Thursday, October 27, 2011

New to Us

Place: Burger King
Lunch: BK Chef's Choice Burger, BK Mushroom Swiss Topper, BK Deluxe Cheeseburger Topper, Dr Pepper

Elderly Counter Guy (who is, by far, the most professional looking person I've ever seen manning the counter at any area BK) takes my order.  "I assume this is to go?" he asks.

"No, here," I reply.

He replies with a look of bemusement.

I'm not really going to eat three burgers, especially when one of them has a 5.5 ounce patty.  I'm just going to sample them.  They're new, I don't come here much, and I'm in the mood for veriety.  Stop looking at me like that, elderly counter guy.

The BK Toppers have 3.2 ounce beef patties and are available in Mushroom & Swiss, Western BBQ, and Deluxe Cheeseburger varieties.  The Western BBQ is basically the old Rodeo Cheeseburger with a thicker patty.  The Mushroom & Swiss is just what you're thinking.  The Deluxe Cheeseburger is topped the same way the Big King was (BK's Big Mac ripoff).

Or, at least, it's supposed to be topped that way.

Mine didn't have the thousand island dressing.  It had mayo.  And you know what?  It totally worked that way.

So thanks for screwing that up for me, BK.  You may have unintentionally made a better sandwich.

The Mushroom & Swiss was just dreadful.  BK's new energy efficient charbroilers have a side effect of making their burgers taste TOO charbroiled, and the burger toppings here only emphasised that.  It also gave me the impression that BK is actually seasoning their patties with a whole lot of sodium.  Maybe the new charbroiling takes AWAY flavor and they're compensating?

The BK Chef's Choice is a 5.5 ounce thick patty they claim is "made with USDA certified ground chuck seasoned with salt and pepper" (other burgers just say "seasoned beef") and topped with "a thick slice of American cheese, naturally-smoked thick cut bacon, Fresh cut romaine lettuce, red onions and ripe tomatoes, (and) our original grill sauce on an artisan bun."


I'll give BK credit, it actually comes off as a premium burger and it's pretty good.  And that slice of cheese IS thicker.  But for $4.99, couldn't you have used a nice thick slice of cheddar?

We're finally getting a Whole Foods Market in town.  It's a small one going into part of an old Best Buy space.  Best Buy built a new smaller store in the other part of their existing space and some neighboring empty space.  The Whole Foods construction is an extreme makeover...they gutted the remaining space and demolished the front and side walls.  The new side wall framing is up and things appear to be progressing nicely.

We are also finally getting a Noodles & Company.  We must be the last area on the planet to get them.

Five Guys, who have also built every Midwestern community around us in recent years (even ones half the size), was supposedly coming too, but the "coming soon" information on their website store locator has been removed, and the address they previously had listed is otherwise occupied with a tenant who doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

I'm not really a Five Guys fan anyway.

But I would love a Which Wich.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Direct Mail

Place: Wendy's
Lunch: Dave's Hot 'n Juicy single cheeseburger (no cheese, no tomato), chili, Coke

I'm against naming these burgers after Dave Thomas.  It sort of implies that Dave was hiding better burgers from us all these years.  It's nice that Wendy Thomas is in the new TV ad, though.

The new burgers (which are labeled "Hot n' Juicy Cheesburgers, meaning you actually have to specify if you don't want cheese, and doing so doesn't actually decrease the price) have actually replaced the "Classic" burgers on the menu.  They're essentially the same size with the burger patty set thicker and with new pickles and red onions.  The pickles taste fishy.  Not impressed.  At least they're toasting the buns now.

I've actually started using my LinkedIn account recently.  Pretty much everybody has a LinkedIn account because a business associate probably sent you a request to link up.  Nearly everybody sets one up, forgets about it, and never thinks about it again except when they get new requests to link up, or when LinkedIn sends an e-mail showing who your linked associates have since also linked to.  But I've decided to start finding ways to use LinkedIn, mostly in ways where I can hopefully make fun of LinkedIn.

So my link to this blog post on LinkedIn will read as follows..."Here's a great way to maximize your Direct Mail campaign dollars".  This should make all the marketing minded folk who are linked with me come here to read my stellar advice.  And here it is...

Stop wasting money on direct mail.

I get so little mail at home that I don't even bother walking to the mailbox more than once a week.  When I do, there's the occasional magazine I subscribe to, the water bill (the only company I do business with who isn't online), the weekly fancy invitation to get a credit card with one of my rewards clubs, the weekly plea to change my insurance to State Farm (never gonna happen...may have to tell that story someday), the weekly plea to switch to cable (HA HA HA HA! No), and the two weekly thrifty nickel newspapers that exist solely to deliver the weekly ads.

The ad stuff makes it no further into my home than the recycling bin in the garage.  The stuff that actually has my name on it makes it upstairs to the shredder.

So what I'm saying is you're wasting your money with me.  Okay fine, I'm one person, right? Well come by the post office where I have a P. O. box on any given Wednesday, when this stuff tends to hit the mailbox, and look at the trash cans.

