Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#8 Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC

On Friday March 30, Ashley was back in town on Spring Break from college, and my other two daughters also had no school. So, I took the day off work. This was the first time I was able spend with all 3 of them together in almost 2 years. Ashley wanted to go to the National Zoo in Washington DC and I told her I'd take them out to dinner at Comet Ping Pong for our Triple D stop #8.  We got the the Zoo when it opened at 10am and it was a long day of walking around seeing all the animals by the time the Zoo closed at 4:30. We made a quick drive up Connecticut Avenue and found a parking place behind the set of buildings where Comet Ping Pong is located (parking in that part of town is at a premium). We had about 20 minutes to kill before the restaurant opened at 5pm, so we browsed around at Poets and Prose bookstore just a few doors down. 

By the time we walked over to Comet  after they opened at 5 o’clock we were ready rest our feet and dig in to some pizza. The “Guy Ate Here” stencil was right outside the door. When we went in most of the tables were empty, but people were filing in quickly.  It was obviously a bit of a neighborhood hot spot. Inside, the décor had the requisite “funky” artwork, including a huge metal sculpture and an old Vespa scooter hanging from the ceiling. We were seated at small booth with a table that looked like… a Ping Pong table. Cool.

Our server delivered the menus and we browsed them over to see a nice variety of interesting pizzas. When he came back I told him about the Triple D tour. He was duly respectful of that and after some discussion with the girls (convincing them go to along) I told him we wanted what Guy ate. Our server seemed to know the drill and confirmed what I already knew from reviewing the YouTube clip - that Guy had “The Yalie” pizza (with fresh clams, garlic, melted onions, thyme, parmesan and lemon with bacon added), and “The Stanley” pizza (with homemade fennel sausage, Comet tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and mozzarella cheese). The server explained that a couple of years ago when the shot the episode, they used to put homemade ricotta cheese on The Stanley, but they usually don’t do that now. He said they can add ricotta if I wanted it that way. Of course I did! 

I also ordered a “half pint” of Fat Tire beer on tap while I waited. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a “half pint” on a menu before, but it was just the right amount in this cute as a button size.

After we ordered, I thought we should take a peek at the ping pong tables in the back of the building, since that’s one of the unique features of the place. Walking past the bar we saw 3 ping pong tables and a foosball table occupied by kids and adults have fun together. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I played ping pong (maybe college?) and I don’t think any of the girls have ever played the game before. So, rather than trying to figure out the etiquette of waiting our turn to play, we just went back to our booth and enjoyed some family conversation. As we sat at our table and waited for our food, the buzz in the room and the energy of the place filling with families continued to grow.

From the time we place our order to when we got our food it was only about 15 minutes. The server brought out our two pizzas. First off they are pretty small pizzas, so I immediately said to the girls, “Do you think this is going to be enough?” After all, we just spent the past 6 hours walking all over the National Zoo, so we had worked up quite an appetite. The Comet pizza is about the same size of as a “small” pizza from Pizza Hut or Dominoes. But, unlike those chain pizza places, these pizzas are obviously 100% fresh, hand-crafted and straight out of the oven. The crust is thin, crispy, and light tasting - not doughy at all.
The “Yalie” was an uncommon and delicious pizza with an olive oil and garlic base instead of a tomato-based pizza sauce. There were about 3 or 4 clams on each slice of pizza and they were fresh, tender, juicy and seasoned just right. The sweet tasting melted onions complimented taste and texture of the clams. The salty and crunchy bacon was the final touch to this delectable pizza. (Everything’s better with bacon, right?) The girls were a little nervous about the idea of a clam pizza, but once they tried it, they were hooked and wanted more (and so did I!)

The “Stanley” was just as good, if not even better. It was a little more like a “traditional” pizza pie. The crust was the same, but the tomato sauce was light, but flavorful. It tasted fresh made, not like a tomato paste at all. According the Triple D episode they make it themselves from organic tomatoes. It was also available for sale by the jar. The fresh “Stanley” sausage was left in big chunks with about 2 hunks of deliciousness on each slice. As requested, it was also topped with several large dollops of ricotta cheese. The compliment of the ricotta and sausage was “out of bounds!” This pizza was amazing and worthy of the “rock star” fist bump of approval that Guy gave it.

