Monday, August 31, 2009

eat it - cheesme, 1200 washington ave (side entrance), miami beach, fl (786)276-6146

here i was, planning to do this whole review in lower case letters as an homage to cheesme's name, and lo and behold, upon retrieving the business card from my wallet, i see that the sign is written in ALL CAPS! I CAN'T STAND THE THOUGHT OF WRITING THE REVIEW LIKE THIS. so, why was i under the impression that the name was written in lower case letters? maybe because that is how they wrote it on the facebook fan page. come to think of it, "facebook" is written that way, too. the words look friendlier like that, for some reason. eat it, miami. EAT IT, MIAMI. see, it makes a difference. it looks like i'm yelling at you in the latter version.

Enough of that silliness. So, some friends of some friends opened "cheesme grilled cheese and fry bar," which to me is enough distance that I felt I could check the place out and give it a fair review. I'm not a real journalist, but I think there's a certain amount of objectivity that is expected from people when they read a stupid blog like this.

I must admit that I was skeptical of the concept for the restaurant. Fancy grilled cheese? Uh, people will pay a lot for that? That's the kind of meal you make when you're broke and all you have in the fridge is some slices of yellow American cheese. It's somewhat similar to The Cereal Bowl, in that respect: paying a premium for a normally budget food product.

Ah, but I was forgetting the X Factor, or S-E-X Factor, if you will. Chicks universally love the idea of a grilled cheese restaurant! Therefore, men will want to go, too. That's the idea behind ladies nights at bars. Same thing. Except, instead of booze that makes women fat, it's fried meat and cheese sandwiches.

I am told the dessert menu will include doughnuts. Great. At least women work out here, rather than covering the extra stuff up with sweaters and corduroy like they do in Boston. They don't even shave their legs during the winter up there. Gross. My posts seem to have taken sort of a misogynistic turn lately...

As usual, it's taken me forever to get around to actually reviewing this restaurant. South Florida Daily Blog will no doubt take exception to this. I contend that my humorous anecdotes and hilarious digressions are what keep my readers coming back by the tens! My readership is vast. I had a visit from Malta recently. That's, like, totally far and stuff.

So, around 930 on Saturday, a few friends and I found the entrance around the back of some crappy club on the corner of 12th and Washington on South Beach. I don't know what the club is called, but it has like an A and a V or something stylized like that on the glass. Never been inside and I don't know anyone who's gone there or talked about it, but I'm 30, so I probably don't know what's cool anymore anyway.

The entrance is a set of concrete stairs to a side door that appears to be the old emergency exit from the kitchen of the attached club (which was probably a mediocre Italian restaurant at some point). I have to tell you that, in August, it feels like you're hanging out in a kitchen when you get there. I'd advise you to dress in linen pants and tank tops, maybe. Ladies, the skimpier the outfit, the better. For your own good, don't do anything stupid like wearing leggings. Those have to be out of style by now, don't they? And I hear it gets really, really warm when club and restaurant people get off work in the wee hours and fill the place up.

A funny story that my spies told me is that on a recent evening, when cheesme was packed with that industry crowd, a rather homely, single man (the type who should make you nervous at your place of work or yoga studio) wandered in, blabbing about how he was the son of one of the founders of Five Guys. He proceeded to claim that cheesme's creators had ripped off the concept and menu from Five Guys, then left and returned with two grocery bags full of burgers to serve cheesme's customers some "real food." I think this is a case where violence might actually be the answer. The man clearly has a small, you know, penis and serious self-confidence issues. I hope he doesn't read this.

I'm not really sure what cheesme and Five Guys have in common, other than the fact that they are both places where people go and pay to eat food that restaurant employees have prepared for them. I don't know how long Five Guys has been around, but maybe they invented that concept. And what menu items do they have other than burgers and fries? Don't get me wrong. I like Five Guys. A lot. I ate at the one in Jupiter on Saturday afternoon. It was the very thing I ate prior to my meal at cheesme. How ironic [note: I only use "ironic" incorrectly, since that's what everyone else does].

At cheesme, they have every kind of cheese you could imagine putting in a grilled cheese sandwich (and some you wouldn't, like you know, fancy French ones). They also have lots of different types of bread. I ordered the "Shorty," which is braised short ribs with blue cheese and roasted red peppers on pumpernickel bread. Mmm! You can either choose a menu sandwich or select a meat, a cheese and a bread. A typical sandwich costs between 12 and 14 bucks.

My buddy Larry made his own creation which was a kobe burger with honey mustard and I-forget-what-cheese on a croissant. We had to take him for angioplasty immediately afterward, but he enjoyed eating it.

The sandwiches have so much flavor, that it's funny to watch people take the first bite and see (and hear) their reactions. I think that, for people who really love eating and preparing food, one of the main reasons they do it is to see others' enjoyment.

