way to finish my fried fish meal.

Monday, June 8, 2009

For Those Under 30, LP Stands for Long Play

Herbie's Good Grub (formerly Herbie's Heroes) is a quaint little Massillon, Ohio sandwich shop that offers up a real funky ambiance with made-to-order sandwiches, pizzas, and subs. They are located on Amherst Road just north of Lake Avenue in the same shopping plaza as Marc's. They have several tables set up outside and several more inside, so unless you try going during their busy times, you should be able to snag a seat to eat your meal.

When you first walk into Herbie's, you can't help but notice the entire menu written on several blackboards along one wall:

The friend who clued me in to Herbie's suggested I try the cheeseburger sub and fries. After looking over the menu, I decided to go with his suggestion. I paid for my meal, sat down and started looking around the room. The nostalgia of Herbie's is captured on the walls with old Rolling Stone magazine covers as well as LP record album covers of 1960's and 1970's bands such as Elton John, Led Zeppelin, and Fleetwood Mac. The individually sized pizzas that they offer on the menu tie into this time period theme with such concoctions as the Heavy Metal, Psychedelic, and Disco.

On every table is a pamphlet about Herbie's. Here are a few shots of the outside and inside of the menu:

After about 10 minutes or so, my food finally arrived at my table nice and piping hot. First up, a shot of my cheeseburger sub and fries:

And a shot from a different angle:

And a shot of the burger from the side showing you all of the layers:

A couple of things to note. First, while you can pretty much construct your sub however you would like it, but by default it comes with your choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Italian salad dressing. I choose to nix the onion, but kept everything else. Second, as you can see in the photo, the sandwich is actually composed of two burger patties laid next to each other on a hoagie roll. Thus, when you cut the sandwich in half, you get the equivalent of two regular burgers. Finally, you have the option of having your hoagie roll toasted or not; I opted for toasted.

Before I go into my description of my meal, I just want to note that while I love hearing about new places to try from the tens of you out there who read my blog, it can be kind of a thin line to walk. On the one hand, you clearly wouldn't be recommending the place if you didn't think it had something unique and/or tasty to offer. At the same time, I have to balance being as real to my experience as I can without running the risk of destroying someone's cherished childhood memories about a favorite eatery. It's wonderful when a restaurant's past accomplishments can live up to today's realities. But it doesn't always happen. That being said ...

As you can see from the pictures above, the patties were nice and juicy. And the tomato was really very good. It was a brilliant red and completely ripe and sweet. For a conventionally grown tomato this tasty in May, they must have a very good supplier. The shredded lettuce and American cheese were exactly as you would expect them to be. The hoagie roll was nice and fresh and you got that little extra bit of texture from the toasted inside.

This was a good sandwich. Unfortunately, this was not a great sandwich. The Italian dressing definitely added something interesting to the mix. But it didn't do what I think it should have and add that much needed sour note to balance the fattiness of the burger. The other problem I noticed was that it just didn't quite have enough salt to zero in and maximize the flavors of all the ingredients. Sure, the cheese and the dressing added some salt, but when I managed to taste a bit of the hamburger patty itself, it was as I suspected, too lightly seasoned. Now that being said, it wasn't as if this was missing salt altogether. And to be fair, salt and pepper shakers were available to add additional seasoning. However, I am of the opinion that food should come out of the kitchen ready to eat, no additional salt required.

The fries were definitely the star of the plate. Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, not greasy, nicely seasoned with something more than just salt, these were a real winner. No ketchup even required. You could tell that there was more than just salt on the fries by looking at them. It was quite obvious by seeing a good bit of red and black flecks, that this was a blend of some type. The friend who suggested Herbie's originally thought it might be seasoning salt, but I'm not convinced of that. Most seasoning salts I've tasted have a weird metallic taste to them and I definitely didn't pick up on this as I was eating my fries.

I was excited to learn that on Fridays and Saturdays, Herbie's breaks out the BBQ pit and actually slowly cooks up pork shoulder in order to be able to serve pulled pork sandwiches. Being a lover of pork myself, and especially of a good pulled pork sandwich, I may just have to make a weekend trip back down to Massillon to check them out again.

I think Herbie's does a lot of things right. And if they took some time to dial in those last few elements to some of their food, I think they would be outright delicious all around. When I return for the pulled pork sandwich, I hope to be able to sample a few more items off their menu. I hope that if you are in the area, you'll give them a shot and make up your own mind.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A "Green" Burger at Metro Burger

Metro Burger opened up several years ago in the then newly-built set of stores in Highland Square just 5 minutes from downtown Akron. Metro Burger's aim was to provide good quality food while shooting for a "greener" experience. All of the cups, packaging, and utensils are made from 100% corn and will completely biodegrade in just 80 days. I decided that I was in a "burger" mood tonight for dinner, so I stopped in.

