Saturday, October 19, 2013

Motor Burger (Windsor, On)


20130809_204836I'm quite certain you've heard this story before. Several times over in fact. A business is no longer viable due to the "Economic Downturn" that occurred late in the last decade. It happened all over the globe but perhaps no where more so than the Detroit/Windsor area. While they are separate cities in separate countries they're more than just cross river neighbours. Their communities are tied together in just about every way imaginable. The parade of cars crisscrossing the Ambassador Bridge (and through the tunnel) on a daily basis for work or play is staggering. Not to mention that north of one quarter of the commerce between the two countries crosses that bridge connecting the two metropolises (or is that metropoli??). Simply put, if one bumps it's knee, the other says ouch.
(Ted Mosby fun fact: The D/W crossing is one of two crossings where you actually head north into the US from Canada.)
Motor BurgerThat down tur......well, lets call it what it was, a full on, dreadful recession, destroyed many businesses. A few were able to weather the storm and survive and others, such as Noi in Windsor's Little Italy, were forced to reinvent themselves. The Italian restaurant that once required you to wait for a table suddenly found itself struggling.  Could they have stuck it out and waited for the up turn?? Maybe. Not wanting to chance it and interested in a new challenge the place underwent a transformation that has spared them the executioner's axe. When Gino Gesuale and Jay Souilliere reopened as Motor Burger, most people didn't see it coming.
20130809_205909Motor Burger is the marriage of burgers and cars. The automotive themed restaurant opened in 2009 and has been going strong since. A trendy vibe and functional design is punctuated with chalk, schematic type drawings of cars and that's not the end of the vehicular theme. Menu items are named for automobiles or automotive terms. Heck, even the napkins are actual shop towels. And, much like the auto industry itself, they're in on the green movement. Ditching bottled water and utilizing a reverse osmosis system for their flat and sparkling waters for instance.

20130809_205749While they tell you the restaurant is a “present day rendition of a vintage burger joint with a modern twist on design” it may be better to think of it as a Bar and Grill focused on burgers.
They've also dipped their toes into the lubricant business. Creating their own craft brews right on the premises.

20130809_205809The success and quality of Motor Burger hasn't gone unnoticed either. Recently Readers Digest recognized their Deux Chevaux Burger as best in Canada. The Huff-Po has it as one of (#16) the Top 24 Brew Pubs in Canada. What brought it to my attention though was the visit paid by the You Gotta Eat Here gang. They were also featured in a National Film Board of Canada documentary series GDP which investigates the financial woes of Canadian businesses such as this one.

But enough of this, let's get a look at these vehicular inspired goodies.
20130809_211158The Motor Sauce is incredible. A compound mayonnaise that's full of garlic and chilies that's roots are in the French (and Creole) condiment, remoulade with chipotles added to the party. It comes on burgers or as a dipping sauce and is quite nice. It's not overly hot but does have a bit of jump and some tanginess.
20130809_210059We started with an order of Chili Spring Rolls. A really solid opening act here. Not quite blown away but very happy with these. Chorizo chili, lime, black beans, smoked cheese and topped with sour cream. The main taste is the chorizo with the others playing a supporting roll. They come 3 to an order, are deep fried and cut in half lengthwise.

20130809_211139The Motor Mac n Cheese is solid and fairly standard. There's not a lot that stands out but it's solid none the less. The use of tortiglioni rigate is a great choice for two reasons. First of all the standard elbow that's used in M&C is nice but the added length and helix shape are both aesthetically pleasing and seems to stand up better to the cheesy sauce. As well, "rigate" means it has those little ridges on the outside of the noodle. That adds surface area and more for the sauce to cling to. The pasta was nicely cooked. Falling somewhere between a perfect al dente and over cooked.
20130809_211215The Shrimp Fuel is, as you can imagine, a shimp burger flavoured with chilies, garlic, fresh tomato, cilantro and topped with avocado and mango salsa. I had probably over hyped this burger a little too much in my mind. I found it to be really good but still just ever so slightly disappointing. There was nothing wrong with it, in fact, it's very well executed. I guess the flavours were a little more subtle than I was expecting. Having seen it on TV I was excited to try it. It happens.
20130809_211125The Auto Strada burger is an absolute home run. It took everything in me to forego a beef burger for a sausage burger. I can honestly say it's one of the best burgers I've had and easily the best non beef burger ever. Chipotle rubbed northern Italian sausage, gorgonzola cheese and sliced apple slaw. There's a lot going on here and it's all good. The sausage is very flavourful and has a decent hit of spice. The cheese and slaw are up to the challenge as supporters. I just thought this was crazy good.