Upon entering the space, I had turned to my friend Dre and said "sweet, this is like hanging out in the kitchen of a restaurant," to which he replied "that's exactly what it is. We're in a restaurant kitchen." Oh, right. Got it.

Randy and Rush, the guys in that kitchen and whose names suggest they might be twins, are more like bartenders than cooks that are hidden in the nether regions of a long, skinny chunk of South Florida real estate. It turns out that Randy likes to call them "foodtenders." The whole thing is really quite clever. Even the name "cheesme" is a play on words. "Chisme" is a Spanish word that can mean "gimmick" or "gossip."

I wish them luck because I think this could really be something.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eat It - Burger & Beer Joint, 1766 Bay Rd., Miami Beach, FL (305)672-3287

So, I have a few things to nitpick before I go into reviewing the dining experience at this new restaurant near the Jetsons Publix (in the former, short-lived Uzo's building) and Purdy Lounge.

First of all, the matchbooks, though I love the fact that they have them, erroneously indicate the restaurant's address as 1766 Bay Rd., South Beach, FL. This (A) is where South Beach, FL is -

That's about as close to Miami Beach as Havana. They, of course, mean the neighborhood of South Beach in Miami Beach, but you shouldn't write your address like that unless you want your mail sent to Vero Beach. We all know you're trying to be all cool so the tourists know you're on South Beach. I think most people who live here have had friends say "oh, cool, you live in Miami Beach. Is that anywhere near South Beach?"

The other insignificant thing about which I choose to make a big deal is that the phone number is written "305.672.EATS." All that does is make it harder to dial the number. It won't help people remember it. Everyone can remember every one of their friends' home numbers from 1st grade but they don' t know their girlfriends' phone numbers today. And all the people with Blackberries are cursing you since they have to say in their heads "ok, ABC is 2, DEF is 3, 3!..."

The last complaint, and it's more significant, is that if you order a regular burger, the waiters default to the more expensive "kobe" burgers. That is tacky and unethical. It happened to me and to a friend of mine who was sitting at another table and who was served by another waiter. This suggests it comes from the top. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth, even though other than that, the service was excellent and the food, delicious. But hey, that's why you read whiny online restaurant reviews.

Let's stay on this automatic beef upgrade for one more paragraph. If there is a regular burger as the first option and a more expensive "kobe" burger (which of course is not actual kobe beef from Japan but rather high quality, fatty beef), and you order a burger, then which would you expect to receive? I can't see a scenario where I would expect the kobe burger. I was surprised when it arrived, since that's not what I had ordered. I did like the flair of the Japanese stamped into the bun, but I was still annoyed. Tacky.

The prices are reasonable, even when you are charged for the more expensive burger than the one you intended to order. You can have a pretty good meal and some beers for about 20 or 25 bucks. Really, the burger was delicious. I was forced to embarrass myself during my first bite and say "that is a tasty burger!" à la Jules from Pulp Fiction. I couldn't help it.

A nice surprise came after checking out the bathrooms. That sounds a little funny. Hold on. The men's room is very nice and clean, but the mirror is awkwardly placed over the urinals instead of the sinks, so if you want to check your teeth and hair after washing your hands, you have to walk over to where dudes might very well be peeing. Could have been better designed. The nice part is that, upon exiting the bathroom, I heard music coming from down the hall, where an attached bar is located. Pretty sweet. You don't even have to go outside to hit the next stop of the evening where you can wash down that kobe beef burger with another beer. Did that wrap things up ok? I know you're sort of supposed to do that when you're writing.

*Wait, wait! I almost missed an opportunity to criticize the restaurant that everyone (worth a damn) loves to hate! Barton G, of course. I could see Barton G doing something similar to the "kobe switcheroo." They would probably look at you in disgust after you ordered the plain old burger and say "you mean the kobe burger, right?" But they'd be called "Kobe Samurai Sliders" and they would arrive skewered on a real samurai sword. Then when you asked the waiter how to eat the burgers without cutting off your fingers, he would say "you've obviously never trained with Hattori Hanzo in Japan," and then spit in your cocktail and say "that's for free." Then he'd add an 18% gratuity for bothering him while he's trying to, uh, serve food to people at a restaurant. He's got clubbing to do, people!

Man, that felt good. I think this post is a lot better now that I added the part about Barton G. Which I hate.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Eat It - Primanti Brothers, 901 N. Ft. Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Ft. Lauderale, FL (954)565-0605

Open 24 hours, 7 days a week. That's why we're still the greatest country in the world.

