Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Gerry Frank's Konditorei is a local dive in Salem, Oregon, known for their decadent desserts (but yeah, they also serve regular food there too).

All their desserts looked awesome. Anyone on a diet will hate me for this, but here goes:

Anyway, I went with one of their lighter cake options: a slice of Marionberry cake -- a seasonal white-cake option Konditorei offers.

As expected, the cake was light, moist, and amazing. It's basically a white cake and vanilla buttercreme on there. Definitely satisfies the sweet tooth, that's for sure. I loved the contrasting color the Marionberry gives this cake. The layers are so pronounced and attractive to look at.

The problem lies with the price. $5.95 for a relatively narrow slice? You got to be kidding. So we got six layers on this sucker, but it's still a narrow piece. I'd love this place more if they either gave me a larger slice or lowered that price. It's the price alone that would make me stay away from Konditorei again. I'd rather look elsewhere next time for a cheaper dessert.

Don't get me wrong on my rating; the cake is great and I would definitely have some if someone else got the cake and offered me a slice. But remember, the rating is also meant to signify my likelihood of returning to get something else. The price is a HUGE (and perhaps only) reason I'm docking them big time.

I will say this: their lunch/dinner menu prices are pretty much in line with other places I've been to in Oregon. Unfortunately, there's not much that jumps out at me saying "Try me! Try me!" And why would I want a sandwich for dinner? I could do that at home. Or hell, I can go to Subway for a $5 foot-long sandwich and get more for my money there.

So yeah, could I return for something other than dessert? Sure, but I'll be struggling to figure out what to get. Did I have an awesome cake experience? I'll give them that, too. But do we have inflated prices on desserts to kill my gut and my wallet? I'm definitely giving them that as well. 5.75/10

Boon's Treasury

Boon's Treasury is one of McMenamin's pubs in Salem, Oregon.

Part of their menu
Soup of the day on 5/30/11
After walking all over downtown Salem, I decided to stop by Boon's Treasury for a bite to eat. I got half a turkey sandwich (no secret sauce) with their soup of the day: African Chicken Peanut ($5.40).

The African Chicken Peanut soup was temperature-hot when it came to me, always nice to see. I thought it was very nice to have that tomato sauce base. There is chicken in there (it's just at the bottom of that small container). The red peppers in the soup also give a little sweet-pepper taste. I just fail to grasp the "peanut"
aspect of the dish. There were no peanuts in there, so I'm guessing there was a creamy peanut butter or something put in the soup -- which eventually melted and blended in with the rest of the ingredients.

The sandwich was good for what it was. It was a hundred times better than the sandwich I ate at Court Street Dairy Lunch. I made sure this turkey sandwich was toasted, and the bread held the insides of the sandwich in place. This was key, because the sandwich also had cranberry relish inside; I didn't want to make that bread soggy. The cranberry relish provided a nice sweetness to the sandwich, and it was more noticeable in this sandwich (in a good way) than at Court Street Dairy Lunch. I appreciated the fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion in there.

When you get soup and sandwich, dunk that sandwich in the soup and then eat the sandwich. Especially when you got a tomato-based soup in front of you.

My one criticism: I would want that Swiss cheese melted into the turkey for a hotter sandwich. Just putting a slice of cheese in there is a no-no for me.

I'm not one to go to pubs -- especially since I've cut down on my alcohol intake -- but Boon's Treasury does a pretty good job with their sandwich and their soup. I'd say it's worth it to check this place out for yourself. You may be likely to give this place a higher rating than what I'm giving it if you love your beer and your burgers/sandwiches. 5.25/10

Spice & Ice Restaurant

Spice & Ice Restaurant is a gelato and Asian grill food establishment in Albany, Oregon.

Oh, and to intentionally mess with gelato and cake lovers everywhere, they also have gelato cakes!

While Spice & Ice has many tasty Asian items on the menu, it was actually their take on an American classic that intrigued me the most: the steamed cheeseburger. For a grand total of $11.11, I got their steamed cheeseburger and a side of their Asian Caesar salad (without the chicken, since that would have cost more).

