Monday, May 6, 2013

Springfield Area Chinese Food All-Stars!

All right, so in my quest for the best Chinese Food in Springfield MO, I've formulated a small list of the restaurants that make some the best individual menu items. If you agree or disagree, feel free to comment. After all, we're in this together, because it's not exactly easy finding good food in Springfield.

Best Wonton Soup
Golden Korean
1406 West Sunshine
Yeah, it's still surprising to me that a Korean place would have some of the best Chinese Food I've had in Springfield but it's true. Although China Wok at 4153 South Scenic is pretty good, if you wade through their lackluster customer service, it's Golden Korean's wonton soup that takes the title for best wonton soup in Springfield. While a lot of places in Springfield serve a somewhat soulless cup of wonton soup, Golden Korean's packs a flavorful punch and nearly is a meal in itself.

Best Egg Rolls
Shanghai Inn
1937 N. Glenstone Avenue
I tried Shanghai in on a whim. I was near there and I was in the mood for Chinese food (what else is new) and decided to try it. Like always, I got the General Chicken, as I do every time I try a new Chinese restaurant. It's sort of like the perfect barometer to test a Chinese place. Well, their General Chicken was okay, but it was their egg roll that really blew me away. They got the best egg rolls in town, hands down! They reminded me of these great egg rolls I used to get in New Hampshire at a place called Lun Hings. And like Lun Hings, Shanghai Inn's egg rolls are HOMEMADE! Take that, Springfield. I've been to about 30 Chinese restaurants in Springfield and Shanghai Inn is the first to have homemade egg rolls. You gotta go. You WILL taste the difference.

Best Crab Rangoons
Golden House
2744 West Chestnut Expressway
Basically, every Chinese restaurant in Springfield seems to serve the same crab rangoons. Nothing special. The only place that seems to single themselves out is Golden House. Their egg rolls are nice and crispy with just enough zing to put them over the top. They're especially good when you dip them in their spicy chicken sauce. Delicious!

Best Lo Mein
Shanghai Inn
1937 North Glenstone
This might take a little more research. It was down to three places but I gave the edge to Shanhai Inn. The other two places with great lo mein are Happy China at 820 East Battlefield and Chopsticks at 1128 South Glenstone. Chopsticks is an interesting little place. They seem to do things a little different, and for the most part their food is very good.

Best Sweet N Sour Chicken
Happy China
820 East Battlefield
I don't really get into this Springfield style Sweet N Sour chicken, with the ketchup and pineapple sauce mixture which is basically everywhere in Springfield. I prefer the deep red cherry, pineapple sauce, which is more common in other parts of America. And the closest to that in Springfield is Happy China, which is one of my favorite go-to Chinese restaurants in Springfield. They also have AWESOME Pepper Chicken, Boneless Spareribs, and Egg Foo Young.

Best General Chicken
Chinese Chef
3029 South Campbell
Quite a while back, I devoted an entire post to my quest for the best General Chicken in Springfield. Since then, the top restaurant, Lotus Inn, has closed. Mainly, in my opinion, because they served a buffet that wasn't very fresh. If they would have had fresher food on the buffet it might have worked. Because they definitely had some good food. Also, since I've made this list a new place has stepped up to vie for tops on the list; namely, Bao Bao at the Chesterfield Village. Still, I have to give the edge to Chinese Chef, since, when their General Chicken is fresh, it's very hard to beat. Other honorable mentions for General Chicken would have to be Golden Korean and China Wok, again if you can wade through their lackluster customer service.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Is It Possible To Find A Salsa WITHOUT Cilantro In Springfield, MO?

In the last decade or so, I've tried like a bazillion Mexican Restaurants in Springfield. And yeah, there really are like a bazillion Mexican Restaurants. Unfortunately, I can separate them into two groups, Mexican Villa or Not Mexican Villa.

Group 1: Mexican Villa

The main reason why Mexican Villa deserves to be in a group by itself is basically because it's different from every other Mexican restaurant in Springfield. Not necessarily better, just different. MV's food seems more influenced by Texas style Mexican food rather that regular Mexican food. MV would definitely be considered Tex-Mex.  