Primanti makes a sandwich that was originally made for truckers in Pittsburgh (a.k.a. Sixburgh. They call it that 'cause they've won six Super Bowls. How clever! I'm just bitter because my favorite team's name stands for "Boy I Love Losing Super[b]owls!"). It's got cole slaw and french fries in it; you choose the meat and the cheese. It's not, like, the most amazing thing in the world, but it's unique and you don't need any condiments to eat it. It's got enough flavor and sauce from the meat and slaw. I think it's like the burger at Le Tub in that you just have to try it if you really love food. Have I written up Le Tub? Maybe I haven't. I think I went there before I started this blog and it doesn't always occur to me to review a restaurant if I'm not visiting for the first time.

Anyway, I've heard about the Primanti sandwich for years, and since the only TV I watch is on from 11pm to 1am, and I really love food, I watch a lot of Food Network. I don't advise this for everyone, though, since it makes you hungry all the time. I am blessed with a ridiculous metabolism so I can eat a large pizza with tons of toppings in one sitting and still look like I'm a gay guy who's fasting. That might be offensive. I'm not sure. Sorry if it is.

Food Network has been showing a special on sandwiches around the country and upon watching the segment on Primanti Brothers, I learned that they had 2 locations in Florida. Well, to my delight, they're both in Ft. Lauderdale. There's a newer one in Wilton Manors, but I wanted to go to the one that looks out at the ocean. I don't think you can get tired of looking at the ocean. I don't. You probably should live somewhere else if you don't like the ocean. I must admit that every time I go to Ft. Lauderdale's beach, I'm reminded how much I prefer that city's policy of not allowing buildings on the beach side of the street. The view is basically the same for the condo dwellers when they're on the opposite side of the street while everyone else gets an unencumbered view and access to the beach. It's better. Is unencumbered the right word there? Hmm, not sure but I don't feel like changing it.

So, Primanti only accepts cash and travelers' checks. Excuse me, cheques. Make sure you have cash so you don't have to pay one of those ATM fees. Those are like a mini version of getting towed. You just feel like someone is screwing you and there's nothing you can do about it. Prices are very good, so you don't have to have much.

Sandwiches cost like 6 bucks. When we arrived, the pizza smelled so good that I decided to have a slice of cheese to start. Solid. I spent about 13 bucks for the sandwich, pizza and a bottle of Coca Cola Classic. That was also quite good.

Dammit, now I'm really hungry and want to go back and have another.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eat It - Gold Street Caffe, 218 Gold Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM (505) 765-1633

So, I know this is supposed to be a Miami food blog, but I think most of the people who read this are pretty mobile, certainly upwardly so, yuck yuck. You might not get that if you're one of those people who considers yuppie to mean "young urban professional." I prefer "young upwardly-mobile professional."

I'll defend my point. Yuppies don't need to live in urban areas. They can live anywhere, as long as they like American Apparel t-shirts, platinum credit cards, foreign cars, weird sports like squash and ultimate, cough, frisbie (real yuppies know that Frisbie is a brand that makes really crappy flying disks and that the name of the game is simply "ultimate"). The internet makes one's location practically irrelevant. This is sounding too much like "Stuff White People Like."

Anyway, if you go to Albuquerque, make sure that your girlfriend is a golf pro so that you can stay at the Hyatt downtown and get a sweet discount. Then, when you ask the bell hop for a good place to eat lunch, he'll tell you to go to the Gold Street Caffe on, uh, Gold Ave. Hmm, whatever.

Order the Albuquerque Turkey (cough cough, predictably named) sandwich. It's delicious. Ingredients -

House Roasted Turkey Breast Sliced Thin with Fresh Avocado, Green Chile, Provolone and
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli ($9.95)

The other thing we got was the New World Quesadilla, also very tasty, and an interesting take on a classic -

Grilled Chicken Breast, Green Apple, Red Chile Pecans, Cheddar Jack Cheese and Gorgonzola
Tucked in a Giant Flour Tortilla. Served with Black Beans and Salsa Fresca ($11.45)

Albuquerque seems to be populated by a few different groups. Mexicans who just got here, Natives who have been in the Southwest part of this country since before Columbus got here, Spanish descendants who don't speak Spanish, really fat people who gamble a lot at Sandia Casino, cheeseballs who drive Inifitini G coupes (sorry to my friends who drive or have driven them, but they are a little cheesy, but great value!), and guys who studied computer science and wear dark rimmed glasses and have a couple of tattoos and definitely voted for Obama. Basically they look like members of Fall Out Boy.

The last group is the kind you'll find at Gold Street. The chicks they take with them do not wear makeup. They also don't like being called chicks, I bet. Anyway, the food is great. The service is kind of, meh, but the atmosphere is lovely. Kind of like a Cambridge, MA lunch spot. People in Albuquerque are, in general, some of the nicest I have encountered.