Now THIS is how a burger should be. The burger was made to order, the cheese melting all over the steamed 100% ground chuck beef patty. The cool veggies were kept away from the hot cheese and beef to ensure a fresh veggie experience.

My first bite of the burger was just plain awesome. I did want the house sauce on the side (basically mayo and some other stuff), but forgot to tell them (oops). I absolutely loved the juiciness of the burger and the melted cheese. The Kaiser roll was toasted, a big plus in my book. I can do without their house sauce on the burger. Mayonnaise or any type of mayo concoction on a burger does not work for me. I'd put some mustard or hot sauce on there instead. Still, it was one of the best burgers I've had in a long time.

The fries, to me, looked and tasted like McDonald's fries. They're OK, but not the best, in my opinion.

The Asian salad was good, too, just not mind-blowing. I specifically told them to put the dressing on the side, but they messed up on that one. I liked the tomatoes and olives to give some color and slight zing to each bite. The croutons were fine, nothing special. I failed to see their Asian take on the Caesar dressing; I did not get too much of the garlic or ginger in there. I may order this again since it *can* be a healthy option, but if so, I'm making sure that dressing stays on the side. The salad was way overdressed for my liking.

The thing is, I do believe the cashier misunderstood me. I would definitely pay $7 for that cheeseburger again, but I wanted the salad (with dressing on theside) instead of fries. That should have only upped it to $2 more instead of $4 more. Looks like I got jipped about $2, but oh well. Again, the food was good (especially the cheeseburger), but the couple of mess-ups with the food order (one my fault and a couple being their fault) does detract from the overall experience.

Spice & Ice also does a promotional deal where you can get free entrees or a small gelato if you order those dishes enough times. I like the place's ambiance, a very bright and inviting dive.

In the end, I am a fan of this place and would go back just to get that cheeseburger again. Spice & Ice also has several other menu items that interest me, such as their beef curry, Szechuan cuisine (insert meat here...beef, pork, or chicken), and gelato. I'm even more interested because they offer spicy dishes on their menu. For me, it's worth the 25-to-30-minute drive to Albany to come back. Spice & Ice gets props; they are one of the only places I know that serves steamed cheeseburgers (I'm checking out another one in Oregon real soon), and they do it well. Yes, I'm docking points for the mess-ups on my order, but other than that, thumbs up all around. 8/10

Monday, May 30, 2011

Costco Food Court

(Please also read part 2 -- June 2011)

Now for a place that you can find in many states: the Costco Food Court! I went to the one in Salem, Oregon.

KarnaVor Gourmet BBQ

KarnaVor Gourmet BBQ is a food truck patrolling Salem, Oregon. What makes this place unique? They combine good ol' American BBQ meat creations and fuse it with more on-the-go-friendly Mexican dishes like tacos and quesadillas -- or "K-sa-dillas." And of course, they also have the traditional BBQ sandwich options as well.

There were two female customers also at KarnaVor, also first-time customers. They worked in the area and wanted to check KarnaVor out as well. They were from Washington, D.C., and I immediately brought up Ben's Chili Bowl (they knew what I was talking about). They thought Ben's chili was delicious, just not the greatest thing ever. I'd try that Chili Half-Smoke at Ben's in a heartbeat -- or just straight chili.

Anyway, the two women shared each of the three tacos (pulled pork, pulled chicken, and beef brisket) for $6 total -- $2 per taco. Both ladies ate the tacos at the food truck counter and gave overwhelmingly positive reviews for all three; they preferred the beef one over the other two.

Good enough for me! I got one of each myself and took the food home to eat.

Pulled chicken taco
Pulled beef brisket taco
Pulled pork taco
The meats were each put on two corn tortillas, then topped with cole slaw (made fresh every morning), cilantro, and...dried cranberries and slivered almonds?! Interesting. The presentation of each taco was nice and colorful.


