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9 Irish Brothers 575 Massachusetts Avenue.

Okay. This joint hit Indy this summer. It’s a home-grown “chain”. Which means they started in Lafayette Indiana, expanded to West Lafayette and eventually opened another joint in Indy. They managed to secure a spot at the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place. That is to say they found a very nice location and did it proud.

The place is large and nicely appointed. You can tell they have a good idea as to how to run a business. From what I could read on the reviews the place was not received very well. Pat and Fran went there at opening and had mixed thoughts about food and prices. They have a nice presence on the Net however there are no prices listed. I find that somewhat disconcerting. What I found was a fine little pub with some decent food and competitive prices.

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We ordered the goat cheese fritter appetizer. Little croquettes of breaded goat cheese on a bed of mixed greens with a raspberry vinaigrette. Actually it was not too bad. The slightly sour cheese, bitter greens and a sweet raspberry dressing made for a tasty bite. Cost: $ 8.45.

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Our server, Holleh did an excellent job at service. She was on top of Pat’s onion aversion. She told him that the mashed potatoes had onion in them. Imagine that. He ordered a half order of corn beef and cabbage subbing house chips for the mashed potatoes. Their chips are thick slices of fried potato.

 

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This is my lunch. It is a new addition to the menu. They call it a Fisherman’s Pie. A take off on a Shepherd’s Pie. It was very interesting. It came out in an 8 or 10 ounce crock. A healthy portion for $7.45. It was a blend of salmon, white fish, shrimp and veggies in a cream sauce. Covered with mashed potatoes and cheese. Well. Your first taste, naturally was tater and cheese. Then you hit the cream sauce. Tasty, but overwhelming. There was no texture in the dish. The salmon was like the white fish. Which was like the shrimp. Or the vegetables. The flavor was all about the  sauce. . I thought it was tasty I just didn’t taste the fish. I probably would not get it again, the way it was prepared. The soda bread rocked.

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Now this joint is noted for its Whisky, Whiskey flights. As well as their Guinness pours.

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Now this is really difficult to read. That is my fault. I still have not learned the proper way to use my scanning wand. Sorry about that. Any one with suggestions; let me know.

I opted for the Lesser Know Great Flight. It had single malt, blended and pot still. All the basic whiskey ( whisky) groups. I though it was great. And a bargain at $14.

I know Shelly. I should have tried the Single Malt Scotch Flight; but I was confused. They were playing the Rover Boys. And I was drinking Guinness. I didn’t have a chance.

But for real. This is a good joint to visit. The food is good, prices are fair and the service is on point. I have to give a shout out to Holleh. Excellent job.

Nine Irish Brothers on Urbanspoon

 

Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe.

For all you grammarians out there Naisa is Asian, spelled backwards. Cute. When Pat suggested Naisa for lunch I was more dis-interested than excited. Not because I have any issue with Asian food it just seems more than not the food revolves around a central theme. Veggies chopped up, mixed with a protein in an oyster sauce and served with steamed or fried rice. How ever I was soon reminded that not all vegetables are cooked the same.

The place is not very big. Its biggest decor feature is its modesty and simplicity. The menu is on the small side and features lunch specials in the $7 to $9 range. Each special came with rice choice and soup choice, or you could sub egg or spring roll for the soup.

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I opted for Chicken with peanuts with Sweet and Sour soup with fried rice. We were served complementary wonton chips with both duck sauce and mustard for dipping. Both sauces were pretty good. Although the mustard was not the sinus clearing hot I expect.

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The soup was excellent. Full of vegetables and with a lovely broth. I would have been happy with just a big bowl and nothing else. It also helped that the weather was rainy and chilly.

The main dish was where  this particular joints unique personality came through. The chicken and sauce were no strangers to my tongue, nor were the veggies unusual. Baby corn, celery, carrot and red bell pepper. The thing that impressed Pat and me both was the freshness and quality of the cooking. The vegetables had a snap and crunch to them and they still retained their natural sweetness. I think that it is cooking like this that makes eating even more fun.

So, there you have it. A cozy dining room, good prices and excellent cooking. And last but not at all least excellent service. Our server was on top of everything. Attentive and gracious, a great combination.

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Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Checkered Flag Tavern 5725 W. Morris Street.

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Well Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a bar. A bar that dates back to the 1940’s. A bar that was redone about a year ago. A spacious bar with pool tables, about a dozen beers on tap and a grand out-door seating area with a fire pit. It also is a bar with some of the best tavern food I have had. They offer blackened catfish and frog leg appetizers, as well as real deal smoked pork sandwiches. We ordered some breaded mushrooms to start. Fresh breaded ‘shrums are always a bonus and they offered theirs for $5.50, with a horseradish sauce. Nothing prepared us for the monsters we were given.

