Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Super Creepy 2014

Place: Steak n Shake
Lunch: All American Melt, fries (w/cheese sauce), chili, Birthday Cake milkshake

Steak n Shake could have made you this all along, but it's just officially made the menu recently.  It's essentially a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese take on Steak n Shake's very popular Frisco Melt...a double-patty Frisco bread burger with cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard.  It's like the best Quarter Pounder with Cheese you've ever had.  Sometimes it's the simple things.

What?  2014 is over already?  Jeepers.  Is it me, or did the year just kind of fly by?  I guess all years do anymore at my age.  Nothing really stood out, though I was apparently annoying enough that three of my relatives unfriended me on Facebook.  Apparently, I'm like the Ricky Gervais of my family.

Movie of the Year - "Birdman".  This story of personal demons was shot as a chain of single-camera angle scenes by the guy who shot "Gravity".  The brilliant camera work, brilliant soundtrack, brilliant dialogue, and brilliant performances converged to produce the first movie I've given four stars in two years.

Album of the Year - With the disclaimer that I bought maybe five 2014 releases, this is the year even the critics agree with me.  Nothing touched Rosanne Cash's "The River and the Thread" since its release way back in January.

Not Exactly Album of the Year - I downloaded the free U2 album...and feel I got what I paid for.

New TV Show of the Year - All of you should have been watching "Gracepoint".  ALL OF YOU.  I also just recently caught up on FX's "Fargo" series on a three-day binge.  That was also excellent until Lester got to Vegas.  Then it became dumb and unnecessary.

Old TV Show of the Year - Not only did "Twin Peaks" come out on Blu-ray remastered in HD, it was announced the show itself is being revived for a ten-episode run on Showtime.  But we have to wait until 2016.  Hey, we've waited THIS long...

Commercial of the Year: "My cable's out, so I'm down at the rec center watching folks swim."  I could only dream of being as cool as Super Creepy Rob Lowe.

Bad Commercial of the Year - Viagra Girl: "So guys, it's just you and your Honey." Yeah, well, most of our "Honeys" don't look remotely like you and at our age are quite happy to not be bothered for sex in the first place.  (In related news, I probably have an unhealthy attitude towards dating.)

Weird Commercial of the Year - What exactly was GE trying to convey with the beeping kid? Because I sure didn't relate him to the tag.

Least Effective Re branding of the Year: TV ad: "ING US is now VOYA."  Most Americans: "Wait...who was ING US?"

Missed Branding Opportunity of the Year - Kia's full electric version of the Soul is called the "Soul EV".  As opposed to my thousand-times-cooler idea, the "Soulectric"

We've Heard It All Before of the Year - "The New Buick". Yet another "sure our cars were crap before but they're really nice now honest" ad campaign from GM.

Slug Bug of the Year - I've taken to shouting "STINKY PRIUS!" whenever I see a Toyota Prius on the road.  It started as an amusing way to annoy the hippies, but I've actually started angrily shouting it, like I really hate those things or something.  Shaking my fist at them even.  The Prius drivers sort of look worried.

Attack Ad Idea of the Year - During Political Attack Ad season, I came up with the idea of states running attack ads against vacationing in neighboring states.  "DON'T VISIT WISCONSIN! THEIR MINDS ARE MUSHIER THAN THEIR CHEESE! Paid for by the Illinois Dept of Tourism".

Reverse Psychology Ad of the Year - When the Joe's Crab Shack's "you don't think of hot dogs on the grill" commercial airs, I immediately think of hot dogs on the grill.

Oreo Flavors of the Year - What's up with Oreo and all the new flavors?  Watermelon.  Fruit Punch.  Limeade.  Caramel Apple.  Root Beer Float.  Jeepers.  I can't even eat regular Oreos anymore.  They're too plain.  (My favorite?  Lemon.)

Soda of the Year - Faygo, the king of unique soda flavors, came out with a Cotton Candy flavored soda.  You would be surprised at just how well it turned out.

