Steppin’ Out

Steppin’ Out – This, Than and Other Things

Every now and then either Russ Salazar, I or both of us drop by a fast-food place to try out their latest offerings, most of which have the famous “For a Limited Time” notice on them. So, I am going to mention the latest one first since some of the rest may already be “retired.”

We decided we needed to try Carl Jr’s new Baby Back Rib Burger, which features a charbroiled beef patty, boneless baby back ribs, Mississippi honey BBQ sauce, crispy fried onions, and pickles on a Premium Bun. Well, sort of. Here they use Cattleman’s BBQ sauce, which must be a regional thing.

We had a coupon that would get us an extra burger if we bought a combo, so we did that. I put the extra burger in a cooler I carry for later consumption (I actually froze it and gave it to my neighbor.)

Along with that we tried their “limited time” $2.49 Jalapeño Double Cheeseburger that features Santa Fe Sauce, jalapeños, pepperjack cheese, two charbroiled beef patties, lettuce and tomato, all served on a four inch (kid’s size) plain bun.

We had them cut in two for us.

Both of us liked the Rib Burger, real rib meat and a good taste. I like lettuce and tomato on my burgers and feel like I am cheating when I have something like this. However, barbecue is served with only bread, onions and pickles at most barbecue joints around the USA.

The Jalapeño burger we both liked better. Not too hot, but with a nice “warm” taste. “Just the right amount of jalapeño,” Russ remarked. Me, I really like it and the lettuce and tomato added to this one.

We also tried the new BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger and BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich at Jack in the Box. We had a coupon, in fact a couple of coupons, so Russ ordered a large drink and got us a small order of Curly Fries for free.

They have two kinds of barbecue sauce for the sandwiches, sweet and spicy. We ordered the Cheeseburger with the sweet sauce and the Chicken Sandwich with the spicy sauce. Both came with bacon, onion rings, lettuce, tomato and pickles.

We asked for them to be cut in two, but they forgot. I took them back and they cut them partially in two. Russ and his trusty knife finished the cutting.

They were good, but not extraordinary, and very bland, in spite of the aforementioned spicy sauce on one of them.

The Curly Fries were partially undercooked and partially over cooked. I think they had been sitting around for a while. I usually complain about fries like this, but I was out of complaints for that day.

On the way home from my son’s house in San Jose, I stopped by a KFC to try the Zinger sandwich. It was late morning and the place was empty, so they had to cook the sandwich fresh for me. I really liked it: crisp, tasty and nicely sauced. I only had the sandwich, which is about four bucks, but you can get the combo with drink, potato wedges and a cookie for a buck more.

Taco Bell seems to add and subtract specials faster than anyone else, so usually they are gone before I can write about them.

I tried their Chicken Chips, part of their “Naked Chicken” series of promotions. They are simply coated and deep fried flattened pieces of white meat chicken, like the chicken taco shell they had a couple of months ago. I bought the five dollar lunch box, which came with the chips and a cheesy dipping sauce, Crispy Taco, Burrito Supreme and a drink.

I like the Chicken Chips, mostly without the cheesy dipping sauce, and the Crunchy Taco. After all, that taco is their original product they built their business on. However, the Burrito Supreme was a joke.

They show a picture of an open-ended burrito with meat, lettuce, tomato and cheese, but what I got was a folded over burrito mostly filled with beans. Now and then I would come across something similar in texture to a piece of tomato or lettuce, but that was it.

I went back and asked if what I was served was the Burrito Supreme and was told, “Yes.” Okay, I won’t try that again. The dollar menu half-pound bean burrito from Del Taco is better.

The best deals at Taco Bell are their four “Meal Deals,” which cost under three dollars and come with a drink, a bag of Doritos and, depending on the location, either a Chicken Burrito, a Double Decker Taco, a Gordita Supreme or a Beefy Five Layer Burrito.

If you recall, they started out at $2 about seven years ago and have slowly climbed upwards in price, but still remain cheap. You can always add something if that isn’t enough food.

I especially like the Gordita Supreme, which is Meal Deal “C.”. I usually take the chips home for later.