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We received 5 mushrooms that were in excess of 3 inches in diameter. Each one was impeccably breaded in a thin breading reminiscent of a cornmeal breading usually reserved for catfish. The horse-radish dip that came with the mushrooms matched well; as did the one buck pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

As for our “entre” Pat and I were both conflicted. Pat for the “Big Ass Bacon Burger” and the “Big Pig”. Me for the catfish special and the “Big Pig”. Pat decided on the Burger. A 1/2 pound burger topped with 8 slices of bacon and cheddar cheese. He substituted pepper jack cheese and ate the whole thing. With fries the “Big Ass Bacon Burger was $7.50.checkered flag 004

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They offer a catfish sandwich for 8 bucks, choice of fried or blackened. This day the lunch special was a fried sandwich, with fries for $5. Now I love bargains. But the lure of smoked pig drew me to the porcine side. The “Big Pig” is a toasted bun with smoked ham, smoked pork and smoked bacon. Now is that not a pig tri fecta?

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The bun is nicely toasted. The ham appears to be a buffet ham exposed to extra smoke and then cooked on a griddle. The bacon looked as if it were deep-fried. No matter it was still pretty good. What carried it over the top was the pulled pork. They have a large smoker out back attached to the back of the kitchen. That way you can access the product without having smoke in your joint. Of course on the down side you must go outside to load and stoke. But heck artists must suffer for their craft.

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This imaginative sandwich is only $8.50, with fries. It is worth every darn dime. When Pat and I went to Squealers, Pat had the smoked pork. After tasting a piece of my pork sandwich he was ready to declare Checkered Flag better. I don’t know about you but I think that is pretty good for a Westside bar.

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We don’t think you can go wrong with this joint. It is simply a neighborhood bar with some outstanding food.

Checkered Flag Tavern on Urbanspoon

Lynn’s Cafe 3748 Lafayette Rosd

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Well it seems like we are off on the right foot again. We stopped at a place that knows how to cook. It’s a small and modestly furnished place that is very neat and tidy and has a super clean kitchen in view of the dining area. Pat and I had a friend join us and while we waited we chatted up with the owner. She is a super nice lady and is also a student. She is in the last year of her Masters of Divinity degree from the Christian Theological Seminary. They are open early and serve breakfast all day. They close at 2 PM during the week and have Soul Food Sundays. During the week in addition to their regular menu they offer daily specials. The specials today were breaded and fried chicken wings or Turkey Tips, both were $8.50 and came with 2 sides and choice of roll or corn bread.

Now I am sure you are wondering what is a turkey tip. Well they are de-boned turkey ribs. As to what a turkey rib is. I don’t know. The only info I have is from a sales rep several years ago. He offered that they were not formed nor processed. They were honest pieces of white meat cut by a special method that has been patented. That was the first and last time I ever thought of them until today. Lynn offered us a taste and they were really good. Moist and tender with a light BBQ sauce. On the inter-net someone did say they were pressured cook prior to shipment. I don’t know. I could not detect any signs of overcooking. A lean piece of muscle meat will invariably be chewy if it is over cooked. That was not the case here. The included link might be helpful

http://www.google.com/patents/US6280311

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I ordered corn bread, sweet potatoes and greens to go with my turkey. At the first bite I was impressed with how the tips tasted. An individual piece was tasty but a plate full was greater than the sum of its individual pieces. In either event they made be a believer. The sides matched the center of the plate well. The greens were cooked long enough to exude a nice liquor and developed a great flavor. The sweet potatoes were of the fresh variety and were whipped like russets. The candy like sweetness was a great foil to the slight bitterness of the greens and the slight smokiness of the meat. The cornbread was well made as well. It did seem a touch old but that was hardly a deal breaker.

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Our guest decided on a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat with fries. We didn’t make her write a review, but she cleaned her plate and remarked it was all very good.

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After lunch Lynn gave us a piece of chocolate cake to share. Three layers of dark deliciousness.

 

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So the west side scores another one. This place is a definite keeper. Good food and a great lady running the joint. Remember Soul Food Sunday.

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I know this is a lousy shot but that is one great looking stove. Double ovens, 8 eyes and a flat top. A beauty.

Lynn's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lets talk sauce…

Like any good fella with OCD I try to be thorough. In addition to trying to understand the science and mechanics of cooking I have been fascinated by the history of food, particularly sauces.