So there you have it folks, some truly great burgers in a hip, trendy setting.

You can find Motor Burger at 888 Erie St (Via Italia) in Windsor, On.

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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.

Motor Burger on Urbanspoon

Well that's that folks. Catch ya next time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Clubhouse Sandwich Shop

Join the Club

Clubhouse (1)Life for people in the south end of the U of T area just keeps getting better. Never mind that real estate prices are going through the proverbial roof or the on going improvements to the transit system making the city run smoother (so they say). It's becoming a foodie mecca of sorts. Stalwart noshing destinations such as Kensington Market and Chinatown have always been great options. The last decade however has seen several great additions. Some of which, for instance, Caplansky's and Fancy Franks, you've read about here.

Clubhouse (2)Welcome The Clubhouse Sandwich Shop to the nieghbourhood. The little eatery opened by neophyte restaurateur Doan Nguyen has quickly become the talk of the town. As first time restaurants go, this one avoids some of the pitfalls that plaque the newbie. First and foremost, location, location, location. It's in a good spot. Secondly, the food is first rate. It should go without saying but if you don't have a good product, you don't have anything. Lastly, they're not over thinking here. The menu is very simple. Soup and sandwiches and not too many choices either. You're far better off doing a few things very, very well than a number of things that leave people feeling; Meh. Simply put, Doan isn't (ahem) biting off more than he can chew.

The small store sits nestled on the edges of Chinatown and the University of Toronto. Inside it's minimalistic and "natural" looking. There's an abundant use of wood an a faux forest wall paper behind the counter. Suggesting the name is not an homage to the classic sandwich but the tree fort of ones childhood.

Clubhouse InteriorSeating is communal and can accommodate about a dozen seated and probably a handful more standing.
The kitchen, whence the goodies emerge is in the back.

So let's get a look at said goodies.

Clubhouse FriesThe triple cooked Hand Cut Fries are simply amazing. The best JEB claims to have had. Supported by the sight of him hoovering up every last crumb like a Dyson. So what exactly does "triple cooked" mean?? Well, the day before, large, skin on, wedge style potato chunks are boiled in salt water and left to dry for the next day. From there they get the standard double frying method (poached then crisped) that produces the best fries. To say these are crispy just doesn't do them justice. They're potato chip crisp on the outside and almost melt in your mouth fluffy/tender on the inside. Certainly some of the best I've ever had as well. I'm really hoping they offer a Cajun or some other type of seasoning down the road because I feel the possibilities are endless on this type of platform.
Clubhouse Steak SandThe Grilled Flank Steak sandwich is terrific. Very tasty marinated and grilled flank steak is accompanied by cashew pesto, braised red cabbage and Carlo's Trail Mix. I thought the whole thing had a very nice balance with, for the most part, no one thing taking a lead role. Once in a while however you'll get a bite and notice a bit more pesto or steak in the bite. JEB felt the steak was a little sparse and would be better with more. As I said I liked the balance however I could certainly agree that more steak would be a good thing. Seems to be just a fine tuning/personal preference issue.