We were so hungry that we devoured these two pizzas in less than 15 minutes and ended up ordering another. We ordered the third and final item that Guy had on his show, which I originally didn’t think we were going to be able to – “The Philly”. This is a calzone made with house roasted pork, garlic, red pepper, broccoli rabe and provolone and serve with a side of the Comet tomato sauce. With the light pizza crust folded over the whole thing was crunchy on the outside with a soft, gooey, yummy inside combination of the pork and provolone added with some crunch of the broccoli. That one really hit the spot, too!

After our meal, the server asked us which one was our favorite pizza. That was a tough question. We all looked at each other and gave it some thought. I was the first to say that I thought if I had to choose one as the “best”, then I would choose “The Stanley”. It turns out that the girls also agreed. Not that we didn’t like the other ones! We got our check for just a little over $50, which is not bad for a dinner for four in DC. By the time we left the place around 6:30 it was packed with families and some young 20-somethings having some after-work beverages.. The tables outside were starting to fill up, too. We could have left sooner, but the place was a really pleasant place to hang out on a Friday evening and we were just enjoying some family time together.

I recommend Comet Ping Pong, and would definitely go back again. It has a great atmosphere, fresh and flavorful food, and friendly staff.  The challenge of dealing with traffic, driving to DC and the parking hassle is the only thing that would keep me away in the future. We made a day out of it and added a trip to the Zoo to our adventure, so as a Triple D spot, it was definitely worth the trip.

Friday, March 23, 2012

#7 Bang! - Denver, Colorado

Thursday March 22nd, was the last day of the business meeting in Denver. The meeting ended at noon and my flight was not scheduled to leave until 5:55pm. I went up to my room to pack my bag and get ready to leave, when I decided to check www.flavortownUSA.com to see if there was another nearby spot that I might be able to convince AJ to drive to before going to the airport. Sure enough, “Bang!” www.bangdenver.com was about 9 miles west of the Double Tree. It didn’t take much convincing to get AJ and Lynn up for one last Triple D adventure.  I think I’ve made Triple D converts of them!

We plugged the address into the GPS and drove past downtown on the highway and past Mile High Stadium, and exited off into the quaint little Victorian neighborhood where we found “Bang!” around 1:45pm. First impression was that it was a cool little building. Look in the front window and you see the kitchen. Not tables and patrons, but the staff cooking. Cool. A sign on the front window directs patrons to a narrow alleyway between buildings where the entrance is in the back patio. That’s very cool. There were a few people sitting out back in the patio and we were asked by the host if we wanted sit inside or outside. Even though it was nice outside, the indoor seating looked really interesting with artwork and colorful décor. We seemed to arrive just after the lunch rush as there was a large party who left soon after we sat down. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and I was diggin’ the vibe of the place “Indie rock” music was playing on the radio in the background. I heard Vampire Weekend and the Shins being played as well as a few other cool new bands.

Our young waitress was very friendly and attentive.  Lynn ordered the Po Boy sandwich and said it was very good.  She liked the soft bread and shrimp cooked just right. AJ got a gluten free menu and ordered salmon served on a bed of rice, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

From the Triple D episode, I knew right away that I wanted to order the gumbo with jalapeno corn bread, which is what Guy had. It was a little different than other gumbo dishes I’ve had, and probably not 100% traditional compared to Louisiana Cajun gumbo, but it was still amazing. The shrimp was tender and cooked perfectly, the sausage was flavorful, the pieces of chopped chicken added some nice texture and the sauce was deep, rich and spicy, but not much of a kick.  The lack of a strong kick was a little disappointing, but more than made up for just in terms of the rich flavor. The jalapeño cornbread was also delicious  and light. Served like a big slice of bread, it had a nice crispness to it on the outside, but moist on the inside and just a little hint of jalapeño flavor.  

After a very enjoyable meal, the waitress asked if we wanted to see the desert menu. The other two passed, but I had read about the gingerbread reviews and had to try it for myself. It was served warm like a big piece of cake with a huge dollop of whip cream on the side. I could smell the warm gingerbread before it even got to the table… Without a doubt the best gingerbread I have ever had!

As the last stop on my four-day, 5 Triple D spot Denver adventure, I would definitely recommend going out of your way to get a bite at “Bang!” This is just a really cool little jem of a restaurant far from the touristy areas of town and a great way to finish off the Denver trip. By the way... Guy was actually at this place - see the stamp!