Over the weekend I engaged in a conversation with a blogging buddy about Sauce Bolognese. She commented that the only must haves are chicken livers and cream. My contention was that pancetta and dairy were the only essentials. So. That tete’ de tete’ got me to thinking. Maybe I was wrong. Most of my info was from long ago readings and conversations I had with older cooks. I went back through my older books ( the ones I have still ) and the notebooks I could find and the inter net. What I determined was there is a whole bunch of disparate recipes for this one classic sauce from Northern Italy.

First thing I must say is Italy is just like most nations. Authentic cooking is not a recipe card you find from Betty Crocker. It covers a big area with different climates and different resources.

Back on topic. As far as I can tell the first written recipe of this sauce was by Pellegino Artusi in a book he authored in 1891. Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Living Well. Sometime in the 1980’s the Italian Academy of Cuisine translated and published a copy in the US. That is how I discovered it. I had a copy, but lost it. Amazon has it for $35. My copy cost maybe 8 bucks. I think he just called for minced beef and pork and a sofrito. The sofrito is a mixture of fine diced onion, celery and carrot. Culinary folks would call it a mirepoix. I have made this sauce a bunch of times. For personal use and for dinner service at various joints. For the most part my take on this comes from contemporary cookbooks and anecdote. Meaning I have talked with a bunch of cooking folks, both pro and amateur. This weekend I did peruse the ether world and determined that there is a bunch of different ways to build this dish.

So to the “bottom” line. Northern Italy is about beef and pig and dairy. So dairy should be a component to Bolognese. Some say cream, some say whole milk. Pancetta is almost a must, in my opinion. Beef and veal is considered appropriate, but also ground pork. The important thing is the cutting of the stuff. The pancetta should be 1/4 diced, the other meat should be minced as well as the veggies. The whole idea is to meld all the ingredients into a seamless taste. The fat used varies from olive oil to butter to lard. The pancetta should be crisp as should be the sofrito. After the minced meat is added a good beef stock as well as a good wine should be added and reduced a bit at a time. This sauce ain’t no 30 minute meal. The tomato is a secondary yet essential ingredient. The amount is small compared to some Italian recipes. You can use canned paste or peel and seed and reduce your own. As for the dairy that is added at the end. As for seasoning nutmeg is almost obligatory anything else is up to you. When it comes to the liver that is really an enrichment component. Liver is a rich addition to any sauce. The use is similar to the use of anchovy. In either event the livers should be cooked independent of the sauce. For what it is worth. I don’t always use chicken livers, but when I do I poach them in the same stock or wine I am using. Then either pulverize them in a processor or, if you want to be rustic use a mortar and pestle with a bit of poaching liquid and coarse salt.

Well I think I have abused this moment. You can find different recipes everywhere on the inter net. So go for it.

The Garfield Park Eatery & Coffee 2627 Shelby Street

Well the Garfield Inn is gone, no more, kaput. In its place is an eatery/coffee shop. The new owners have done a major remodel of the old tavern. From a well-worn bar to a cozy little parlor with bright walls and comfortable seating.

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The old bar is still in use and behind the bar where there once were bottles of booze now sets an impressive array of coffee machines and the various supplies necessary for today’s coffee service. You order at the bar and they bring your food out to you. By the register they have big jars with cookies for $1.25 each, as well as other confections. The cookies we tried were pretty good. Mine was a chocolate chip that had a bunch of other stuff in there,like coconut and raisins. As you can see the menu is rather small and they don’t offer hamburgers. Although they did have one as a special, with fries.

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Pat ordered a breaded tenderloin, with fries for $7.95

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I ordered the special. Pasta Bolognese ( $7.45 ) and a cup soup ( German Sausage ) for $3.25. Unfortunately it was very bland. It was a brothy soup with potato, red beans, onion and potato as well as sausage and cabbage. First thing the amount of sausage was rather small, as was the rest of the ingredients. The idea sounded fine. The execution was way off.

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As for the pasta, to me it didn’t fare much better than the soup. A Bolognese is a classic. It is characterized by the use of chopped onion, carrot and celery (a mirepoix). I think what makes it a classic is the melding of the veggies with a red sauce and the reduction of beef stock and wine in the sauce. Not to mention the judicious use of nutmeg and milk or cream at the finish. What I was served was a multi colored rotini covered with a hamburger and tomato sauce with a definitely tart and tangy after taste. So guys lunch didn’t go over real big with me.

I think their idea of a coffee shop is very viable for this area. They offer free WiFi and all the espresso and latte stuff that made Starbucks rich. And even though I am no longer able to drink coffee I can still appreciate the idea of a good coffee shop. And the prices appear to be more than fair. So hopefully they’ll get the wrinkles worked out. Maybe breakfast is their forte. They scratch make the biscuits and gravy and on week ends they serve breakfast all day long. If I lived closer I’d try breakfast. I would pass on the pasta though.