NOBODY is reading this stuff.

It's going straight into the trash, or laid in a stack on top of the trash cans (in case others want to take them for coupon hoarding).

Mostly though, I want you to stop it because it annoys me.  It just seems like the single biggest waste of printed paper we have left.  You can do coupons online somehow, can't you?  AND not have to pay for mailing.  Let people who want them print them off their computers.

Or at least find a way to let me opt out.

Hard to do when they're addressed to "Resident".

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Smoke in the Lobby

Place: Waffle House
Lunch (breakfast? brunch?): Two eggs (over, medium), toast, bacon, chili, Coke

Worst.  Crew.  EVER.

Two of the five employees know what they're doing, and one of them has "given up trying to care".  The other is basically handling everything and correcting the others when they do something wrong.  The other three are teenagers who really don't care.  It takes as long to order as it usually takes me to order, get fed, and eat.  Then the woman who knows what she's doing starts lecturing me on how I ordered my eggs wrong and I'm getting "over medium" instead of "over light" regardless of what I want.

I realize she's not in a good mood.  That's not my fault.

Should've gone to Jack in the Box.

Last night was an eventful evening.  It started with a concert...Sugarland and Sara Bareilles, specifically.  Sara Bareilles is an artist I'm familiar with...I have both her albums.  Sugarland?  Not so much.  In fact, before the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, I'd never so much as heard of them.

To make a long story short, that tragedy led me to look up some of their material.  That led me to think they seemed to put on a great live show.  So I thought I'd check them out.  Plus I'd get to enjoy Sara Bareilles and her catchy pop tunes about hating men.

The state fair collapse took with it Sugarland's elaborate (and really beautiful) "Incredible Machine" stage set.  With maybe a few dozen shows left in the tour, they didn't rebuild.  They're finishing the last dates with a simple setup.  The only distinguishing thing on the stage is a backdrop tapestry with a cloud-like heart with angel wings, a tribute to the lost stage of sorts within the heart (like the set itself was flying to heaven).

Sara Bareilles was backed by a four-piece band and proved to be a really solid live performer. Why she is touring with a country-branded act I can't quite understand, but then again I can't quite put my finger on where Sugarland fits into country either.

Seeing them live didn't quite help.  If you remove the duo that is Sugarland from the five-piece band backing them, you have a respectable boogie band.  You could stick Kevin Cronin in front of them and they'd BE REO Speedwagon.  The country aspect is the shrieking drawly crazy annoying voice of Jennifer Nettles.  Through an arena sound system, she's like the country equivalent of Geddy Lee.  And this band seemed to rock more than anything...there were points where they had three electric guitars going at the same time, some with distortion.

Short of that, they were fun live.  I'm not buying any of their records, though.  They did end with an awesome cover of "Come On Eileen".  I can actually say that I've seen "Come On Eileen" performed live.

The surprise is this...Nettles wasn't even the loudest shriek I heard last night.  That came later.

I headed back to the hotel after the show, swinging through the Taco Bueno drive-thru on the way.  I get in, I settle in, I open my nachos and...the fire alarm in the room goes off.


They do NOT want you to miss that.

I open the door.  Others are in the hallway.  Every alarm in the building is going off.  Some are waiting for the elevator.  Do elevators work when the fire alarms are going off?  I opt for the stairs.  The first floor fire doors are shut, blocking access to the lobby, so I go out the side door and walk around to the lobby, where several guests have converged.  The lobby is a haze of smoke with the strong smell of...burnt popcorn.  Who knew burnt popcorn could make this much smoke.

The desk clerk is on the phone with another employee, trying to figure out how to shut off the alarm.

"No, somebody burned some popcorn, and the lobby is full of smoke, and I can't shut the alarm off."

"No, ALL the alarms are going off.  In the rooms and everything."

"Change the BATTERIES??? ALL of them???"

I decide to prop open the lobby doors to try and air out the smoke.  Another guests helps.  We find something to hold the doors open (big planters outside the entrance).

At this point, I hear sirens.  The fire department is pulling up.  As the first fireman gets out, I explain what happened.  He snickers that snicker that says "Yeah, that happens."

They walk in to do their inspection.  They grab a big fan.  They reset the alarm.

There's about 30 guests waiting for the elevator, so a bunch of us take the stairs.  One of the rooms at the top of the stairs still has a fire alarm on.  One of the girls staying in said room runs downstairs to complain.

My room is fine.

I settle in and enjoy my nachos.

My cold, soggy nachos.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

Place: Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits (or is it "Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen" now? Whatever)
Lunch: Dip'n Chicken (with blackened ranch dipping sauce), spicy thigh, biscuts, Coke

Everybody in line is ordering Dip'n Chicken.  Dip'n Chicken is an LTO I'm apparently just getting in on at the end.  The VERY end.  When I ordered mine, the manager called back to the kitchen and asked how many orders they had down.  "Three!" was shouted back.  "But I only have (enough chicken for) about ten more!"