Here is the sign on the outside of the building (this is completely visible from Market Street, so it's hard to miss):

There is ample free parking both on the street and in the back of the building. Once inside, there is a long counter where stacks of clipboards contain the menu order form. One form per person, please:

You mark what kind of meat you'd like, what size, what kind of roll, toppings, etc. It really is a pretty efficient way to keep the lines short and the decisions to a minimum. You can mark one of their already designed burgers or you can mix and match to your heart's content. Once you finish marking up your form, you approach the ordering counter:

and place and pay for your order. At that point, they'll hand you one of these guys:

You fetch your condiments, napkins, and drinks from the soda fountain area and retire to your table and wait for your meal to be cooked to order. Do note that the burgers are all cooked medium well. When your electronic notifier goes off, you go up to the pick-up area and grab the plastic tray with your order on it. Today I felt like a 1/3 pound ground beef cheeseburger with smoked gouda, bacon, and horseradish mayonnaise on a pretzel roll. Add an order of the sweet potato fries to that and you get this:

The pretzel roll was buttered and grilled before adding the rest of the ingredients. The horseradish mayonnaise is in the little cup in the front of the basket.

First up, the burger:

This is a wonderfully juicy and delicious burger. The smoke from the gouda and the bacon and the spiciness from the horseradish mayonnaise made a wonderful combination. The pretzel roll is highly recommended. It has such a unique flavor that the other buns are simply lacking. Instead of just being a vehicle to get the food into your mouth, it adds it's own distinct flavor and texture.

And, of course, my side of sweet potato fries:

I am notoriously critical when it comes to fries. They have to be crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, properly seasoned, and not oily. These fit the bill beautifully. And to top it off, the natural sweetness from the sweet potato contrasted nicely with the added salt. They are so-so with ketchup, but I actually preferred them with the leftover horseradish mayonnaise that accompanied my burger.

Today was my fourth experience at Metro Burger and every single time I've really enjoyed the food. Spending your dining dollars here is a real winner for everyone; you're supporting a local Akron restaurant that is committed to helping reduce landfills and providing it's customers with delicious food. What's not to love?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Waffles That Nearly Float Off Your Plate

Any then there were two.

The food-related memories I have from my childhood are actually quite sparse. It wasn't until well into my adult life that I began appreciating chefs and restaurants who take the time to offer something unique and delicious to their customers. While there have been many times when I've returned to a cherished restaurant from my childhood only to discover that the food really isn't as good as I remembered it, it's a pleasure to find one where the current dining experience lives up to the halcyon days of my youth.

As a child, I remember eating at numerous Wally Waffle locations throughout the area. Unfortunately over the decades, this number has slowly dwindled down to only two remaining locations, one on Locust Street in downtown Akron by the hospital and the other just a five minute drive on the corner of Eastwood Road and Rt. 91 in Tallmadge. Google shows a third location on Marion Avenue, but I tried finding this location one time and concluded that it simply didn't exist.

Today I decided to go for a late lunch / early breakfast. Here is the sign at the Tallmadge location:

I arrived around 11:15 am or so only to be greeted by a number of people milling around outside the front door. This is very typical on the weekends if you go after about 10:30 or so. I had a 20 minute wait and since it was fairly pleasant outside, I didn't mind enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Wally Waffle is only open for breakfast and lunch, so don't plan on going after 3 pm on the weekends.

Here is a shot of the front of their menu:

And a shot of the condiments at the end of the table:

As with most of the meals at Wally Waffle have consisted, I usually start out with a nice steaming cup of decaf and a glass of water:

The coffee always tastes exceptionally fresh when I go, and the refills are generous and quite often. The regular coffee does have a better flavor than the decaf, but living with an afternoon of the jitters wasn't my idea of a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

The menu is broken up into typical breakfast fare and they offer luncheon items such as salads and sandwiches as well. But, I daresay that if you are going to go to a place that has "waffle" in its name, you can be pretty certain that the place has a specialty. Wally's offers three different waffle batters, the original using malted flour, the oat bran (which is what I normally get), and the better day. All batters are made at the locations, although the dry ingredients for the original batter come already pre-mixed. They simply add the wet ingredients, margarine, milk, and eggs on-site before service. I couldn't get my server to admit it, but I would surmise that they separate the eggs and beat the whites separately before folding it back into the batter. They'd have to in order to get a waffle to be this light.

