Saturday, December 28, 2013

Okra (Fayetteville, Tn)

The Town Square
20131129_132427If you visit a small town, most of the time you'll find one common denominator. A courthouse and square right at its heart that is not only historic and beautiful but is (or was) often the center of the towns universe. Butchers, bakeries, mercantile, and other various and sundry businesses lined the square and was where locals would do their shopping. Often the movie theatre is there as well. So common is this setting that Universal Studios has a permanent set dedicated to the “Archetypical American” town. The set has been seen in such movies as To Kill a Mockingbird and Back to the Future and TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and Night Rider.

Sadly, the advent of mega malls and grocery stores saw a lot of these businesses surrounding the courthouse fail. Due to the proximity of the courts they are quite often, sadly taken over by law firms. Some towns that haven't suffered from recessions still have a variety of merchants offering antiques, books and souvenirs. And rest assured, there will be restaurants.
20131129_132439Such is the case with Fayetteville, Tn. A wonderful courthouse square is surrounded by some of the afore mentioned establishments. That's where you'll find Okra Restaurant. The latest offering from artist Toby Penney and her husband Chef Michael Bradley. Local restaurant veterans, one time operators of the famous Mrs. Mary Bobo's in nearby Lynchburg and owners of Amazing Gracie’s BBQ.

Combining a love of art and food Okra serves as restaurant and art gallery. Not to mention the upstairs apartment serves as living quarters and studio.

You have your choice of ordering off the menu or the white board. Toby advised me that the only thing that comes in a can is the ketchup refill. Other than that, everything is made from scratch. So lets get a look.

Both Mrs. Sippi and Madame Butterfly opted for Fried Catfish Blue Plate Specials with a variety of sides. I ordered off the menu.

20131129_133834Breaded Catfish: Nothing earth shattering here. It was straight up, cornmeal breaded on the outside and flaky yet creamy inside. It was just solid. Fried catfish 101
Fried Okra: As good as it gets. Not the crusty balls of slime you get in some places but lightly battered, fresh tasting and just cooked. Mrs. Sippi hailed it as some of the best.
Mac n Cheese: Your typical old school creamy mac n cheese executed very well. As I said to Toby, mac n cheese doesn't have to have 4 cheeses I've never heard of to be good. It just has to be good.
Pinto Beans: These are great. Nice rich gravy with earthy beans. Sadly, there was no pepper sauce on the table to kick them up a notch. Not that the NEEDED it.
Turnip Greens: A nice example that had a touch of sweetness followed with a peppery finish. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Squash: Mrs. Sippi had mixed emotions about this. She was disappointed in that it wasn't what she thought she was getting when she ordered it. That said, it was still fantastic.

20131129_133829'Mento Cristo: This play on the famous Monte Cristo (which is a fancy way of saying grilled ham and cheese sandwich) is made with Pimento Cheese rather than cheddar. The sour dough was basically made French toast style, complete with cinnamon sugar which I didn't care for (nor did the lady sitting at the table next to us) and easily dusted off. This sandwich however after the fine tuning was an absolute home run. The lady beside me agreed.
Fresh Cut Fries: Another item that needed some fine tuning in my mind. They needed to be more well done. As I said, that's just a personal preference. Outside of that, these are fantastic. Great potato taste and seasoned with Fleur de Sel which was a very nice touch. Fries like this would easily fetch north of $10 at a fancy steak house if you simply named them "Pomme Frites."

20131129_135448Apple Bread Pudding: There was a significant difference of opinion here. While the other two thought it was only okay, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Much like Mrs. Sippi and the squash, this wasn't exactly as I expected but decided I liked it for what it was not for what it wasn't. Most notably, I was hoping for a nice apple cinnamon flavour. The caramel sauce on top was really nice but not (in a good way) over the top rich. It came with a nice fluffy whipped cream.

So there you have it folks, some terrific southern fare in a lovely little town.

You can find Okra at 113 Main Ave. S. in Fayetteville, Tn.

View Larger Map

You can also find them on the web and facebook.
Okra on Urbanspoon

Well that's all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fresh Burger (Richmond Hill, On)

Tastes Good Like a Hamburger Should.

FB LogoFor Jacques Kavafian it was time to plot a different course in life. Having spent 28 years in the financial industry he was ready for a new challenge. Taking his love for food and most specifically hamburgers and fries he created Fresh Burger. In his words, "Many of them (nouveau burger joints) complicate the hamburger into various concoctions. We emphasize the taste of the hamburger itself. At Fresh Burger we promise to offer great tasting hamburgers done right." What a concept. A burger place that is focused on the platform (the burger) rather than the myriad of condiments/concoctions that drown out the fundamental building block on which they construct these monstrosities. But don't get me wrong, a well executed monstrosity is still a very tasty thing.

Fresh BurgerKavafian is following a template used by Southwest Airlines. Founded on 4 basic tenets; Equipment (in this case the burger not an airplane), Price (make it as inexpensive as possible without cutting corners), Service (he's all about keeping the customer happy), and Simplicity (Keeping a small menu and concentrating on doing a few thing very well rather than a number of things poorly). Jacques is also taking cues from other successful companies as well. His house made burger sauce is inspired by that of the great In 'n Out chain based in California.

The store is quite small and the menu, as I pointed out, is even smaller.
As of now, you basically have two options, burgers and fries. There is some room to customize within those two options such as Poutine and single or double burgers but at the base, burgers and fries is all Fresh Burger does.

So let's get a look at those items shall we?? 

I will first point out that all cheeseburgers come with American cheese as a default. Upon request you can change up to Cheddar, Swiss or Provolone.

FB Double CheeseburgerDouble Cheeseburger: An excellent burger. Two 4 oz. ground sirloin patties, American cheese on a soft white bun. This is what it's all about. Simple and absolutely delicious. Sirloin isn't overly fatty but Jacques doesn't over cook them so they're still juicy enough and the flavour of the meat is nicely complemented by the cheese. Which also adds a nice creaminess. The bun provides little more than a way to get deliciousness to the mouth and soak up whatever juice does run out.
FB Prime BurgerPrime Burger: A White Board special this is even better than the single or double. Made with USDA Prime Beef it's a little fattier and as such, juicier with that unctuousness that fat can give. Adding bacon and cheese just makes it that much better. It comes with tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle and secret sauce as a default and while I removed the rabbit food I stuck with the sauce and I'm glad I did. It's very good and lends a nice flavour component.
FB FriesFries: These are really good but nothing I would consider the best I've had. Fresh cut and nicely fried I think maybe they could've used a bit more salt but that's something you can easily add at the table. I like the size and they didn't come with a whole bunch of those crummy bits that you sometimes find when a place cuts 'em fresh.
FB PoutinePoutine: A decent representation of this classic Quebecois dish. Made with beef gravy as basically every place in the GTA does but the flavouring wasn't quite right. So all in all, I'd say that if you like poutine you'll probably like it but not love it. If you're one of those so called "connoisseurs" of the dish then you'll probably find enough to complain about and should probably steer clear. FWIW, my buddy Gus, an expat Montrealer gave them his approval.

So there you have it folks, quite possibly THE BEST burger in York Region and one of the better ones the GTA has to offer.

You can find Fresh Burger at 9206 Leslie St. in Richmond Hill, On.

View Larger Map

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

Well that's all for now folks, we'll see ya next time in the food court.