Mexican Villa is hugely popular in Springfield, MO. There's no way around it. And I have to admit, I like it too. In fact, when I moved away some ten years ago and then moved back like three years ago, MV, or more specifically MV's Sancho, was the only food I missed from Springfield, MO. I can't really vouch for anything else on MV's menu. I love the Sancho, I like the burrito, I like the cheese sauce, the guacamole is quite good, and I especially love the mixture of the three sauces (hot, mild, and sweet). The interesting thing about MV is how much all the locals love it, while many of the newcomers to Springfield are repelled by MV, including my family. I've exhausted about ten family members, trying to find someone who will go with me to MV, and after all this, only my Dad, who will eat just about anything, will go, and my Aunt will go just to appease me. Everyone else refuses. Luckily my girfriend is totally fine with MV. I gotta get my Sancho on!

Just to be clear, this article isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Mexican Villa. MV definitely has its issues. Even though I love the Sanchos and three sauce mixture, there are times when even the Sancho isn't that great. I've probably had a couple hundred Sanchos in my life, and I'd say about 1 out of 50 is simply NOT good. As if it's old or something. Also, MV isn't known for the greatest service in the world. I'd say most servers are good, far too many are just plain awful, so you should tip accordingly. 

Group 2: Not Mexican Villa

I've tried just about every other Mexican Restaurant in Springfield, MO, and I have to tell ya, they're all basically the same, and all basically overpriced. I get so annoyed by this. Every single time someone convinces me to try another one of these Mexican Restaurants, I'm totally put off by how similar the food is and definitely how similar the salsa is. Especially the cilantro. Is it possible to find a salsa WITHOUT cilantro in Springfield, MO?

Is it possible to find a salsa WITHOUT cilantro in Springfield, MO?

I have to get this off my chest. I HATE CILANTRO. After going to yet another Mexican Restaurant in Springfield and finding yet again, the same old bland salsa, presented in the same old way (a chilled bottle with two empty bowls), with the same old cilantro mixed in. Ugh! I can't stand it. I spend most of the time picking out the minty little leaves. Who wants a minty flavor in their food? It's like eating toothpaste casserole. I've even started asking various people at these restaurants if this is how they make salsa in Mexico, and they usually say no. They say most Mexicans don't like the cilantro in the salsa. I'm thinking, then why do you subject us to the stuff? Why is it that EVERY Mexican restaurant in Springfield serves it like this? Except of course for Mexican Villa, which is entirely a horse of a different color.

Here is a list of all the Mexican Restaurants I've tried that serve their tired flavorless salsa the same exact way and marred with cilantro leaves: El Charro, El Sombrero, La Hacienda, Cielito Lindo, Los Portales (now closed), La Mision, Los Vaqueros, El Puente, Las Margaritas, Maria's, and El Maguey. I told you it was a bazillion.

Here is a list of all the Mexican Restaurants that show some decency by NOT denigrating their salsa with cilantro leaves. Mexican Villa (although MV doesn't really have salsa but more like hot sauce, and it's incredibly hot so be careful!) and Chili's (although Chili's isn't really a Mexican Restaurant, I'm mentioning them because basically, they have the BEST SALSA IN SPRINGFIELD, MO!). A considerably shorter list, huh?

Good Food In Springfield, MO (It Could Happen) Results
This is a collective review of Mexican Villa, taking into account about 200 visits in the past 15 years. I've also included a side review, if you just get the Sancho, the best thing on the menu. Also included Best and Worst location for each element.
Food:G (Sancho: GG) Best: El Comida, Worst: East Sunshine
Portions: G (Sancho: GG) Same For All Locations
Prices: BB (Sancho: GGG) Same For All Locations
Service: B Best: Campbell Worst: National
Cleanliness: B Best: Campbell Worst: East Sunshine
1 BAD (Sancho: 2 GOOD!!!)
(Good to Bad Scale: GGG, GG, G, B, BB, BBB)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Seriously, Why Would Anyone Go To Olive Garden, When They Can Go To Bambino's?

Bambino's Cafe
1141 East Delmar
Springfield, MO 65807

Seriously, why would anyone go to Olive Garden, when they can go to Bambino's?

Now, I've been going to Bambino's for over a year now, and also during that time, I've been going to Olive Garden. But seriously, why even bother with the latter?