Steppin’ Out – Los Amigos, Shingle Springs

Well, again Russ Salazar and I headed out to visit a restaurant that it turned out was closed on Tuesdays. Well, since we were in Shingle Springs, I thought we might try Los Amigos for Mexican food which, it turned out, was open.

Los Amigos opened just recently at the location that had been the Shingle Springs Colina de Oro at 4120 Sunset Lane. We were told that the previous owner owned this one and the one in Plymouth and decided to get rid of this one.

Two cooks who had worked at the now closed, Los Hermanos in Pollock Pines, decided to open their own restaurant. Thus, Los Amigos.
We were greeted by a lovely young lady who was the hostess and server, and told to sit wherever we wished. We found a table by a window and looked over the menus she handed to us.

While we were still deciding on what to order, she kindly asked what we wished to drink. I simply said water, Russ ordered a glass of milk. I was delighted when my water arrived, both glasses were huge. I hate having small glasses of water and having to find the server to get a refill.

After mulling things over for a few more minutes, Russ decided to order a beef taco and a pork tamale, along with rice and beans from the “A La Carte” portion of the menu. Our server said she could save us money by making the taco a combo with rice and beans. I like her.

There are two things I often try at a Mexican restaurant I haven’t previously visited: a chile relleno or something with chile verde in it. This time I went for the chile burrito and ordered the chile verde burrito.

We sat there eating the chips and very good salsa, while awaiting out food. I remember someone posting a picture of chips and salsa and asking if anyone had every been to a Mexican restaurant and not immediately eaten the chips and salsa. Not me, I dive right in.

In a very short time our food arrived, along with an extra plate so we could share each of the dishes. Russ, with his pocket knife at the ready, did the honors, dividing everything nicely.

Russ immediately said I should try the beans. Often when they convert pinto beans to frijoles refritos, they make a soup out of them. These were very nice with a great flavor and lots of only partially “smooshed” beans. I also liked the rice, but it was even better with a few shots of Tapatio hot sauce.

The taco was filled with shredded beef, which we both liked, and had a great flavor. Beef tacos should be made that way.

I liked the chile verde. Lots of meat in firm, but still easily cut, chunks. There were also pieces of cooked tomatillo, the green, “tomato with a dry skin” that gives it the verde color and flavor. Russ, who prefers burritos you make at home and brown after filling, thought there was actually too much cheese in it.

The tamale was good. I like them with lots of filling and not too much masa coating. Russ also liked it, but pointed out to me that the homemade tamales he grew up with were not sauced.

Overall, the food was very good.

Their menu includes Appetizers: Nachos and street tacos; several interesting looking salads and 16 or so combo plates, which are served after 4 p.m., with a green salad, rice and refried or whole beans.

The Ala Carte menu includes a dozen dishes like tacos, enchiladas, flautas and burritos, followed by a list of delicious looking speciality burritos made with an extra large tortilla and topped with guacamole, sour cream and lettuce. I don’t think I have ever seen a lettuce topped burrito before, but it does sound interesting.

To complete the menu there is a list of seafood dishes and then the large, dinner entrees, which come with salad, rice, beans and tortillas.
There is a kids menu, which includes Mexican dishes along with chicken sticks and even a cheeseburger with fries. Drinks include soda tea, coffee and milk, along with domestic and imported beer. They also make and serve Michelada, a beer and spice combination drink.

Oh, I almost forgot desserts: flan, vanilla ice cream and milkshakes.

The restaurant was very clean and very friendly. Unfortunately, there were not a large number of people there when we arrived, which was towards the end of the lunch rush.

Los Amigos is open daily except Sunday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Sunday they close at 8.

Give them a try. They are getting good reviews and we need to keep our small businesses in business (especially the ones that are open on Tuesday when two old guys go looking for food.)

Steppin’ Out – Sam’s Club vs Costco: The Ultimate Hot Dog Battle

My friend, Russ Salazar, emailed me a couple of weeks ago with an idea. “We should go to both Costco and Sam’s Club in Folsom and compare their quarter pound hot dogs and Polish sausage,” he wrote.

Well, we have done silly things before, so why change at our age.