Ice Cream of the Year - People love putting Trader Joe's Cookie Butter on their ice cream.  So why doesn't Trader Joe's just make a Cookie Butter ice cream?  Well, now they do.

Fro-Yo Flavor of the Year - Yogurtini's Salted Caramel Corn.  You know, like caramel popcorn.  Yes, it totally worked.

Restaurant Demise of the Year - I've written many times of Schroeder's Drive-In in Danville, IL, which was originally one of the most successful Burger Chef outlets in the chain, and has been as close as you can get to an actual Burger Chef experience for years from the food to the eighties era Burger Chef dining room full of Burger Chef (and military) memorabilia.  Schroeder's went out of business in October after 54 years and I (and all of Danville) was heartbroken.  I wonder what became of the memorabilia.  And the Pepsi Tiffany lamps.  And that menu board.  I can easily recreate those burgers at home, but I can't recreate that environment.

Restaurant Demise of the Year II - Our Taco John's franchisee opened up a crap ton of CherryBerry Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt outlets a couple of years ago, usually adjacent to Taco John's.   This year, they closed them all.  Seems like the whole fro-yo fad is burning hard, which is kind of a bummer.

Bad Restaurant of the Year - We got a Rita's Italian Ice franchise locally.  And it only took their horrible staff about three visits to completely alienate me as a customer.

Bizarre Restaurant Move of the Year - White Castle, who builds stores in specific core markets and has never offered franchising in its 93-year history, "licensed" a one-off location in Las Vegas, which will be open soon on the Strip adjacent to the world's most profitable Denny's.  Is this a sign that White Castle might FINALLY modernize its business model and make room for growth through partnerships?

Bizarre Restaurant LTO of the Year - While White Castle may be absurdly paranoid about expansion, they're not about throwing anything at the menu board to see what sticks.  White Castle debuted "veggie sliders" at the end of the year.  No, I will not be trying them.  But I'll say this...they're getting a lot of publicity out of it.

Flight Incident of the Year - I got to experience a "go around" while attempting to land at PDX because somebody just HAD to go to the bathroom on approach and they apparently aren't allowed to land when somebody's in the can.  I wonder if Delta billed the passenger for the extra fuel.

This Town Sure Has Changed of the Year - Visited Cheyenne for the first time in forever.  Somewhere in between my last visit and now, it became the City of Roundabouts.

Football Touchdown Play-by-Play Call of the Year - "He could have made a sandwich and walked in backwards."

Unwanted Technology of the Year - The tip I want from Apple Tips is "How to Shut Off Apple Tips".

Lack of Self-Awareness of the Year - Ever notice that people who post Bitstrips in their Facebook feed depict themselves as being way skinnier than they really are?

Retweet of the Year - Next time someone preaches to you about living healthy, just reply with these four words: "Keith Richards is 70." - @Ruth_A_Buzzi

Monday, December 22, 2014

Not Home (for the Holidays)

Place: Taco Time NW
Lunch: Crisp taco (no tomato), crispy chicken burrito, Fanta Lime

You're thinking to yourself "uh, what's the NW for?"  It's for "Northwest", and it's what differentiates your garden variety Taco Time International location from the Taco Time Northwest stores of western Washington.  This is a former Taco Time franchisee (possibly the original franchisee) who broke off from the chain years ago but got to keep the name for themselves in a settlement.  They run completely independent of Taco Time International.  They have their own logo (looks a lot more like the old main chain logo), their own marketing, their own restaurant designs.  They have the same core traditional menu items like crispy burritos and Mexi Fries, but they've added their own new offerings along the way.  They have about 70 stores total and are a strong performer in their territory.   I don't have a specific preference between the two, but suspect the two could learn from each other.

Came home this weekend for my niece's wedding.  Spent the majority of time with family, who I rarely see around the Christmas holiday.  Basically 48 hours on the ground, so apologies to those I didn't reach out to hook up with.  Anyway, I was home for near the holidays, but not quite the holidays.