The tacos were awesome. The ladies were on the money. The beef brisket taco had awesome flavor. The crunchiness and creaminess of the cole slaw complemented the beef well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the chef added celery in his cole slaw, which gave the taco a little more bite and crunch. The fresh cilantro on top added another nice Mexican flare to the dish.

With respect to flavor, the cranberries and the almonds got a little lost in the fray, but I appreciate the texture contrasts each of the ingredients bring to the taco. I did get a little nuttiness from the almonds as I kept eating the tacos. The cranberries and almonds are definitely two ingredients I did not expect and go toward that "Gourmet BBQ" presence KarnaVor strives for.

Same reviews with the pork and the chicken. Again, all three choices produced very flavorful meats that went well with the rest of the taco. You really can't go wrong with any of the choices. My order of preference: (1) chicken; (2) pork; (3) beef. Very hard to separate first place from second place -- or even first place from third place.

I also like how KarnaVor cooks their food to order. Fresh food is so key, and I'm amazed how many establishments miss that step. I didn't mind waiting the extra five minutes for my food.

At $2 per taco, I think it's worth it to go and check KarnaVor's tacos out for yourself. And while you're at it, try their sandwiches, quesadillas, hot dogs, or garden burgers, and tell me what you think. 7/10

Burly's Chuckwagon

(NOTE: I had a better experience in April 2012, please read part 2!)

Burly's Chuckwagon can be found at the Salem Farmer's Market. They sell some breakfast items when the Saturday Market opens at 9 a.m., but starting at 11 a.m., it's all about BBQ.

I noticed Burly's has a few unique BBQ sauces, including Marionberry, Huckleberry, and Carolina (which basically looks like a version of yellow mustard).

I got a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw, then added a few different sauces on the side of my take-out box (Marionberry, Huckleberry, Carolina, and BBQ).

At first glance, I did not have high hopes for the sandwich. The bread did not look very appetizing at all.

The pork was not bad. It had some juiciness, flavor, and smoke to it. I felt it needed a little more salt, though.

The cole slaw was almost non-existent (trust me, it was underneath the helping of pulled pork I got). Aside from the crunchiness of the slaw, all I could really get flavor-wise was the pulled pork.

The bread was an absolute disaster. At the very least, the bread should have been toasted or warmed up. Instead, it was a room temperature (cooled even more due to the chilly weather outside), hardened, inedible mass of starch. I took one bite of the bread and ate the pork and slaw instead.

The sauces were the best part of the entire meal. I liked the Carolina one and the berry ones, since they were a little different on the palette than what I'd be used to having for BBQ. Still, when the sauce is the best part of the meal, that is not necessarily a good thing, folks.

The sandwich is $7. It's not even worth $1. It doesn't take a genius to figure out I won't be going back for that again. The sauces and the respectable attempt on the pork are the only things saving this from a more catastrophic score.

Maty's Peruvian Food

Maty's Peruvian Food sells...Peruvian food, of course! I found them at the Farmer's Market in Salem.

They have a few choices on their menu at the Farmer's Market. I went for their empanada ($5), which has chicken, hard-boiled eggs, Peruvian red peppers (not spicy), Peruvian black olives, and spices stuffed inside yucca dough and lightly fried to golden brown. It's then topped with a mildly spicy yellow pepper sauce.

I thought the empanada was pretty good. Although the lady in the booth gave me an empanada that had been sitting in a container for at least several minutes, the chicken, peppers, spices, and olives gave this treat a lot of good flavor. The yellow pepper sauce had a little bit of kick, but not spicy at all. I thought the yellow pepper sauce reminded me a little bit of the Coleman's hot mustard that you can get in a supermarket -- but without that spice going up your nose for an aftereffect.

There are some criticisms to note. The empanada was a tad greasy and the presentation sloppy. I also would have preferred to have empanadas made fresh to order. I honestly don't mind waiting the extra few minutes for something that should be fresh and hot, just out of the fryer.

Overall, still a good empanada in my book, and I would consider returning for their other meals. 5.5/10

King Donuts

King Donuts is a coffee-and-donut shop. I went to the one at the corner of State Street and 17th Street in Salem, Oregon. It's mere yards from Word of Mouth Bistro (which I have already given stellar marks to).

