Eat It, Damn It!

Reviews, raves, slams, and damns.

Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Original Pancake House

I needed to get my car battery checked on a Saturday. Taking in a vehicle on a Saturday afternoon is just a recipe for annoyance and impatience. It should not take long to check a battery, but of course, there is the “We’re swamped,” “I’ve only got 2 technicians,” “You didn’t make an appointment,” statements, that one understands, but doesn’t make the time go any quicker. I needed brunch.

I found The Original Pancake House in White Plains. It is a miniature chain in New York. The feel is decidedly casual, close to the vibe of their main competitor, IHOP. The space is pretty roomy, which is nice, and the high ceilings dissipate some of the chattering of nearby tables.

The menu is huge. I needed a few minutes to absorb it all. There are a plethora of pancakes, omlettes, sandwiches, specials, sides… It was a little overwhelming. However, due to my leg work beforehand, I was leaning towards omlette.

Vegetarian Omlette
The Vegetarian Omlette is gigantic. The fork in the picture is to give you a sense of scale. If you’ve ever held a foam football made for toddlers, you’ve got a good idea of the size of this eggy monster. It came complete with broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. Nothing was skimped on. This was a big, fluffy, overstuffed, behemoth of an omlette. Check out the innards.

Vegetarian Omlette Innards
It was very good. The eggs were not overcooked. The broccoli was not raw, which I love. The mushrooms were big and meaty. The cheddar was sharp and plentiful. I wholeheartedly recommend getting an omlette with your choice of innards. Omlettes were available with sausage, pulled pork, chorizo, peppers, and a ton of other stuff. Though the menu warns that dishes may take 20-30 minutes during peak operating hours, it is well worth the time.

I had an option of toast or pancakes. Wanting to try out the item this establishment uses in their namesake, I went with pancakes.

Buttermilk Pancakes
The pancakes are well cooked, but boring. First strange thing, the pancakes weren’t hot. I put some whipped butter on top, and it didn’t melt. Second, the syrup they use is really thin, practically watery. The pancake texture is good, but the flavor is just “blah”. I imagine that their pancakes might be good with a robust topping, but plain… not so much. This is not to say that I would try their pancakes again, but I’d probably get some sort of fruit and/or nut topping.

I will probably be returning to The Original Pancake House at some point in the future. I’m curious about their take on sandwiches. I will not be having plain pancakes again.

The Original Pancake House
277 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
914-358-1364
(Google Map)

Bodega on Central

Bodega Storefront
In Florida? Gotta’ get some Cuban food. Granted, MFG and I were in St. Petersburg, not Miami, so we may not have been in the ideal locale for Cuban cuisine. Nonetheless, we found Bodega on Central.

Bodega is a nice little lunch spot, but their seating is mostly outdoors. The menu is not huge, but what they do, they do nicely.

Cuban Sandwich
I opted for the Cuban Sandwich. It was very nice. Everything was in good proportion, from pork to ham, from pickles to cheese. The exterior was crisp, the interior was meaty and salty. A very nice rendition.

Ropa Vieja
MFG got the Ropa Vieja platter. It arrives in something that resembles an oversized Chinese take-out carton. Definitely more environment friendly than plastic. The portion is good. The meat was tasty, and the accompanying rice, black beans, and plantains make it a very good lunch option.

Sugar Cane Sprite Sugar Cane Coke
The soda selection features the cane sugar versions of soft drinks.

If you are in the St. Petersburg area and are willing to travel a little off the beaten path, Bodega is a nice option. There are some shops in the area, so you can do a bit of browsing before and after your meal. It is a little too far to walk from the waterfront area, but is only a few minutes away by car.

Bodega on Central
1120 Central Ave.
St Petersburg, FL 33705
727-623-0942
(Google Map)

Pepe’s Place

If you’ve watched the Food Network, you get the impression that a chef’s personality is reflected in their food. Granted, you usually see celebrity chefs making the meals that made them famous. Heck, they’re on the Food Network. If they weren’t emboldened by their success before being televised, they are certainly now ready to allow their identity to shine through in what they prepare. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to try out these dishes. Some of us are hampered by not living near their restaurants. Sometimes, the chefs have achieved such a level of fame that they’ve created mini-chains from which their personality has been diluted for the sake of easy preparation and mass consumption. Other times, their restaurants are just too damn expensive.

