Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cheap Burgers and Furniture

Place: White Castle
Lunch: Six White Castles, regular Fish Nibblers, and a free Snickerdoodle cookie.

I ordered my White Castles and the Fish Nibblers, and the clerk mumbled something about a free cookie for ordering...uh...something. I'm not sure why, but I got a free cookie. As did everybody who ordered after me. I'm not sure what THEY ordered either.

So here's how I eat White Castles...I take two sandwiches, discard the top buns, and make double-patty burgers. The reason I discard the top bun is because the bottom buns are steamed on top of the meat as it cooks, so it absorbs the flavor. Removing the top bun greatly increases the overal flavor of the burger. Yes? Yes. Yes indeed. Plus you can save the top buns to feed to birds.

After lunch, I went to IKEA, the Swedish furniture kings of cheap "assemble it yourself" modern furniture made out of presswood with faux veneer wood finishes. They do furniture, kitchen cabinets, desks, media centers, and more. They have some self-branded appliances as well, which I CERTAINLY hope don't require assembly.

Anyway, this was my first time. It was neato and totally unique. The showroom is one winding designated path with occasional mapped shortcuts. People wind through the showroom carrying yellow courtesy bags ("They hold a lot", the sign says) writing item numbers down on scratch pads so they can find the stuff they want to buy in the warehouse at the end of the path. Yes, the massive warehouse is self-service.

I managed to get through there without spending any money. Mostly because I don't HAVE any...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

5 & Zero

Place: 5 & Diner
Lunch: Chicken-fried steak, 2 eggs, biscuits

Brunch, technically. Whatever.

The 5 & Diner sucks. The burgers suck. The breakfast sucks. The strawberry lemonade sucks. The chili REALLY sucks. My point is...It sucks.

One of the waitresses is quietly freaking out about some customer. She's peeking around the corner and pointing to somebody with another waitress. They're being really secretive. They're probably saying to each other "They actually seem to LIKE our food!" I sure don't.

It's Christmas Eve and the snow has mostly melted. After a month or more of a white Christmas season, the actual day is looking brown.

Traffic has been crazy for the past couple of days, and not just at the Popeye's drive-thru (which is STILL doing a ridiculous amount of business). Last-minute Christmas shoppers are cramming the stores looking for whatever it is they're looking for. I officially finished shopping on Tuesday.

But when I'm done here, I can go home and not leave the house again until after Christmas if I so choose. Just watch football and enjoy the holiday.

Probably watch lots of Christmas movies.

Or something.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Love That Chicken

Place: Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits
Lunch: Two spicy thighs, three chicken strips

Going to Popeye's just got two hours closer for local residents as our first location opened this morning. I take an early lunch on Mondays and figured I'd swing by before the lunch rush hit.

I completely underestimated the cravings of Popeye's fanatics.

I arrived before 11:00am to a packed parking lot and a drive-thru line that completely circled the building. I parked in the nearby Famous Footwear parking lot and walked over. The line inside was already the length of the building, a problem complicated by the fact that this Popeye's is in a former Bruegger's Bagels building, and Bruegger's wasn't designed for this type of foot traffic.

It's good natured mayhem all around. Some Popeye's official walked the line asking everybody to be patient and noting that it "takes two weeks" to break in the crew to where they actually know what they're doing without having to think about it. He relates the story of a recent opening in Albuquerque where for weeks people were waiting two hours at the drive-thru just to order. (He's not exaggerating...I read an article about that one.) People are all wearing Mardi Gras beads without having to flash anybody (they're free, and being handed out everywhere in the store.)

It took about 30 minutes to get to the order counter. Some people walk in and see friends in line and it's a big chatty reunion. Some people walk in, see the line, and turn around. Some suggest other lunch options while in line. "We could go to the Kentucky Fries up the street." "They already closed. Just gave up before Popeye's was even open." "Really?" "Yep!" (Nope...They're open...just remodeling. I'm hoping they convert it to a KFC-Taco Bell.)

"To stay or take out?" Fresh Young Counter Girl asks. HA! As IF there's a place to sit down. "To go," I declare.