My only regret about hitting 5 triple D spots in four days is that the kids weren’t with me and neither was Teresa. So, I stretched the intent of my quest for the family to hit as many spots as possible, but now I have included some of my close colleagues and new friends in my “Hunt’s Triple D Food Adventures”. I also know that I made at least a few more people excited about the idea of following Guy Fieri’s lead in seeking out Diners, Drive-ins and Dives when they are on a road trip.

The adventure will continue. We've still got 9 more places to go in Maryland, so those are next on the agenda.

#6 Sam's No. 3 - Denver, Colorado

Wednesday March 21st after a long day of meetings at the Double Tree in Denver, I asked AJ if he was up for driving me to another Triple D spot for dinner. He and his colleague Lynn were both up for it, and we also recruited Jim from Fresno to join us on the road trip into downtown Denver.  By this time I think I have convinced them of the fun that can be had on the quest to eat at as many Triple D spots as possible. We drove into downtown Denver, parked the car and walked a couple of blocks to Sam’s No. 3. We arrived around 6:30 and the place was not overly crowded. We were seated right away in a section around a small table. It seemed a little cramped for the 4 of us, so Jim took it upon himself to find us a spot in a booth right by the window overlooking 15th street. Nice move!

Our server Sammy (not the owner of Sam’s) was a colorful and friendly person – with a blue faux-hawk hairdo. He took our orders and was duly impressed when I told him I was on a Triple D tour and he wanted to know where else I had been in Denver. It was a pretty basic setup inside, and obviously a fun place reminiscent of old diners. Like with most traditional diners, the menu was huge and had a little something for everyone. There were probably at least 6 or 8 items that had a Triple D logo next to it, indicating that I had been featured (or mentioned) on the show. Guy said the place is known for it’s “kickin’ green pork chili.”

AJ ordered chili cheese fries for us all to share as an appetizer and Sammy asked if we wanted green chili or red chili on it.  I told AJ to ask for “Christmas” (which in New Mexico is widely known for meaning “both”) but that seemed to stump poor Sammy. He said, “Oh, we call that ‘Tex-Mex’.” (“Really?” I thought to myself, that’s a lesson learned.)  Apparently the lingo is different in Denver than it is in New Mexico, where “Green or Red?” is generally considered to be “the state question.” But I digress… because the chili cheese fries were delicious on both red AND green sides.  As the picture shows, we started devouring them before I had a chance to snap a picture of them as they were presented.

For the entrée, AJ, Lynn and Jim all ordered the chili rellenos plate. That had a Triple D logo by it on the menu, and it looked interesting to me, but I thought the Mexi-Burger sounded good, so I ordered one. Sammy asked me how I’d like it cooked and I ordered it medium-well. We sat around the table and had some good conversation (including Jim giving AJ and Lynn a hard time for not authentically rolling their “r” when pronouncing “chili rellenos”). The food arrived and we still had not finished the chili cheese fries, so you can say the service was quick. I started to dig into my Mexi-Burger, which is a hamburger patty cut in half, then placed inside a flour tortilla, folded over, then covered with melted cheddar cheese and the “kickin’ green chili”. I had a choice of potato on the side, and decided to walk on the wild side and order “tots”. Let’s start with the burger itself… not to be cruel, but it was overcooked (well done) and dry. Thankfully the flavor of the green chili that smothered the dish made up for the poorly executed burger cooking. Overall, I would honestly have to rate the Mexi-burger was fairly good, not great. I try not to be too critical, but I was disappointed and really rooting for this to be a great dish…it wasn’t. Thankfully, the tots were light and crispy and not greasy at all.  The other 3 seemed to enjoy their chili rellenos (which were huge!), but later admitted that they were really only “pretty good”, not “great”.

All in all, Sam’s #3 seems to be a typical diner. I guess the thing that sets it apart and why it was featured on the show that they are family owned and they have great homemade green chili. I will give them credit that the green chili sauce was very flavorful and quite a nice little surprise.  As far as recommendations go, the atmosphere was pretty cool, the staff was having fun, the prices are reasonable for the amount of food you get and it is a Triple D spot.  It was a fun adventure and I would not take it back...

