Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Manhattan Grill

The season might have ended three or four weeks ago, but I just received my winnings from this year's fantasy football season over the weekend. To celebrate, I decided to take my girlfriend out for dinner. Being the attentive boyfriend I am, I took her to Manhattan Grill as she mentioned she'd like to try it out the last time we drove by.

Manhattan Grill is split between a sports bar and regular restaurant. The bar is completely separate from the restaurant, which I thought was nice touch. If there is a big game on I'm sure the bar can create a bit of noise, but if you aren't into sports or just feel like relaxing the restaurant is a perfectly quiet place to enjoy a nice dinner.

On the drive to the restaurant I had all intentions of ordering a steak, but after looking over the specials I quickly changed my mind.  Chipotle aioli dipping sauce combined with my love for any and all things spicy made for a very easy decision when we ordered the Cajun onion rings as an appetizer.

Unfortunately, the onion rings let us down. While the breading tasted good and had a spicy punch they were simply over breaded. After eating 4 or 5 of these things I was already feeling full and believe me when I say that's not normal for me. The chipotle aioli, what I was most excited about regarding the appetizer, didn't add very much to the party either. In my eyes, it was like eating mayo that was slightly tinted red. The chipotle flavor was nowhere to be found. 

I wasn't too bummed about the lackluster rings though. Coming shortly was my dinner and I was seriously excited to dig in. Key Lime BBQ grilled chicken had my name all over it. I've been trying to eat sensibly lately and the opportunity to eat grilled chicken full of flavor sounded perfect. Once again, I found myself seriously let down. The chicken was cooked perfect and was as juicy as you'd like, but the Key Lime BBQ sauce was absolutely boring. When you read Key Lime on a menu, you're instantly thinking bright tart flavor and there was no citrus presence at all. And that tang you expect in a BBQ sauce was nowhere to be found either. The baked potato I ordered on the side was fine, but a potato is a potato. Overall, my meal was a serious sleeper and a big disappointment.

The one redeeming feature of our meal was the Brazilian Steak Salad my girlfriend ordered. They lived up to the "grill" in Manhattan Grill and really cooked a tender piece of meat . Paired with fresh bleu cheese crumbles and fresh slices of avocado the salad was the highlight of the night.

Overall, the food experience at Manhattan Grill was kind of "meh". I wouldn't totally write them off in the future, but I'm not itching to go back either. If I were to find myself back at Manhattan Grill, the steak seems to be the way to go judging from how well the meat was cooked on the Brazilian Steak Salad.

Price: Upper end of Average
Recommendation: If you're in the area give it a shot.
What to order: One of their steaks.
Manhattan Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Deal on Groupon for R&R Taqueria

If you found the previous post about R&R Taqueria intriguing, you'll be super excited to hear that they are offering a great deal on Groupon right now! They are offering $30 dollars in value for $15 (more than enough for 2 people) or $60 in value for $25. Hook yourself up and come back here and let me know what you think of the food.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

R&R Taqueria

Not that long ago a new Mexican restaurant opened inside the cafeteria at White Marsh mall. Considering I work within walking distance of the mall, I often find myself meandering through the cafeteria looking for something good to eat on days I forget to pack a lunch. I struck gold when I decided to take a chance and try the R&R Taqueria.

Ever since the day I tried their food I've been telling everyone I can they need to try this place out. If you like Mexican food, it's a must eat as far as I'm concerned. Apparently, I'm not the only who feels this way. As I was putting my order in yesterday, I noticed a big poster in the background touting the fact that the R&R Taqueria will be featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on February, 27. Unbeknownst to me, the location in White Marsh isn't the only R&R restaurant in the Baltimore area. They also have a restaurant in Elkridge in a Shell gas station.

At this point, the only thing I've ordered is the steak burrito. I think what makes their food stand out is the fact that they cook everything to order. Their isn't a whole bunch of grilled chicken or steak sitting in a bin waiting for customers to come along and order. The steak is tender and tastes delicious when combined with the fresh onion and pepper they fry along with it. The pinto beans they top the burrito off with are (to steal a phrase from Guy Fieri) "out of bounds". Beyond creamy is how I like to describe them.

As good as the burritos are, after take a looking at their to-go menu I know know I'll have to venture off and try the rest of their menu ASAP. They have tortas, tacos, huaraches, and a variety of platters. The chili relleno platter and the R&R Tacos Enchilados (lamb tacos!) have my name all over them. Did I mention that the most expensive thing on their menu is less than 10 dollars? I think I might starting "forgetting" my lunch a lot more often now that I have a place like this within walking distance. Even if you can't walk to the R&R Taqueria, don't let the distance get in between you and this sublime Mexican food. It's fantastic.