Well, for me, I love the soup, or Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden. Or at least I used to. It hasn't been good for a couple years now. It's really strange. A couple years ago, when I used to get the Zuppa Toscana, with the spicy sausage, potatoes, kale and delicious broth, everything was fresh and perfect. It looked good enough to eat, and I that's exactly what I did. And lots of it. I mean, it is my favorite soup on the planet. However, the last like eight times I've gone to the Olive Garden here in Springfield, the Zuppa Toscana has looked plain awful. Like it was the bottom of the barrel, with chewed up sausage sediments, mushy potato, no kale, and all of this floating in an oily orange mess. Just like it was the other night. Yeah, I was in the mood for soup, and just like the other eight times, the Zuppa Toscana was barely passable.

As for Olive Garden's pasta, well, after finding Bambino's over a year ago, Olive Garden's pasta seems somehow soulless. Olive Garden's pasta is like an uninspired microwaved mess, devoid of even an ounce of honest or authentic flavor. I didn't order any the other night, but sneaked a sample of my girlfriend's ziti and yeah, it was that same blah taste and tired old consistency.

It's kinda funny, Olive Garden's overall presentation hasn't changed a bit. They still give a good show, with the nicely dressed waitstaff, complimentary sample wine, free breadsticks, soup or salad with your entree, and the mint chocolate at the end. And yet, nobody seems to notice how much the food has faltered. Or perhaps, it never was that good. But that doesn't stop Olive Garden from raising their prices seemingly every year. No sir. In the last fifteen years, I would guess that Olive Garden's prices have ballooned 30%. It's ridiculous.

Which brings me to my original question, why on earth would anyone go to Olive Garden, when they can go to Bambino's? Obviously this only applies if you live in Springfield. But I'm sure, no matter where you live, your town has a place like or at least close to Bambino's. You know, a smaller, Mom and Pop type Italian Restaurant with food that absolutely makes Olive Garden look like neatly packaged microwave meals with a 500% markup.

I went to Bambino's tonight and like always, Bambino's food was a revelation, absolutely delicious. I got the Nona, which is linguini with alfredo sauce, mixed with chicken and diced red peppers. For an appetizer, we had garlic bread with the spinach and cheese sauce. So creamy. So scrumptious. So much more evolved than the ridiculousness of Olive Garden food. At Bambino's everything tastes homemade. Real. NOT microwaved! The prices are very reasonable. The portions are more than abundant. From what I've been able to find, Bambino's is the best Italian place in Springfield. Period.

So, it really is a no-brainer. If you are in the mood for Italian food, find Bambino's. It's a smaller place, so there might be a wait. But the wait at Bambino's is only about a 1000 times more worth the wait than Olive Garden's. I guarantee it.

Good Food In Springfield, MO (It Could Happen) Results

For Olive Garden (Just For The Heck Of It)
Food: BB
Portions: GG
Prices: BBB
Service: GG
Cleanliness: G
  1 BAD
For Bambino's
Food: GG
Portions: GGG
Prices: GG
Service: G
Cleanliness: G
2 GOOD!!
(Good to Bad Scale: GGG, GG, G, B, BB, BBB)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Quest For The Best Steak And Cheese Sub In Springfield, MO

When I moved to Springfield, MO, let me tell you, I didn't move here for the food. I came from New England, and although New England probably isn't known for having the best food in the world, it sure was A LOT better than the food in Springfield, MO. Chinese food is the easiest comparison to point to. Mainly because Springfield has a bazillion Chinese restaurants and yet only a couple are any good. And sadly, none of them come close to the New England Chinese restaurants. The same can be said of Pizza and Subs. Subs especially.

In New England, or at least New Hampshire, it seems like every town has a House of Pizza and that usually means subs too. I remember when I first moved to Springfield, in desperation, in search of a good steak and cheese sub, I went into a pizza place and asked if they had subs. The people there were dumbfounded and borderline annoyed. They said, "Does it say we have subs on sign?" They were so snippy. Little did they know, they were idiots. Cuz EVERY pizza place in New England probably most of the country, have subs too. Well, maybe.

Now, let's get to the matter at hand. Where in Springfield, MO can I find the best steak and cheese sub. Well, eventually, I did find some places that have steak and cheese subs. Actually a lot of the time, places have a steak and cheese-esque sandwich on their menu called a Philadelphia Steak sandwich or something like that. And since we're so desperate, I'm taking those into account. Even though some of those are nothing like a steak and cheese sub.