Now, I am a great fan of Costco’s Polish sausage and drink combo at $1.50. I used to go to the Costco in San Diego with my brother in the 1980s just to get one, and have continued doing that now and then when my daughter when I visit a Sacramento area Costco. But only once before have I eaten in the food court at Sam’s Club.

Russ and I started with Sam’s Club. We ordered both the hot dog and Polish sausage combos and cut them in two. The store wouldn’t do it for us, but told us to use one of the plastic knives (sure…that never works). Fortunately, Russ carries a pocket knife.

Just to make sure I didn’t mix the two up, I put a small drop of catsup on my regular hot dog half. See, I’m thorough.

I put only mustard on each of them to begin with, then Russ handed me a package of Frank’s Kraut that they have in with the condiments. I added some to both. It was a bit bland.

Both the hot dog and that Polish are Nathan’s Famous and they were very solid, had great flavor and not overly salty. The buns were really fresh, extremely good and slightly yellow in color. From the light, warm texture, I think they were steamed.

Russ thought the yellow color might be from egg, but I recall that a bit of corn or potato flour added to the mix could do that. It didn’t matter, they were really good.

Already exceeding our fat, salt and caloric limits for the day (or maybe two days), we drove over to Costco to do the very same thing again.

After purchasing the hot dog and the Polish and cutting them in two, I dressed mine the same way, with mustard only.

They didn’t have sauerkraut on the condiment table, so Russ asked for some. After a few minutes they handed him one small container of sauerkraut, with the comment that it was the only one they had.

I added a bit of it to each and found it was much tastier than the packaged sauerkraut at Sam’s Club. It was also a bit moister, which could be the reason. I think the packaged sauerkraut is intentionally dry so your hot dog doesn’t get too wet and fall apart.

 

Here are the results:

By just a little bit, I liked the flavor of the Costco hot dog better than the one at Sam’s Club. The Polish dog was a toss-up. Both were solid, tasted good and were not too salty. Russ liked the Costco hot dog and Polish better, however, he put onions and deli mustard on the ones at Costco and we didn’t find either of those at Sam’s Club.

The buns were not quite as fresh as the ones at Sam’s Club and very white. Russ liked them better because he said the Sam’s buns stuck to his teeth. I preferred Sam’s by far.

Okay, here comes the comparison:

Cost: each combo (drink and hot dog or Polish) was $1.50 at both places.

Source of product: Both hot dog and Polish made are Nathan’s at Sam’s Club. Up until 2009 Costco used Hebrew National for both. Now their hot dogs and Polish sausages are custom made for them under the Kirkland brand. They are slightly larger than a quarter pound and they brag that their hot dogs were developed with no fillers, binders, phosphates, corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors. I have to take their word for it.

Nutrition (including bun): Sam’s Club hot dog – 510 calories, 30 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein and a half day’s supply of salt (all of them have that). Sam’s Club Polish sausage – 500 calories, 31 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein. Costco hot dog 552 calories, 32 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein. Costco Polish sausage – 570 calories, 34 grams of fat, 22 grams of protein. Source: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calorie-chart-nutrition-facts

Drink: 32 oz. Styrofoam cup at Sam’s, 20 oz. paper cup at Costco. Free refills at both, although it doesn’t say so at Sam’s. Sam’s straws wrapped, Costco straws unwrapped in dispenser.

Drink selections: both Coke and Pepsi products in the fountains at Sam’s. Only Pepsi products at Costco (they switched from Coke in April of 2013), however, there is a nearby Coke machine were you can buy Coke by the bottle.

Other foods available: Both have five other things in common, beside the hot dog and Polish sausage: pizza by the slice or pie, frozen yogurt, berry sundaes, churros and chicken Caesar salads.

Costco has four items that aren’t on the Sam’s Club menu: Chicken Bake, Hot Turkey Provolone Sandwich, 1/3 lb. Cheeseburger (apparently they dropped the BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich for it) and Fruit Smoothie.

Sam’s Club has four not on the Costco menu: Family Pizza Combo, Pretzels, Yogurt Parfait and Icees.

From my research, the menu at both of these membership clubs varies by area and is subject to change. But, they will always have the hot dog and Polish sausage, hopefully for $1.50.