Just a few of their donuts
I recently had a craving for donuts and headed to King Donuts in the morning, since I wanted to give the place every opportunity to deliver a fresh product to me. There were several choices here, and I had a hard time picking which one I wanted. In the end, I got a small decaf coffee with a raspberry-filled jelly donut.

Even when adding creamer, the coffee was not that great. And on top of all that, it was $1.35. Why do I keep buying coffee at places that don't serve Kona coffee anyway? Not one of the coffee joints here have given me a good cup yet. Serves me right for even buying the damn thing. It seriously makes me want to go to McDonald's just to buy a cup of their decaf coffee at this rate -- it's cheaper and probably just as good in taste (and if it was better, that would be even more pathetic).

However, I thought the raspberry-filled donut was at least worth the 85 cents. It had hardened bits of glaze on the outside for a little more sugar pick-me-up, but I liked the donut because it had a nice fluffiness to it and had a bunch of raspberry filling. The filling itself was actually "too smooth" and quite sweet for me. I do wish the filling was a bit chunkier and a little less sweet. Hey, I love chunky peanut putter over the smooth kind. The same goes for jelly/jams/preserves -- bring on the chunky preserves and jams! Would I order donuts from them again? I'd have to really be desperate to come back here.

It's all about the contrasting textures and taste, people! Dimensions of flavor and texture! I want party-in-my-mouth awesomeness!

King Donuts is OK donut-wise, but could easily be better. They are not on Voodoo Doughnuts' level, not by a long shot. No outside-the-box creations, not as huge a portion, and not as good a quality as Voodoo. One thing's for sure: I know I'm not getting any beverages from King Donuts again -- and yes, the coffee affected the rating. 3.75/10

Coffee Corner

Coffee Corner is a small coffee establishment on State Street in Salem, Oregon. You can either walk up to the counter or treat it like a drive-thru.

I had passed this place for months and had always intended to try one of their drinks. I just never got around to it until now. Recently, I got a decaf vanilla latte, with fat-free milk.

The latte was not bad. It was warm when I got it, but I do wish it was a bit hotter, temperature-wise. I got a hint of vanilla flavor, but the expresso in there produced the clear predominant flavor. I did hope for a little more balance to it, but oh well. Maybe I shoulda asked for a macchiato instead (expresso added to milk, so milk is more pronounced). Didn't see that on the regular menu, though. Or perhaps try a mocha.

So I guess I like my expresso drinks a bit sweeter. It must come from all those years of drinking mocha freezes at Costco.

Speaking of which, I could get a tastier latte/mocha freeze at Costco for a cheaper price than any hot or cold latte/mocha at Coffee Corner. Personally, this was not worth $2.50.

As a note, I think if coffee joints go out of business, they're either not advertising well or charging too high a price for their drinks. You can make coffee products for mere cents a cup. And if you are running your business out of a shack or some food cart, there should be fewer costs to deal with. Anyway, just had to go on a bit of a tangent there.

Coffee Corner has a good selection of drinks (raspberry-flavored anything intrigues me a lot). However, in the end, the high prices for these drinks and the quality of the vanilla latte (too lukewarm for me) make me question if getting another drink will lead to a better experience. 3/10

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ribslayer To Go (Part 3)

(Original Review -- May 2011)
(Second Review -- May 2011)
(Fourth Review -- August 2011)
(Fifth Review -- March 2012)

After learning Ribslayer To Go would be featuring a "Porketta" special, I ventured to the McMinnville Farmer's Market to check it out.

Red Fox Bakery & Cafe

Red Fox Bakery & Cafe is located in McMinnville, Oregon. I was intending to go to their actual bakery establishment on NE Evans St., but I saw them at the McMinnville Thursday Farmer's Market instead, so I went there.

They were selling various types of breads and pastries. A woman was working the booth, and I asked her what the most popular pastry was (or one that she would recommend). She mentioned the "cinnamon snail" ($2.50), and I had to get it because cinnamon rules.