A few minutes later, I saw the manager outside the store pulling all the Dip'n Chicken posters down.  This didn't stop others from ordering it anyway.  Somebody even CALLED THE STORE asking about it.

Anyway, Dip'n Chicken is (was) breaded fried chicken breast pieces cut into medallions that sort of look like Fritos.  They're REALLY good, as is the dipping sauce.  Based on the response I witnessed here, I'm thinking they should become a permanent menu item.

You probably heard Steve Jobs passed away yesterday.  The name alone is certainly familiar, though you may not understand why.  Nor why your Twitter feed is flooding with memories of him.  Nor why your local Apple storefront is covered in post-it notes memorializing the man.  The guy wasn't a reality TV icon, not a major political name, not a pop star.

Well...actually, he sort of was a pop star.

The man co-founded Apple, which has always been popular with the hip.  He basically invented the home computer.  In the years between being shunned by Apple and being brought back to rescue the company, he picked up a small animation division of Lucasfilm called Pixar and sold it to Disney for billions years later.  He dreamed up the iPod and changed the music industry forever.  And in a world that had all but given up on the tablet computer concept, he succeeded with the iPad and has nearly killed the laptop industry in the process.

He wasn't just the head of the company who did this...these were largely his ideas executed under his scrutiny.  Even if you've never owned a Mac (I just bought my first this year) and don't understand why Mac people are so fiercely devoted to them and all things Apple (and why they're so willing to pay serious premiums for their products vs Windows-based competition), the man has touched your life in one way or another.

His company today is completely debt-free with reportedly an astounding $72 billion in the bank as of June, which put them on par at the time with the US Treasury. Their stock trades in the $350-400 range.  And analysts think the stock trades LOW.  They don't pay dividends, and their product returns a 20-30 percent profit margin.  You'd think that would be enough to make the anti-corporate crowd hate Apple, but even the biggest critics seems to be resigned to, at worst, referring to Jobs as being "less evil".

There aren't many people you can honestly say quite literally changed the world.

Steve Jobs is one of them.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Zombie Burger

Place: Zombie Burger + Drink Lab
Lunch: Planet Terror, chili, Coke

A recent addition to the East Village area, Zombie Burger is a zombie-themed sit-down burger and beer joint.  The name alone garnered much buzz on Facebook and in the local media before it even opened.  Buzz is one thing, food is another.  Would Zombie up to its name?

Co-worker Amy...the only person in town who ever wants to have lunch with me except the mother of my dead wife (who, as far as I know, is NOT a zombie)...ventured on down to see how the place shapes up.

First off, everybody who works here appears to be of the living.  Second, the building really doesn't have much of a zombie theme.  It's pretty modern with modern colors, lots of windows, and steel and wood accenting.  The theme is pretty well limited to the wall art, which includes a zombie mural.

The menu is the key.  The menu has an assortment of burgers with zombie themes, a couple which use trademarked names that I'm sure will eventually get them a few 'cease and desist' letters from lawyers.  There's 18 burgers with zombie theme-names, and a boring 'hamburger' and 'cheeseburger'. Each come in single, double, or triple patty varieties with prices ranging from $3.49 to $10.99.  Sides, which include fries, chili, salads, and mac and cheese, are additional.  They have a crapload of beers, which are completely lost on me.  They also have shakes and hot dogs, but not a hot dog flavored shake.  That would be gross.  Why would you even think of such a thing?

The appetizer menu included onion rings, so we ordered some.

"We don't have onion rings as an appetizer."


"We don't have onion rings as an appetizer."

But it's on the menu right there.  With dipping sauce, even.

"We had to make an adjustment because they clogged up the fryer."

Um, okay.

So they didn't get to sell us an appetizer, the list which included fried brussel sprouts, fried cheese curds, fried buffalo bacon, fried pickle chips, and Zombie Nachos.  There was also goat cheese, which obviously means the owners thought they were opening a restaurant in Austin, Texas.

I had a Planet Terror burger, which included barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, caramelized onion, and "fried ranch".  I also had a cup of chili.  The barbecue sauce was really sweet.  The "fried ranch" turned out to be what looked like deep fried cheese curds, but with ranch in them instead.  When you bite into one, it pops and ranch drizzles down the burger.  Much like if a zombie eyeball popped, right?


The chili was decent.  It had black beans.  Just saying.

Amy tried the Trailer Trash Zombie burger, which included cheese, fried pickle slices, chicken fried bacon, cheese curds, and ranch mayo.  Amy's side of choice was fries with a side of ranch.  She took a bite, thought about it, and said "You know what? It works."  I tried a bite of it and decided that their breading tastes fishy.  Then I decided it was their oil when I had a fry.

Anyway, we decided it was well worth trying, and even worth revisiting, even if the zombie theme is lost once you no longer have a menu in your hands.  A genuinely nice place with decent prices and unusual burgers.