Steppin’ Out – Wally’s Pizza Bar, Cameron Park

A few weeks ago Russ Salazar met me in town for lunch. After a short conversation we decided to try one of several places in Cameron Park instead of Placerville. However, by the time we arrived there, we still hadn’t made up our minds.

As we cruised south on Cameron Park Drive, I saw the Wally’s Pizza Bar sign. “That’s it,” I said to Russ, “we need to go to Wally’s.” He thought that sounded good.

If you are not familiar with Wally’s Pizza Bar, it is a full service restaurant featuring gourmet pizza, pasta, salads and more, in a sports bar atmosphere. It is located at 4079 Cameron Park Drive, south of the freeway, near Sizzler and Carl’s Jr.

Wally’s is locally owned and operated by Wally, Dan, Jeremy and Monica Dreher. The Dreher family has owned and operated FLB Sports Bar & Casino in Folsom since 1979. They have wanted to open a business in Cameron Park since they moved there almost 40 years ago and that is exactly what they did.

We walked in to the huge dining/bar area, which is lined with at least a dozen giant screens showing all kinds of sports events in progress, We were seated at a table of our choice and handed both the regular and lunch menus. As we were looking over the menus, a nice young lady came by to get our drink orders.

When she left I casually asked Russ if he noticed the diamond stud in her nose. “No,” he answered. “I couldn’t get by the purple lipstick.”
I guess you shouldn’t ask us two old guys our opinion on tattoos that aren’t an anchor or say “Mom.”

The Lunch Specials, available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., include Soup and Salad, Chicken Marinara and Chicken Pesto stuffed portabella mushrooms, Gouda Mac & Cheese with Ham, Classic Tomato Basil spaghetti and Spaghetti Bolognese. These are followed by three different calzones: Rubicon, Chicken Pesto and Smokey BBQ Chicken, and three sandwiches, Meatball, Chicken Club and Chicken Pesto.

I immediately went for the Rubicon Calzone, which is loaded with Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, marinara and their signature four cheese blend. Just reading the ingredients made me hungry for it.

Russ said a friend of his advised that he order the Chicken Club, which had chunks of chicken breast, bacon bits, tomatoes, avocado and Spring mix on a toasted ciabatta bun with garlic aioli spread and Parmesan.

Both of them came with a choice of House / Caesar salad or French fries. We both went for the Caesar salad.

When our lunch arrived, they had been kind enough to put one half of each of the sandwiches, along with our salads, on two plates. They really looked good and, let me tell you, they tasted even better.

I tried the Chicken Club first and it was fantastic. Everything about it was perfect: the abundant amount of chicken, the right amount of dressing and everything else in the proper proportions. Russ looked at me and said, “My friend said it was the sandwich to order, and she was right.”

After a couple of bites of the fresh, crisp Caesar salad, I tried the Calzone. What a mass of flavors all working together.
Think of the best “all meat” pizza you have ever eaten and then make it better. I said to Russ, “Someone in the kitchen knows what they are doing.”

I don’t know where he found it – or maybe made it up – but he replied: “The ingredients make the sandwich, the sandwich maker makes it great.”

I believe it is one of the very best lunches we have enjoyed. Everything was wonderful, even the size of my water glass. I’m sure Russ would agree.

The regular menu starts with a list of interesting looking appetizers, including one of the favorites, FLB Wings. These are followed on the menu by their Soup of the Day and several salads, including The Greek, Classic Caesar and their interesting Pear & Walnut salad.

The list of Gourmet Pizzas includes just about anything you would want, including the Rubicon (like our calzone) and even one featuring Pear & Gorgonzola. And, yes, you can create your own.

If you are a meal of pasta, they have a half a dozen different ones, ranging from a Classic Tomato Basil to a Thai Curry, with a bit of heat.

Yes, there is a really nice Kids Menu too.

Unique desserts are available and they have drinks for all ages, from soda to speciality cocktails, including 20 beers on tap and about 20 wines, local and from elsewhere in California.

Wally’s Sports Bar is open weekdays from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday until 2 p.m.

For more information call (530) 677-3205 or check out everything, including their new Breakfast Menu, at www.wallyspizzabar.com. Be sure to also check for special events and live music.