The cinnamon snail was horrible. It was too firm and dry for me. In fact, I thought it was a bit stale. I got some cinnamon flavors, but I wanted more. The hardened glaze on the pastry concerned me; here, it was clear that the cinnamon snail -- and probably all the other pastries in the display area -- suffered from lack of freshness.
I don't doubt that Red Fox's pastries are made fresh in the morning, but I wonder if there was a recipe blunder here. Pastries can still be fluffy and delicious hours after they are baked, given the right conditions. Pastries should not be hard and bready.

As a note, the "Bolussen" I had from The Little Bakery yesterday morning was cheaper ($2) and had way more cinnamon and sugar than this cinnamon snail. The Little Bakery's pastry also looked and tasted fresher than what Red Fox put out today. I actually appreciated the messiness of the Bolussen, having to lick the cinnamon and sugar off my fingers the whole time. In contrast, this cinnamon snail was hard (again, I feared it was stale), dry, and nothing special to me. The lady mentioned the cinnamon snails in the bakery are larger, but um, who cares? I want quality!

I'm not totally tanking Red Fox; I have to account for the fact that they were serving pastries at a Farmer's Market past 3:30 in the afternoon. But that should not be an excuse for serving such a product. Basically, give me the Bolussen over this cinnamon snail any day of the week. 1.5/10

Killer Burger (Part 2)

(Original Review -- May 2011 Marine Burger)
(Part 3 -- December 2012 in Vancouver, WA)

This will just be a short entry on Killer Burger. I reviewed this establishment on 5/24/11 for the "Marine" burger. Pain.

Ohana Hawaiian Cafe

Ohana Hawaiian Cafe is located on NE Sandy Blvd. in Portland, Oregon.

Look closely by the woman in the orange shirt.
Shave ice syrup and a shave ice machine! WIN!

I learned that their female server/cashier is from Hilo, and the owners are from Mililani. Immediately, I had confidence that any food I ordered here would be authentic -- made by people from Hawaii. The server/cashier sold me on both the kalua pig and the teriyaki chicken, so I got their Waimea combo plate.

I am home.
Yes, yes, a million times yes. From first glance at the food, I was transported back home.

The macaroni salad had that peppery bite missing in virtually all the other mac salads I've tried in Oregon. It had the right amount of mayonnaise-to-elbow macaroni ratio. The shredded carrot is something found in traditional Hawaiian mac salads. It gave a nice color contrast to the dish as well.

The kalua pig was immaculate. It had a lot of moisture, and I love that the chef topped the portion with some cabbage. Being from the islands, kalua pig and cabbage is a classic dish, and this was done extremely well here. Easily the best I've had in Oregon.

And if that wasn't enough, the teriyaki chicken stole the show. The teriyaki sauce has such beautiful color and consistency. It's not a glaze, but it's not watery, either. Lots of great flavor in this one. The chicken was cooked very well, still retaining a bit of moisture. Also easily the best I've had in Oregon.

The rice? Yeah, that was great too, definitely reminded me of the rice I ate in Hawaii. But hey, you really can't mess rice up, right?

I do wish I got a larger portion of food for the $10.50 I paid. I ate my meal in about three minutes (I just sold my server I was very hungry). But frankly, it's still a reasonable price, and this place is an absolute winner. This is what happens when you have people from Hawaii cooking authentic Hawaiian plate lunches. I would easily take my family here.

The service was not the best I've ever had, but it wasn't the worst. Only two other tables were occupied at the time I came in, so perhaps a little more attention on the patrons would be nice instead of disappearing to the back. It's me nitpicking again, but I've just had better service at other places, and it still plays a factor in my score, so there.

It's places like Ohana Hawaiian Cafe that make me not miss Hawaii too much. Getting the real deal in another state is hard to come by. Ohana Hawaiian Cafe pulled it off. If a Hawaiian cafe (not in Hawaii) serves Hawaiian food and can transport me back home to the islands when eating it, it deserves an outstanding score. You want Hawaiian food in Oregon? You go here. 9.5/10