 Clubhouse Halibut SandThe Beer Battered Fried Halibut is an amazing sandwich. There's plenty of fish on this and it's good in it's own right. The addition of tartar sauce, smoky mayo, lettuce and tomato are nice complements. It's light yet filling and keeps a nice crunch. Even with the flavours of the mayo and tartar it retains a bit of a simple feel taste wise.
So there you have it folks, some great sandwiches in an area that's becoming a bit of a go to neighbourhood food wise.

You can find The Clubhouse Sandwich Shop at 455 Spadina Ave in Toronto, On.

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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
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Well that's all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Stanlieo's Sub Villa (Huntsville, Al)

Home of the Kitchen Sink

In May of 1971,  Glenn Watson opened what would be Huntsville, Alabama's first sub shop. Taking over a tiny ice cream shop on Jordan Lane before out growing and moving next door. Glenn wanted to bring a little taste of Boston to the city in the heart of Dixie and put his own spin on things. He decided that cubing the vegetation that tops the subs was a good idea. It turned out to be a bit of a signature for his sandwiches.

Stanlieo's SubsOver 40 years later, Stanlieo's Sub Villa in Huntsville is still going strong. They now have 2 locations and have caught the eye of, as well as the local TV stations, magazines  and newspapers. 
The whole operation is now run by his daughter, Connie Ward who literally grew up in the store. Recounting, "Cobblers' kids have no shoes, so we didn't have food in the house. If they'd make a mistake (on a sandwich), that would be my lunch."
They now offer catering as well for all your party and gathering needs.

The restaurant shown is the Governors Dr location. Originally located on Whitesburg it's settled here and is a little nicer than the Jordan Ln location but both have a homey feel to them.

I've not noticed any quality disparity between the two places. Always good to be consistent.

Stanlieo's InteriorIt’s pretty much a fast food ordering system. You walk in, place your order and wait in the dining room. The shop is quite friendly and efficient. The family atmosphere of the restaurant is a product of the family atmosphere of the company. Many employees have been with Stanlieo's for years.
They're also using technology well to their advantage. You can text stanlieos to 55469 and receive updates and specials right to your phone.

So all that is fine but how are the subs you're probably wondering. Well, they're terrific. I will point out somethings first though. All their subs come with cubed onions, pickles, and tomatoes. While this is a great combination I've found that for the most part, the pickles don't belong on some of the subs I've tried. Your mileage may differ but I'll ask for them to be excluded if I don't think they'll work. If possible. BTW, the pickles are really quite good themselves. They just, at times, seem foreign to me.
As well, they bake their own bread daily. Uncooked loaves are purchased and cooked as needed making for a nicer bread than normal.

Stanlieo's Sub Villa ~ Kitchen Sink SubThe Kitchen Sink sub, (shown) number 12 on this list is really, really good. I love Genoa salami and it had a very prominent taste here. Since this is pretty much an "Everything" sub I didn't mind the pickles here. 7 meats, 3 cheeses and over a pound of deliciousness. You can't go wrong.
The Steak and Cheese is quite nice. A good beef flavour but maybe needing a bit more cheese. The topping would be good without the pickles but was fine with them. People put pickles on cheeseburgers after all.
The Pizza sub is terrific but here is where the pickles are just way out of place. I made it through half just to see if I liked it. I didn't. Didn't hate it though. I picked as many off the second half and was good to go. Again, a good presence from the Genoa was very welcomed.

Zapp's VoodooThere are some options for dessert and one of them is a really nice selection of Otis Spunkmeyer  cookies. Resist the temptation these present and grab a bag of the Zapp's Voodoo potato chips. These are awesome. For the life of me though, I couldn't figure out what the flavour of them actually is. There's a good reason for that. According to their website the flavour was created when an employee knocked over some spice boxes. The resulting amalgum was tasted and thought to be "Great." Not the first time a shop accident has been the genesis of discovery.

So there you have it folks. Fine submarine sandwiches that are a definite cut above the chains in a nice friendly place.

You can find Stanlieo's Sub Villa at 605 Jordan Ln and 602 Governors Dr in Huntsville, Al.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
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Well that's all for now folks. I'll see you next time in the food court.