On my first visit to Pepe’s Place, I met Pepe himself. He is very warm and welcoming. As he would tell me on a later visit, “I like to think of my customers as clients.” Not a bad philosophy.

A side note: I never tip my hand that I’m writing a review. If I’m dining in, a camera does not get pulled out until my food arrives. If I am having take away, I wait until I get home to take any photos.

Pepe said, “I haven’t seen you here before.” He then brought out a little sampler platter. Right away, that spoke volumes. Here is a chef that is so proud of his food that he wants you to try out multiple dishes right away. Second, this is a business owner that is going out of the way to ensure that you see the diversity that his menu has to offer. All I could think to myself is, “Wow. I really hope this is good.” There’s nothing worse that liking the chef, but hating the meal.

Pepe’s sampler was very generous. It was three of his sides: Aged Reserve Cheddar Mac & Cheese ($4.00), Northern Soul Mustard Greens ($4.00), and Tahitian Vanilla Bean Yams ($4.00).

Here’s some pics of the full sides (Greens and Yams) from a later visit.
Mustard Greens
Vanilla Yams

The Mustard Greens are magical. They have a tartness that many associate with mustard greens, but there is also a sweet quality. While there is a little tang, it doesn’t quite taste like the usual vinegar tang that many associate with cooked southern greens. Though there is a tinge of bitterness, the tart and the sweet balance it out very nicely. Unlike the bitterness of Broccoli Rabe, which usually needs another dish to curb its edge, these greens only had a slight bitter flavor to contrast a sweetness. It’s a complex and meaty dish that is well worth ordering.

The yams are magical. Unlike candied yams, the sweetness of this dish is not cloying. I imagine that it is the vanilla that keeps the dish from turning into a desert-like side. The yams are cooked perfectly. This is a must order. The gluten intolerant have no reason to complain. Those watching carbs, “Suck it up.” These are delicious. Run in place while you eat them.

The mac & cheese is very good. If you like a standard mac & cheese, it would be a very nice dish. The cheese is sharp, but not overly so. If it sounds like I’m hedging, it is because I make plenty of mac & cheese at home. I usually use a blend of cheeses. Admittedly, that is not for everyone, but I am a big fan. If you like a standard mac & cheese, Pepe’s is a good option.

If you order two or three sides on their own, you will have a wonderful filling meal. Pepe certainly does not skimp. Even my sampler platter was filling me up.

Lamb over Rice
I went with the Moroccan Grilled Lamb Platter ($8.00). It is Pepe’s take on the Halal cart staple.

There is plenty of flavor in Pepe’s version. Comparing it to a standard Halal cart version is kind of like comparing a really good fast-food burger to a stakehouse burger. There is a richness and complexity of flavor to Pepe’s version. His rice is also quite good. The lamb is well cooked and the portion is generous. The white sauce is also good. It was a really good dinner version of the meal. It did not have the fast-food, greasy, salty flavor of a Halal cart version. Though it sounds like a diss on the Halal Cart version, I don’t mean it as one. If I’m drunk at 3am on a weekend, the Halal Cart version is perfect for cutting through all the booze in my stomach. Pepe’s is far more complex and refined. The only thing missing from Pepe’s version was hot sauce. Granted, I didn’t notice that until I was done, so it wasn’t really a glaring omission.

On my first visit, I also got to try out something else. Someone had phoned in an order of NY Buffalo Jumbo Shrimp ($15.00), but they had not come to pick it up. Pepe let me try. OMG!!! Wow! The shrimp is meaty and plump. The buffalo sauce is spicy and tangy, but not so hot as to overwhelm the seafood. It is a very popular dish on the menu and after one taste, there is no question as to why.

On my next visit, I got the Moroccan Grilled Lamb Gyro ($6.00).

Gyro
It’s nicely done, but there is nothing so bold as to make it a must order over the other dishes I’ve mentioned.

Pepe’s is a small place, mostly take away, but there is some seating available. As Pepe himself told me, the menu isn’t huge, but everything on it is a dish he makes with pride. There is nothing on the menu for the sake of having it on the menu. Pepe’s Place may not look like a destination restaurant, but it absolutely worth the trip.

Pepe’s Place
560 North Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10801
914-632-7373
(Google Map)