Either way, I got my fill of Christmas cookies.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Place: Burger King
Lunch: Yumbo (no lettuce), Four Cheese Whopper (no lettuce, no tomato), Coke

Have you seen the BK ad for the Yumbo?  They have a made up BK with a very seventies vibe, employees in seventies uniforms, and customers in seventies hairdos, freaking out random customers who show up and aren't in on the joke.  All of it attempts to point back to the time of the legendary Yumbo sandwich, with its lettuce and Black Forest ham.

Except...was "Black Forest ham" even a thing in the seventies?  Was the Yumbo even a thing?  Because I have no recollection of it whatsoever.

Some friendly internet research indicates it did indeed exist.  But the original was simply ham and cheese (two slices) on a hamburger bun.  Nothing about "Black Forest" ham and no vegetables.  It was essentially a Hardee's Hot Ham and Cheese.  This version is NOT a Hardee's Hot Ham and Cheese.  It's an okay ham sandwich on the hoagie roll used for the chicken sandwich.  It also has mayo.  It could use pickle.  It's on the 2 for $5 mix-and-match menu, but if you just buy one, it's $3.89.  You have been warned.

The other new thing BK is throwing at us is the "Four Cheese Whopper".  The "four cheeses" are a slice of American, cheddar sauce, and a "creamy three cheese blend".  Which either really makes it a three cheese Whopper or a five cheese Whopper by my count.  I don't know, I flunked algebra.  Twice.  The "three cheese blend" is some shredded yellow cheeses.  Maybe one of those cheeses is cheddar, therefore they only count cheddar once, making four different types of cheese total.  In any case, it tastes really cheesy.

As a standalone sandwich, the Four Cheese Whopper is $4.79.  So between the Yumbo, Whopper, a medium soda, and tax, I managed to spend $11.52 on mediocre fast food assembled from pre-cooked warmed over ingredients.

Not a winning combination by anyone's standards.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Place: Dickey's Barbecue Pit
Lunch: Three Meat Plate (chicken, Polish sausage, spicy cheddar sausage, barbecue honey ham), mac and cheese, barbecue beans, soft serve ice cream cone, Coke

On the rare occasion I pop into a Dickey's...a fast food format barbecue first question is "What are you out of today?"  Because they're always out of up to half the meats.

Me: "What are you out of today?"

Girl:  "What do we have today?  We have a special on pulled pork, and..."

Me: "No no no, that's not what I asked.  What meats are you OUT of today?"

Girl:  "Oh!  Uh..."

Guy: "We're not out of anything."

Me:  "Really?  That's the first time that's ever happened to me at a Dickey's."

Everybody laughs.

The trick must be to come in early for lunch.  Dickey's smokes meats at each location daily.  I may have always come in at dinner, so maybe when they run out of the daily allotment, that's it.  Still, what other fast food chain has ever been able to get away with having up to half their menu not available during normal operating hours, let alone four hours before the place closes?  You're throwing money away, Dickey's.

So I take advantage to try the chicken and ham, which they're always out of.  And I get my usual Polish sausage, which is my Dickey's favorite.  Naturally, they give me the spicy cheddar sausage instead and I complain, thus why my Three Meat Plate is in fact a Three Meat Plate with Bonus Fourth Meat in a Side cup.  Ever see that episode of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" where they're at a barbecue place and she tries to order meat as a side?  "WHY CAN'T I HAVE MEAT AS A SIDE?"  I just fulfilled your wildest dream, Honey Boo Boo.

The spicy cheddar sausage is actually pretty good too.  You could go with a Two Meat Plate and get both sausages and be all sausage happy.

The chicken and ham are disappointments.  They don't give you a quarter chicken piece like a real barbecue restaurant would.  They give you slices of chicken breast that have an artificially smoky flavor to them.

Among the sides (you get two with your meat plate), their mac and cheese is a highlight.  Not sure why, but it's really good.

Dickey's also has proper pebble ice and free soft serve ice cream cones, practices I highly approve of.

My longest vacation of the year is winding down.  Got around to all the Christmas light displays I usually go to.  Caught up on movies.  Went to a concert.  Ate all the food.  Replaced the coat I left in Vegas.

Really nothing left to do but go home.