As a side note, I was looking to take a picture of the "Guy Ate Here" logo/stencil, but it was nowhere to be found. I asked Sammy about that and he was stumped so went to go ask someone else. He came back saying he was told that Guy only puts his stamp on places where he actually visits and that he did not appear there at Sam's No. 3. Instead, the place was only "featured on the show". After further review of the YouTube video of the segment, he's right. You can hear Guy's voice over, but never see him in the restaurant.  Hmmm.

#5 Tocabe - Denver, Colorado

On Tuesday March 20th, after a long day of meetings at the hotel in Denver, a group of colleagues who work for an Indian tribe in Oregon wanted to go out to Tocabe for dinner www.tocabe.com.  They weren’t going because it is a Triple D site, but wanted to go because it is a Native American restaurant. For me, it was Denver Triple D spot #3 in just two days. My colleague Dolores had been there before and knew some of the Tocabe employees from her performance as a stand up comic last year, so she called ahead of time and let them know a group would be coming out. Apparently, as a Native American owned restaurant, they don’t do “reservations”. (Pun intended). Tocabe was about 8 miles west of the Double Tree hotel, which would have been a very expensive taxi ride. Even though it was far beyond the 1 mile “courtesy shuttle” route, somehow the hotel’s transportation coordinator was talked into providing 8 of us round trip shuttle service, for a nominal tip (we each pitched in $5).

Tocabe has a décor that reflects Native American art and style. It is owned by an Osage Tribal member and most of the staff working behind the counter and the kitchen appeared to be Native American youth (there is a large Urban Indian population in Denver).

The service is set up much like Chipotle where you choose from a variety of toppings, but instead of serving Tex-Mex burritos they serve “Indian Tacos”. Indian Tacos are a traditional Native American dish made with a piece of frybread that is smothered with a variety of meat, beans, cheese and other toppings. At this point, I should point out that I am a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and have lived and worked in “Indian Country” for years and so has Dolores (the ring leader of the Oregon group who works for a tribe in Oregon), who is a member of the Seneca Tribe. At one time I was her boss. The place was not very crowded and I got in line behind the other people in our group. Dolores and the rest of the Oregon gang, including Eleanor, Celeste, Joe and his long-lost Cousin John from Montana, and also my boss Gary and colleague Maria all ordered a different type of Indian Taco. Once we sat down they seemed to devour them with enthusiasm and we were later joined by a former colleague and Navajo tribal member, Sasha. 

Because I have had many Indian Tacos at pow wows and other Native American events over the years, and have made it at home for my kids on occasion I was more focused on ordering something that I had never had before. I really came there with one thing in mind - to eat what Guy had. I know that the chicken Indian Taco was on his menu, but I had my taste buds were craving Bison Ribs with blueberry BBQ sauce. I placed my order, and they told me they’d bring it out to the table.

Before I sat down I got a nice locally brewed Oatmeal Stout on tap.  The ribs came out quickly and were served on a piece of frybread (which is probably some of the best frybread I have ever had) and a side of green chili stew. The green chili was the bomb! It had deep flavor of the green chili and pork and had a nice kick. I ate about half of the stew in what you might call “European” style (with my spoon) and the rest of it what you might call “Native” style by scooping it with pieces of frybread. Yum, yum! The bison ribs? Well, they had nice seasoning, a nice little bit of char (aka “bark”) on it and were very  tender and flavorful. The blueberry (or was it chokecherry?) BBQ sauce was killer! It was sweet from the berries, but had a nice little chili induced kick to it. I would have ordered seconds of just those ribs, if I could have.

Tocabe was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to any Triple D tourists, or anyone wanting a unique dining experience. The food was fresh, the servers were very friendly and attentive. They came out to the table to clear our plates and ask us if everything was okay. As for the group of eight, we all had a blast and it was just like a Native family gathering with lots of stories and laughter. We finished the meal off with some frybread that my boss Gary bought for the table to share for desert. He got 2 pieces that were covered with cinnamon and powdered sugar. We all tore pieces off and squirted honey on it before eating it. It was very tasty. There’s probably no other place you can get authentic Native American food like this without getting it at an Indian Taco booth at a pow wow, or at someone’s home.