The Garfield Eatery & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Javier’s Hacienda Mexican Cuisine 2444 E. Washington St.

Well Javier is back in the kitchen. For many years he ran the best Mexican kitchen in the city. El Sol. A couple of years ago Javier left, and then unexpectedly the joint closed. Well now he’s back. In the same building but with a different name.

A few years back he redid the entire dining room. Using hand-made chairs and tables from Mexico he made the whole joint resemble an open air plaza. Complete with a fountain.

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The salsa is fresh and the chips are warm, but the guacamole is a show stopper. He offers it three ways. Traditional with tomatoes etc., a personalized version with Mexican oregano and the 1800. This recipe is more than 200 years old. Avocado, garlic, fire roasted Serrano chiles and salt. Hand ground in a stone mortar and pestle. It is more than good.

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Their web site is still under construction so I scanned their menu. This I will add to Urban Spoon. Their lunch menu shows up on their Face page. I urge you to check out the menu. For folks who want authentic. Here it is.

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Pat’s Cochinta Pibil was $8.95 with black beans, and sweet plantains. And of course flour tortillas.

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Having never tried Javier’s tamales before that is what I ordered, from the lunch menu. Three tamales, chicken or beef and black beans and salad. Again $8.95. I opted for the pig. Three good-sized tamales, robust and savory with nice strands of meat. The beans were really good, and the rice was  tasty and colorful just a mite dry. I really enjoy the salad they add. Spring mix with a light vinaigrette and pickled onions.

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I am surprised that this post is as short as it is, considering my natural tendency to ramble. Well here it is. I am sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to folks that remember El Sol. Javier is back and he is as good as always. If nothing else you owe it to yourself to try the 1800 guacamole. It is that good.

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Javier's Hacienda Mexican Cuisine on Urbanspoon

 

Grub House 1953 N. College Ave.

Well all good things must come to an end. For the last several weeks we have had a pretty good run with some pretty good eats. Today I made a solo trip to The Grub House, a joint I heard about just a few days ago. I can’t say the food was terrible,nor can I say the food was wonderful. Neither really bad. Neither really good. What is left. Mediocre. Sorry guys but the food just didn’t grab me.

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The place is neat as a pin, attractive and with a great mural on the wall. I am afraid this picture doesn’t do it justice. My little orphan Nikon broke last week and I am not sure he can be saved. So I had to use my phone. The phone with the camera that hates me. Notice how the smoke from the stack wafts up to the vent on the bulk head. Brilliant.

It appears as though they don’t do much creative cooking. The menu is heavy on fried food. I have no issue with that. People dig it, and it sells. The “issue” I have is it appears to be all IQF stuff pulled from the freezer and dropped in a fryer.

You order at a counter and they bring you the food. I ordered biscuits and gravy and a Jimmy Burger. Don’t laugh at me. They serve breakfast all day and I wanted to sample their biscuits and gravy.

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What can I say. The biscuits were from a can and the gravy was bland. I ate it all. As I said, it wasn’t terrible food it just wasn’t really good food. It was only 3 bucks.

I also ordered a Jimmy burger. That is an all beef patty with grilled onion,cheese, lettuce tomato and pickle and a Grub House sauce. And that comes with a side and a beverage for $7.

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As you can see I opted for onion rings. The side options are fries, rings or okra. Since they all come in a bag the choice is possibly moot. The burger is a standard 4 to 1 patty, cooked on a flat griddle, topped with onions and cheese and served on a small sesame seeded grocery store bun. The best thing was the cold set. A nice piece of green leaf lettuce, a good slice of a 5×5 tomato and some decent pickles. Of course the Grub House sauce tasted a wee bit like 1000 Island sauce. But that’s okay, it makes me nostalgic for a Big Mac.

So that is my opinion of The Grub House. Will I go back? Probably not. If I lived closer I probably would. Come on. Some times folks need some fried grub. And only a 35 pound fat Fryolator can do it justice.

So good luck Grub House. You apparently fill a need in your area. I just would hope that the people who saw the possibilities in your mural can see the possibilities in your food.

Grub House on Urbanspoon

El Arado 1063 Virginia Avenue.