You can get your waffle topped in a variety of ways, from simply adding margarine and syrup to going with fresh fruit and a little sweetened whipped cream. The thing about the original waffle that makes it so unique is how light it is. Not in terms of calories, but in terms of the sense of fullness you get from eating one. All the waffles that come out of the kitchen cover the entire plate, so it isn't like you are getting a smaller portion size. Obviously the oat bran and the better day waffles have a much heavier batter and thus will definitely fill you up.

Today I decided to go with the classic waffle topped with fresh strawberries and bananas and finished off with sweetened whipped cream:

This was heavenly. The waffle batter itself is just barely sweetened and the combination from the malted flour and the touch of vanilla make this a tasty dish even if it weren't topped with anything else. Between the mound of whipped cream and the fresh fruit, syrup wasn't even required to gobble this up. In fact, I think that adding syrup would've complicated the pure, sweet flavors that made this dish so good.

With my oat bran waffle, I normally get a side of bacon, extra crispy. Today, however, I decided to go with another favorite, Wally Fries "loaded":

"Loaded" Wally Fries are a wonderful combination of shredded potato hash browns that have been beautifully cooked and crisped on one side topped with grilled onions and peppers and finally finished with the cheese of your choice. Today it was Swiss. Perfectly seasoned, the textural combination of the crispy potatoes on the one side, the creamy potatoes on the other is a wonderful example of contrasts. This worked quite well in place of the bacon I normally would order.

I've tried many of the other menu items over the years and I can honestly say that I've never had a bad dish. But if you make the trip all the way down to Akron just to try Wally Waffle, you must at least try the classic waffle. It really is that good. My hope is that no additional locations close as that would truly be the loss of an Akron classic.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mug 'o Root Beer Goodness

The first time I had a can of root beer, I was suddenly presented with an anomaly. All the root beer I drank as a youth had been at the local carhop drive-in places (like A & W). What surprised me so much was how hard it was to drink the soda without having to burp incessantly or the burning sensation that the overly carbonated soda caused when I swallowed. To this day, I have to let a newly opened can of soda sit for a few minutes to allow some of the carbonation to escape before I can drink it. The weird thing about my youthful root beer memories was that I remember the frosty cold mugs of sweet nectar having carbonation, but not so much that they weren't smooth and drinkable from the minute you got them.

Besides the nationwide chain A & W, a local Akron chain called B & K still has some drive up stands in the area. I choose to go today to the one on Monroe Falls Avenue in Cuyahoga Falls:

Once you pull in, as with most drive-in places, you turn your lights on for service and decide what you want from the menu posted on the wall:

They have your usual fare, burgers, dogs, and chicken sandwiches. Today I was in the mood for two things: a coney dog and a mug of frosty cold root beer. While perusing the menu, I also noticed that they sell kraut dogs. Well, damn, that sounded good, too! When my waitress hustled over to take my order, I got one of each.

Here is the window tray she brought back just a few minutes later:

Can't you just already taste that wonderful root beer?

Since I was doing the knee balancing trick for my photographs, I decided to take a swig out of the mug to make it a little more stable. Yummmm! Sweet and creamy, this brought instant memories of my youth to mind. Nothing in a can or 2-liter bottle can even come close to this. Next time I go back, I may just have to guild the lily even more and get a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make the ultimate concoction, the root beer float.

On to the dogs! I have to say that both hot dogs were very moist. When you keep meat in a hot water bath until service, sometimes that can actually dry out the dogs. Not in this case. Both versions of the dog were absolutely juicy and tender.

The coney dog was first:

The coney sauce was excellent, similar to a Sloppy Joe type consistency, but actually the meat was a bit more finely ground. It had a lovely saltiness and spiciness that worked well with the sweetness of the root beer.

Finally, the kraut dog:

When I first bit into it, I was surprised to discover the presence of black pepper in the kraut. The salt and acid of the kraut were well controlled. The overall balance on this dog was pretty darn good, given that it was just a hot dog with sauerkraut on it. Honestly, the thought of a coney dog was what brought me in to B & K, but I left equally as impressed with the kraut dog.

Next time you are in the mood for a really good coney or kraut dog or just want to indulge in a wonderful treat like the root beer, I recommend you check out one of the several Akron locations of B & K to get your fill. Nostalgia can sometimes make you overlook a mediocre experience, but in this case, it just proved how good it was all along.