#4 Steuben's Food Service - Denver, Colorado

On the evening of Monday March 19th at an early evening “meet and greet” for the Denver conference, I found out that my colleagues AJ and Lynn from Wisconsin had a rental car for the week. I thought to myself, “Hmm, this could be a great way to catch all the spots on my list, if I could convince them to drive me.” I told them about my Triple D food adventures, and it didn’t take much to talk them into agreeing to drive about 6 miles west of the hotel for my Denver Triple D stop #2: Steuben’s Food Service www.steubens.com.  This was going to be two Triple D stops in one day! Awesome!!

After the meet and greet we got in the rental car, plugged the addressed into the GPS headed out for dinner. It was about 8pm by the time we got there and we were originally told it would be a 20 minute wait to sit outside on the patio under the heaters. I told the hostess that I was there for a Triple D and blogging about my experiences and she and her co-hostess seemed enthusiastic about it. Next thing you know, we’re being seated within 5 minutes in an inside booth. Sweet! Steuben’s is a converted old mechanic’s garage, and is really a cool place. Once you are inside, you would never know that it used to be an old garage. The décor is clean, hip and the crowd seemed to also fit that bill. It appeared to be a bit of a hot spot for young 20 and 30-something hipsters.

At the table, water was served in what appeared to be an old vodka bottle. That was cool.  The waiter was pretty attentive, but obviously he had lots of tables in his section because the service was not real quick before we could order and getting refills of water took a while. But those are minor complaints. It really was a fun atmosphere. AJ is on a gluten free diet, and the waiter immediately brought him a gluten free menu. I ordered an appetizer of fried cheese (in honor of my Wisconsin friends) and AJ (originally from Chicago) ordered a Chicago-style hotdog without a bun as his appetizer. It came with all the genuine fixin’s including the green relish, tomato slices, cucumbers, pickle slice, sport peppers, onions and celery salt (all in little side dishes for his gluten free dog). The fried cheese was lightly breaded mozzarella, served with a marinara sauce. Kind of like a mozzarella stick, but better. While it was not what I expected (I’m not sure what I thought it was going to be), it was quite good.

For the entrée course, I ordered the Lobster Roll and fries ($20), because that was what Guy featured on the show. It was made with a generous portion of freshly flown-in Maine lobster and a light mayo dressing inside a crispy white bread bun like a hotdog bun. The lobster roll was delicious and right up there with the same dish I’ve eaten in Maine a few times. The fries were thin-cut, seasoned just right and not greasy at all. AJ got the lobster roll without the bun and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lynn ordered the herb roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies (the other dish that Guy featured on the show). It was a chicken breast, thigh and drumstick. She gave me a taste of some of the breast meat and wow! It was “the bomb!” Chock full of flavor, moist and juicy. I would get that next time.

We were all very impressed with the quality of the food, the atmosphere and the staff at Steuben’s. Not quite the “mom and pop” feel of The Bagel Deli where I went for lunch, but this is definitely a place I would go to again, when I am in Denver.

#3 The Bagel Deli - Denver, Colorado

When I began the Hunt family quest recently, I also decided that going on a business trip, could be another great opportunity to hit some Triple D joints. So, when I had to go to Denver for a 4 day meeting, I knew I could find a few spots. I went on www.flavortownusa.com and found 4 spots that it looked like I could get to from the Double Tree Hotel on Quebec Street.  I did my homework and was ready to go on the quest!

It started early Monday morning on March 19th. I was on the same flight from Baltimore Washington International airport as my boss, Gary.  After a bit of a turbulent entry into Denver International Airport, we arrived at the Double Tree Hotel on Quebec Street just a little after 12 noon and checked in. Gary was up for the adventure with me and we asked the Concierge to help us get to The Bagel Deli www.bageldeli.com, which is about 8 miles south of the hotel.  We didn’t have a rental car, so asked the Concierge about a taxi. He said it would be about $30 one way to get there. That was out of the question. Strike One! He suggested renting a car from Avis and we asked, but they had nothing but SUVs and Minivans left. No thank you. Strike Two! After some discussion of various options, Gary and I decided to ask the Concierge about a bus. It turns out we could take a 30 minute ride on the #65 bus for only $2.50 one way. Bingo! What a bargain.

It was a beautiful partially sunny day with some scattered clouds and the temperature was pleasant 65 degrees, or so. We moseyed on down to the bus stop less than a block away and hopped on the first bus that stopped… After a few minutes Gary said “I didn’t check to see if this was the #65 bus.” Oops. Neither did I. Luckily we had only gone about 10 blocks on what we realized was the #43 bus, before we got off and walked, then ran to catch the next #65 bus. Whew! That was almost strike three.