Price: Cheap
Recommendation: Visit ASAP
What to order: Steak Burrito

Update: I recently went back to R&R after purchasing a Groupon and have a whole slew of new recommendations. You're going to need more than one visit to get an appreciation for all this place has to offer. Their flautas are excellent. They are super crunchy on the outside and filled with tender chicken on the inside. Dip them in their red and green salsas and you're in for a really nice Mexican treat. I was also highly impressed with their lamb tacos. Simply dressed with raw onions and cilantro these tacos will instantly change your mind about what a taco should be. Lastly, they had a lamb soup that blew my mind. It may have been served from  Mexican joint but it reminded me of a mix of beef barley soup and something you'd get at an Asian restaurant. It had a very flavorful and rich beef broth, tender shredded lamb, cilantro, chives, and a little bit of onion. Don't hesitate to try this soup out.

R&R Taqueria (White Marsh Mall Food Court) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Toss {A Gourmet Pizzeria}

Last night, my girlfriend and I decided to cash in on a Groupon we purchased a bit ago. Having never heard anything about this place we headed out to try our luck at Toss. They are located just a bit past The Senator Theatre heading into the city if you're familiar with the area. Keep your eyes peeled as your driving because the outside of the restaurant is very nondescript. I was looking for the restaurant and still didn't catch it. Luckily, I have girlfriend with eyes that work.

The inside of the restaurant is pretty simple. I did a quick count of seats and right now there is room for 30ish guests. We didn't have a problem getting a table as we walked in at just the right time, but I can imagine a bit of a wait on weekend nights. The inside of Toss is decorated with what I'm guessing is local art that you can buy if you're so inclined. Just be careful not to get grease prints on your new painting after eating the pizza. The ordering process is pretty informal. You put your order in at the front register, find a seat, and wait until someone brings the food. Despite having a full house, our food was brought out very quickly.

One thing to keep in mind if you're heading out with a couple of friends is that Toss is a BYOB establishment. I've never actually participating in a BYOB restaurant, but I like the idea. Nine times out of ten buying an entire 6 pack is only slightly more money than the average beer at a restaurant. And most importantly, you aren't a slave to someones beer list and can drink whatever your heart desires.

So, how was the pizza you ask? Probably a pretty good question considering we're talking about a pizzeria,right? Unfortunately, I don't have that answer for you. I was looking for something a little lighter and we ended up trying out a few of their sandwiches and hummus.

Scooped on top of a lettuce leaf and with a kalamata olive garnish and a plate full of warm pita bread, the hummus was delicious. My favorite way to eat hummus is warmed through and while their version was served at a slightly cool temperature, I still enjoyed it. There is more than enough hummus to make 4 people happy. It looked to me like they put a little extra kalmata olive juice over top and it gave a good salt presence that otherwise may have been missing. And they don't go overboard with the garlic while presenting a very simple yet delicious appetizer.

For dinner, I went with their Italian Steak sandwich. It's served on a toasted bun that may or may not have been homemade, but was excellent nonetheless, topped with steak, mozzarella, onions, green pepper, lettuce, tomato, and creamy Italian dressing. Mediterranean fries are served on the side.

I loved my sandwich. The steak was tender and the creamy Italian dressing was just a tad sweet and brought the whole thing together. As I mentioned earlier the bun they serve the sandwiches on is very good. Crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, the bun might very well have been the star of the show.

They call them "fries", but they are more in the mold of potato wedges. They were fried just right, but the seasoning left them kind of bland. They put paprika or something on them, but I would have been happier with basic salt and pepper. But whatever, the sandwich was huge and I was more than happy with that. 

My girlfriend decided on the Gerty's Turkey sandwich. Served on the same roll, it was topped with turkey, mozzarella, red onion, roasted red pepper, pesto sauce, lettuce, and sun dried tomato. It doesn't mention specifically in the menu, but I think the sun dried tomato was include via a mayo. The feedback I got about this sandwich was that between the pesto, sun dried tomato mayo, and roasted peppers it was kind of flavor overkill. She took the peppers off and after that she more than enjoyed her dinner. The bite or two I had of her sandwich left me impressed. If you're into big flavors, this sandwich definitely delivers on that.

At the end of the night we both agreed that this was a restaurant we'd be visiting again. The fact that we went to a pizzeria and were as impressed with our selections despite them not being their signature dish left us planning our next visit before we'd even left. The food is served quick, hot, and tasting good. Without a doubt we'll be back in the near future to try the pizza and I suspect we'll even bigger fans of Toss than we already are.

Price: Average
Recommendation: Visit ASAP
What to order: Italian Steak Sandwich