Tag Archives: chain restaurants

Toby Keith’s I <3 This Bar and Grill: America. FUTK yeah.

18 Aug

Continuing with our “Nachos From Exotic Locales To Make Up For Rarely Posting” series, we bring you Toby Keith’s I ❤ This Bar & Grill in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Using live music, hearty portion-sizes, and mason jars, I ❤ This Bar & Grill is doing to country what the Hard Rock Cafe did to rock: increasing the guitar size by 1000% and turning music into a tourist trap. That the developers at the West End thought the new retail park needed a country music bar probably hints at Minnesota’s right-wing swing, but if country music means more nachos for us, then we’re willing to indulge Toby Keith for at least one meal.

  • Appearance: (8) Unlike most people at I ❤ This Bar & Grill, these nachos look good in both dim and direct light. Red, white, and blue chips, green guac, orange cheese-like sauce (see Distribution), parsley confetti. Yep, it has all those things. We’re taking off three points for a messy plate.
  • Distribution: (6) We still don’t know whether the orange stuff was queso dip or melted cheese, but in any case, what they were doing didn’t work. If it was shredded cheese, they did a terrific job melting the top layer, but not so great a job melting the rest. If it’s queso dip, they should have used more to help coat the naked chips on the bottom of the pile. There also wasn’t enough meat, and the so-called black beans touted by the menu were M.I.A.
  • Quality: (6) Despite the distribution problems, the mix of queso dip and shredded cheese gave us an extra kick of melty-goodness. We also enjoyed the smoky, peppery flavors in the salsa. Our primarily complaint is with the pulled pork, which was too sweet, and would have been much better off sans-sauce.
  • Price: (8) All-American nachos, All-American portion size, All-American prices. That used to mean super cheap, but now that means $9 for a small order. Too much for two people, probably too small for a group. In case you’re feeling extra hungry, they have something called “That Damn Nacho,” which includes all the toppings from a small order, plus three kinds of meat–chicken, BBQ beef, and pulled beef–for $20.
  • Overall: 28/40. We feel a little guilty supporting the Toby Keith Industrial Complex, but despite our qualms,  I ❤ This Bar & Grill serves good food in a lively environment. If we knew anything about country music, we’d insert some sort of relevant lyric, but since we stick primarily to 90’s tunes, we’ll close by saying: America! Fuck yeah!
PS. if you don’t get the title of this post, click here.

Rock Bottom Brewery: We’ve Hit That

16 Nov

If you’re a chain restaurant/brewery (and there are a lot of you), then you’ve got to do something to stand out from the crowd. For the Rock Bottom Brewery, originality comes in the form of forgoing dishware altogether.  From what we witnessed, the pretzels and beer flights come out in wire carriers with handles, and our nachos arrived not on a plat but on a raised metal stand with a tray on top.  They may have been trying to stun us with their presentation, but a word of advice: we aren’t super short ladies, but we found this towering display too high to get proper perspective on chip selection, and exceptionally messy to eat from.  There is also the lurking danger of dropping a topping off of the plate or on your chip into your beer.

  • Appearance:  (7) Once again, flat nachos! What they lacked in a 3rd dimension they definitely made up for with the other two, as these elicited gasps of surprise as they graced the table.  Twin scoops of guacamole elegantly framed a languid pool of salsa.
  • Quality of Ingredients:  (5) “Greasy” is one of the first words that comes to mind.  Ground beef was the topping on these nachos, and it definitely suffused the plate in fatty residue, compounded by the already somewhat greasy chips.  While the beef was moderately unflavored, taco seasoning made it’s appearance on the black beans.  We did enjoy the just-right jalapenos, and the guacamole was excellent.  Still, a little too heavy to really devour.
  • Distribution of Toppings:  (7) Despite the low profile, the cheese didn’t make it everywhere it was supposed to; slightly hardened cheese and greasy chips only made it stick less.  Salsa and guacamole were well-placed, allowing for sampling but not getting in the way.
  • Price:  (6) With the add-ons of meat and guacamole, these were up there in price.  Large for sure, but not entirely worth it.
  • Overall: 25/40.  A mediocre nacho on an unusual serving vessel is still just a mediocre nacho.

The Cheesecake Factory: Everything cheesy, except for the chips

2 Oct

Unless you’ve been living in Montana or under a rock for the past 20 years, you’ve probably been to a Cheesecake Factory. Popularized by an American middle class that thinks chain restaurants, gaudy decor, and overpriced food is a great way to spend a night on the town, The Cheesecake Factory embraces a fairly simply business plan: if you put an endless assortment of items from varying cultural backgrounds on the menu, you’re probably going to please about 88% of people (vegans/people allergic Egyptian style columns and gold-leaf excluded). If you’ve been, you’ve no doubt spent at least half an hour reading the Homeric menu, only to be disappointed by flavors that clearly show an overstretched palate. As their website plainly touts, the Cheesecake Factory is an experience, and when it comes to the nachos, a predictably average one.

  • Appearance: (7.5) Smaller than we expected given their famously large serving sizes, but generally not terrible looking. They were a little burnt and dull, though the rainbow of guac, salsa, and sour cream added a nice pop.
  • Quality of toppings:  (9) At first we were dubious. We’ve had our fair share of bland entrees at the Cheesecake Factory, but these nachos actually had some really great flavor. The chicken was moist and peppery. The chips were thick and substantial (like Border!). The guac was refreshingly simple.
  • Distribution of toppings: (6) Fairly “unilayeral” (Oxford English Dictionary, you can have that one for free), but unbalanced by swatches of hard cheddar stuck to a few chips and the plate. The majority of the toppings ended up on a scant minority of chips, leaving us with two or three behemoths flanked by a dull, dry desert.
  • Price: (7) Some places you expect to pay a lot (case in point, Disney World). Sadly, Cheesecake Factory is one of those places. Portions here are large, and if you don’t go home with a doggy bag, you’ve most certainly over-indulged. The nachos, however, were sadly average. Good flavors, decent textures, but nothing fantastic and rather undeserving of the $11.72 price tag.
  • Overall: 29.5/40

We don’t want to disparage the Cheesecake Factory; they offer free drink refills, the staff is polite and friendly, it’s a great place for groups, the menu is big enough to keep everyone satisfied, and–most importantly–their NASDAQ stock symbol is “CAKE” (we like cake). But when you live in a city like Boston with so many great local restaurants, it’s almost embarrassing to eat at an overpriced chain. That said, it’s only a matter of time before we return…Except then, we might avoid the nachos and stick to what they do best (hint: meatloaf and bottomless lemonade).