I decided I wanted two thighs, so I ordered the 3-piece dark meat combo without the combo, which is how I've always ordered that. Fresh Young Counter Girl has no idea how to input this and grabs a manager. "You have to input them in seperately. Sir, you'll end up with a biscuit for each piece this way. Is that okay?"

Okay?!? That's a BONUS! And I had no idea you could even order that way. It's not mentioned on the menu board, and no other Popeye's has ever suggested it. I have no idea what this is going to cost.

I also order three naked chicken strips with ranch. "We're out of ranch," she says. How can they be out of ranch? They haven't even been open an hour. The manager is also surprised to hear this. "Are you sure?" he asks. Then he opens the hallowed Cabinet-of-Ranch and...well...they're FAR from out of ranch.

The total price was about what the 3-piece dinner combo cost. And I got what is effectively five pieces of chicken and two biscuits. And a drink. SCORE!

Fifteen minutes later, my number is called and I get my two boxes of chicken. I make my way through the throngs of Popeye's fanatics to the door and head for the car, and drive home.

Let's review what I actually got versus what I ordered, shall we?

I got two with the two thighs, and one in the chicken strips box. I'm confused on if that's the way it should have been or if a third biscuit should have come with the strips. The receipt indicates one biscuit with each thigh, and nothing with the strips, so that must be okay.

The chicken strips were the wrong ones. They gave me their mild strips, not the naked ones. Popeye's mild chicken strips are the most boring taste in all of fast food. On the other hand, the reciept indicates that "1 3PC STRP BOX N RANCH" costs $1.00. They either configured that wrong, or they're having a sale.

And yes...I got my Ranch.

Also, as fast as they were going through it, I would have expected the chicken to be hotter than it is. It didn't take me THAT long to drive home.

Still, it was delicious. But I think I'll wait a few weeks for the insanity to die down before going back.

So we finally got a Chick-Fil-A this year, and we finally got a Popeye's. Now all we need is a Church's and we'll be just like a civilized chicken town.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Place: Jimmy John's
Lunch: Gargantuan sandwich

I'm a snow fan, and we've been blessed with perfect little snow storms for the past week.

The perfect snow storm to me is three or four inches of light fluffy flakes with little to no wind. It's just enough to cover everything nicely while still light enough to make sidewalk shoveling bearable, and the driveway doesn't have to be dug up. Cars can plow everything down just fine.

Usually, we get either nothing, or we get dumped on in the half-foot or more range. But not this year.

Makes a great backdrop for the Christmas tree in the window.

I love December.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ode to Fry Sauce

Place: Arctic Circle
Lunch: Ranch burger, fries, root beer

SEEN IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE BATHROOM: A man helping his little boy use a urinal. Once the boy is done, his dad shows him how to flush the urinal. The little boy watches the whole process and shouts "THAT is SO AMAZING!!!!"

Santa should get him one for Christmas.

Fry Sauce is an unheard of concoction in 49 states (save for Arctic Circle locations outside Utah). But if you are going to open a burger joint in Utah, y0u had better plan on having some on hand. It's become such a part of the culture, they had a "fry sauce" pin available during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Arctic Circle founder Don Edwards invented fry sauce in the 1950's. It apparently started out as an idea of mixing ketchup and mayo to put on a burger at the same time. At some point, he dipped a fry in it, and a legend was born. Don't believe anybody who tells you it's just thousand island dressing, because there's no relish in it.

Arctic Circle claims there's more to it than ketchup and mayo and that they have the only true secret recipe. Mine is pretty close.

Try fry sauce for yourself by mixing two parts mayo to one part ketchup and adding some lemon juice.
So for example, two tablespoons mayo, one tablespoon ketchup, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Use Kraft mayo and Hunts ketchup for best results.

Use an electric mixer to mix to a smooth and creamy texture. Don't leave any mayo lumps.

Use for dipping fries in.

You can also write Arctic Circle and inquire about purchasing jars of their trademark fry sauce, which are also available for sale at company-owned stores in 12-ounce jars for around $4 if I remember right.

Arctic Circle Restaurants
PO Box 339
Midvale, UT 84070