This blog is called “Hunt’s Triple D Food ADVENTURES”, and you can tell that just getting to the Bagel Deli was turning out to be an “adventure”. We rode on the city bus, with all kinds of interesting “local” characters like the white-haired retired guy with the hearing aid, the group of young Hispanic students, a skinny college student with a chemistry text book, a bicycle dude, and assorted mix of people taking the bus from here to there. This provided us the chance to see the “real” Denver that most tourists probably never see. Besides the characters, the 8 mile trip down Monaco Street ended up being a tour of Denver homes. Some probably cost close to a million dollars and some were obviously were much more “working class” homes. This was where real people lived and worked. We drove past some parks, strip malls, schools, gas stations and various other sites all to find out way to our stop at the corner of Monaco and Hampden Ave.

We got off the bus and could smell the fresh mountain air, and could see the Rocky Mountains off in the distance. Just a short walk from the bus stop, and there it was! The Bagel Deli. Glowing like a choir of angels in the afternoon sun, and just sitting in the middle of a non-descript strip mall just behind a corner gas station. It would have been so easy to miss the place had we not know it was a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives destination (lest anyone miss that point, they have a big Triple D logo outside). Gary took my picture in front of the place and we proceed in.

We entered The Bagel Deli at just after 1pm. It was not overly crowded, and we sat ourselves in a booth. I immediately recognized the owner Joe from the show. He was sitting in a booth chatting with some customers (regular’s I assumed). We were quickly asked for our drink orders (I got Iced Tea and Gary got soda) and a menu. I didn’t even need to look in the menu, because there was a little placard on the table that said “What Guy Ate” sampler: Matzah ball soup, meat Knish and Kishke. We both ordered that, and in the quick 5 minutes it took for us to be served Gary read through the menu. He assured me that it was very traditional and like the food that he and his relatives would have eaten at a Jewish deli in New York or elsewhere.

The Matzah Ball Soup was excellent. Chock full of flavor and it became clear why this dish is considered to be good for the soul. The meat knish had a nice crispy, but light pastry and flavorful meat inside. The waiter suggested eating it with the red horseradish and some brown mustard. That, was "the bomb!" I liked it so much that I ordered a potato knish to go when we left (which I later ended up giving to my colleague Doug who is from Denver and has frequented the Bagel Deli before).  Now let me talk about the Kiscke... Guy said "I get a kick out of kishke" and I know why. It was like Thanksgiving stuffing shaped into a tube and served in an out of this world flavored au jous sauce. I could have easily ordered another one (or two) of those.
Instead, I looked at the desert menu. At Gary's suggestion, I ordered a couple of Rugulach (one chocolate and one appricot). Those were a very nice light little desert that Gary and I split. He said that Rugulach is something that would have been brought by one of his relatives when going to visit someone, with the idea of never visiting without bringing some food.

After we ate, I noticed that Bagel Joe was sitting at a table and reading a paper while he was having a little nosh. I introduced myself, told him I was doing a Triple D tour, came all the way from Baltimore and that he was my first stop in Denver. He engaged us in a very nice conversation and seemed genuinely interested in hearing where we were from. He talked about how appearing on Triple D has been such a fun experience for them. He really seemed to embrace the whole Triple D experience.  

Gary and I left the Bagel Deli quiet satisfied and walked to the bus stop. As we waited for the city bus back to the hotel, we had a conversation with an interesting local who was talking about Denver sports (this was the day that Payton Manning announced that he was going to sign with the Denver Broncos). He was drinking a can of beer out of a paper bag as he was waiting for the bus….

What an adventure! We made it back to the hotel safe and sound. I would definitely return to the Bagel Deli and recommend it to my friends who live in Denver. This was the perfect Triple D food adventure: great food and a great experience and great conversation with the owner.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

#2 Galway Bay Irish Pub - Annapolis, MD

For our Triple D stop number two the kids weren’t with us. Teresa and I spent the day out on the Eastern Shore for some bird watching, but we wanted to stop into Galway Bay Irish Pub http://www.galwaybayannapolis.com/ in Annapolis on our way home. Our good friends Ruthie and Ed, joined us for dinner and we had great food, great atmosphere and great conversation.