El Arada 001Pat and Fran tried this place out on Labor Day, and they both liked it. Good food, good prices and cheap beer. Actually I was a little apprehensive about the joint because, frankly the reviews on Urbanspoon were not too positive. I don’t rely entirely upon reviews to decide on what joint to try, but if the majority of comments are negative you probably should take notice. As I mentioned in an extraneous posting regarding reviews I checked for dates. One was June this year and the remaining negative tales were in 2013. The listing showed a few positive reviews in 2012 and 2011. So maybe the issue is time sensitive. Restaurants are not static. They develop and grow in time. And since they are all built around people you never know what to expect. My job is to visit a joint with my buddy Pat. Eat a lunch and give our thoughts on the food and service. We do so in a matter of fact way. We eat, we write you decide.

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The place is a pretty good size. It has a few hand painted murals that fit a Mexican theme, and the surroundings and furniture are pretty comfortable. As soon as we walked in we were approached by a server/ host that directed us to a table. In a few minutes we had our water and chips and salsa.

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Now I found this salsa to be excellent. Fresh tomatoes, jalapeno and cilantro. I also enjoyed that they offered yellow tortilla chips. Not the red,white and blue chips that seem to be so common in some joints.

On Thursday they offer the Super Donkey burro for $7.99. Now this is a huge flour tortilla stuffed with steak or chicken, beans,rice,pico- de Gallo, guacamole, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. Now that is one big boy. You have your choice of 3 sauces. Green, red or cheese. Pat ordered an altered chicken Super Donkey, with cheese sauce.

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Since Pat ordered chicken, I ordered steak with red and green sauce. The tomatillo sauce was spicy and definitely on point. They make it in-house, and it definitely hit the spot. The steak was a little chewy but with all the stuff going on it was definitely worth ordering. The red chile was warm and comforting. All in all a very tasty combination.El Arada 008

Even though neither one of us could finish our burros we decided to share a sopaipilla. Now in New Mex and the part of Old Mex I lived the sopaipilla I have eaten have been the big fluffy pillows. The kind you tear and add honey to. This sopa was flat,like a tostada. Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, shot with honey and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Cut in four pieces and topped with whipped cream. Wow. It was good. Not what I expected. But good. And the crazy thing was $1.99. You can also get it with ice cream.

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So. There you have it, our review,our opinion of El Arada. We think it is worth trying. Bon Appetite.

El Arado on Urbanspoon

Jiallo’s African-Caribbean Cuisine 4202 W. 56th Street

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This place is in a strip mall next to 3 in 1 Restaurant we reviewed some weeks back. At that time we put it on our list. I did my due diligence in research, considering Pat’s issues with onion. I told him it was doable. Fortunately he agreed. Let’s have a round of applause for the self-proclaimed “…plain kinda’ guy.” stepping out of his comfort zone and trying something different.

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The space is a good size, clean and well-appointed with comfortable and attractive furnishings. If you came to be entertained by the decor or “ambience” then you came to the wrong joint.

Jiallo’s is about food, in an attractive setting, serviced in a gracious manner. Our server was just that; gracious. I neglected to ask her name but when Pat told her about his onion issue she made repeated trips to the kitchen to get all the details. She was very knowledgeable about the menu and more than happy to answer our questions.

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They offer 2 different types of rice with their lunch specials. White rice or red beans and rice. The white rice is a small-grained African rice cooked down. Nothing fancy just a nice rice bed. The red beans and rice is a Jasmine rice cooked in red beans liquor with thyme, rosemary, red beans and onion added. So Pat opted for the Jerk Chicken with white rice and plaintains for $8.95.jiallo 004

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I wanted to keep it simple so I ordered the Curry Chicken with red bean rice and plantains for $8.95.

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Now this dish was crazy. If you see a little “ghost” in the pic that is the steam coming off the dish. I could see it in the view finder. In my dish they used legs. They “Frenched” the bones of the drumsticks. That means they cut away anything on the leg, below the knob of meat. Then they chopped off the bulbous end of the drum sick; in order to expose any marrow to the cooking liquid. In this case a curry sauce. The sauce was not a spectacular curry sauce it was a good curry sauce. Both sweet and slightly spicy with a wondrous aroma. The chicken appeared to have been braised in the sauce,and they were perfectly cooked. Fall off the bone tender with a great flavor. Marry that with the red rice and beans and the sweet plantains and you have a winner. Every time.

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On Urban spoon this particular joint has over 200 check ins with a 90% like. The only bad comments has been about the “slowness”. I noticed that on the reviews and our Super Server said the same thing. She is the only server that works there. Lunch and dinner. So…for what it is worth. Folks take a look around any joint you enter. If it is busy and the wait staff seems light. Reevaluate.

Well all I can add is this joint has some good food. I have to go back. They have some stuff I haven’t eaten yet.

Jiallo's African-Caribbean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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