At this point I'll state the obvious: Galway Bay is an Irish Pub/Restaurant. So.... it is not a Diner, not a Drive-in, and to call it a “Dive” is really stretching the common definition of "dive". It’s a pretty nice place for an Irish pub with a full restaurant menu. I understand it’s locally owned, not a big chain and does everything traditional from scratch… so I guess that qualifies as a “dive” by some standards. But, I digress... who am I to question Guy Fieri and the Triple D definition of a "Dive"? The place was featured on the show, so that's good enough for me! This will go in the books as stop #2 on the Hunt's Triple D Food Adventure.

We showed up around 7pm, just behind a large party of 12 some of whom were also saying they heard that Guy Fieri did a show here. The hostess told us it would be 20-30 minutes, gave us a pager (much like the kind you would get at TGI Fridays or someplace like that) and we went to the bar to grab some Irish beer while we waited. I got a pint of Harp on tap for me and Teresa, and it was quite tasty for a light lager. The place was pretty busy and the bar was packed, but the wait staff was friendly and seemed to appreciate that we were there as part of our “Triple D tour”, but I did hear one of the staff at the front say with an unimpressed “yea…everybody’s doing that…”

We were seated about 20 minutes after we arrived and our waitress was friendly and very helpful when I told her about our Triple D tour and that I have a blog to document our adventures. I admitted that I could not remember what dishes were featured on the show. She told us it was the Killarney Cabbage Wrap (an appetizer pictured to the right) which we ordered, and found to be quiet tasty... corned beef inside a cabbage wrap with some nice dressing on the top.

Our waitress said that they also made the Galway Bay Fried Oysters appetizers for Guy when he was there, but that the dish didn’t make it into the show for some reason. We ordered them anyway, and the oysters were cooked perfectly with just a light amount of breading with very light seasoning. They seemed to be deep fried just long enough to add some uniform crunch to the coating, but they were light and tender. As you can see from the picture on the left, they were good sized oysters. It came on a bed of coleslaw that Guy apparently described as “righteous”. I have to agree, because the cabbage was shredded very thin and the dressing was light and very fresh with hint of vinegar and some other mysterious seasonings... the "lack" of over seasoning and heaviness of a typical coleslaw is what made it "righteous" to me.  

For my entree I ordered the corn beef and cabbage (pictured to the right), because it was featured on the show. I’m no expert on that dish, because I’ve probably on had it less than a dozen times in my life, but it was very good. I guess it's hard to mess up this dish. It was served with a side of mashed potatoes and a carrot side dish that was a sweet chunky puree like "mashed carrots" that was lightly spiced. I am really not a big fan of carrots, but I enjoyed it. The stone ground mustard added just the right amount of kick to the dish. My mother would be proud, because I cleaned my plate.

Teresa ordered Lamb Stew (on the left), and she gave me a few bites. The lamb was so tender and flavorful, and the broth was rich and delicious, but not overbearing. "It was more brothy than a regular stew". It was served with a plop of mashed potatoes in it and some delicious soda bread as a side. We had the left over broth put in a "to go" container and gave it to Ruthie and Ed, because they were going to feed it to their dog... Lucky dog!

My overall impression is that this is a pretty classy place for a Triple D joint. It's located just a block from The Governor's Mansion right in the heart of Annapolis on a historic brick-paved street. The building itself, while old, was well taken care of. We were there on a Saturday night and the place was crowded. There was a fun and casual atmosphere with everyone enjoying their food and good spirits to be found. The service was good and it was a great experience. I would recommend it to other Triple D travelers, but be warned that if you're looking for a cheap greasy spoon, you won't find it here.  Our bill was $51 for 2 dinners, 1 appetizer, 1 soda & coffee. The 2 Harp pints of beer were $13 at the bar. For a nice “date night” dinner, the price was about average for this part of the country. But if you're looking for a true “dive”, then it is pretty expensive. Next time we’re in Annapolis we will stop by Galway Bay for some Irish food and bring the kids so they can mark it off their Triple D list. However, next time we’ll probably be more economical and go for lunch, or just appetizers.

We’re looking forward to the next stop on our Triple D Food Adventure. Where will it be? You’ll have to check back to find out for sure, but it will be someplace in Baltimore.