Also, before I list the best, I've disqualified a place in Springfield, basically because the owner is such a jerk. When I first moved to Springfield, right in the middle of the recession, after the fourth or fifth month of still not finding a job, I was getting extremely desperate. I went into this place in question and the owner was a total jerk to me. He was annoyed I came in looking for a job before lunch, around 11 am. So then I came back at 1 pm and he was annoyed I came in toward the end of the rush. Then I came in at 3 pm, and he asked, "Are you the guy who keeps coming in looking for a job." I said, "Yeah, probably." Then the guy was like, "We're not hiring." I glanced over at the "Now Hiring" sign in the window but realized what he meant. They weren't hiring me. So now, no matter how much I would love to try their subs, I never have and never will. This guy can take a flying leap.

So, in the quest for the best steak and cheese sub in Springfield, MO, here are my current findings:

3. El Sombrero Mexican Restaurant
1529 West Battlefield Road

Yeah, I know. It's crazy but this Mexican restaurant has one of the best steak and cheese subs in town! Sadly, I don't care much for their Mexican food, but my family likes to go there, so sometimes I just go along with them to be with them and not necessarily wherever we're going. So, one of the times I was sitting there looking at the menu, I noticed a little hand written sign they put up near the table saying they have steak and cheese subs or philly subs, I can't remember the exact wording. The important thing is they have a good one. I haven't been there in a while, and I'm not sure if they still make them, but it was certainly good while it lasted.

2. Tubby's Diner
2204 West College Road

Tubby's Diner is a great little place. One of the first places in Springfield, MO to get an overall Good rating on this site. And the star of the show is their steak and cheese sub. Of all the imitation philly-type subs in Springfield, Tubby's Diner comes the closest. It's a great sandwich and fries are awesome too. Great meal and great price! The only drawback is Tubby's is only open until 4 pm so you gotta get in there early or shift around your schedule. But it's worth it. It's always good to make time for Tubby's.

1. Lenny's Sub Shop
1903 South Glenstone

Lenny's is definitely the best in town for a genuine steak and cheese sub. Unfortunately, it's a little on the pricey side. You could basically get their large steak and cheese for a one-third of the price in New England. And New England has a way higher cost of living. So, a large steak and cheese at Lenny's is around 11 bucks, while the same sub in New England would run you around 8 bucks. Regardless, you could seriously get by with just splitting the large. It's pretty much a meal in itself. So, I definitely recommend Lenny's. Especially if you have someone to split the sub with. Use the buddy system when you go to the Lenny's and split a large steak and cheese. Otherwise, you'll be spending like 15 bucks on the meal, pretty pricey for a sub.

Worst Steak and Cheese Sub
Subway (any of the Subways)

Just thought I'd add the worst steak and cheese sub in Springfield, MO, too. I don't know how Subway gets away with calling their steak and cheese a steak and cheese sub. It's more like a steak-um sub. Don't get me wrong. It's still a pretty good sub. One of the better subs at subway. But Subway's subs, for the most part, are pretty soulless, and the steak and cheese is no exception. If you don't think Subway's subs are soulless, try their oven roasted chicken. It's like a disgusting chicken sponge sandwich.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wow, Tubby's Got It Going On!

Tubby's Diner
2204 West College Street
Springfield, MO

So, me and my Pops were cruising around one afternoon to try and find somewhere new to eat lunch when we happened upon Tubby's Diner.

I'll have to admit, at first I thought we might have made a mistake. Tubby's is in this little converted building along the old Route 66. The inside might need a little decor upgrade. But then again, there's something to be said for the homey atmosphere.

We got a steak n cheese and fries and also nachos and split everything. Man, I was surprised how good the food was. The prices weren't bad either. The steak n cheese and the fries were especially impressive. Wow!

One thing that annoys me a little bit about this place is it's only open until 4 pm. Hopefully that'll change someday. This place is just too good only to be open half the day. I'd love to take my girlfriend there but she doesn't get out of work until 4-5.

I encourage anyone out there that likes GOOD food at decent prices to patronize Tubby's Diner. As one of the few really good places in Springfield, we need to keep it alive and well. If you feel so inclined, after you've tried Tubby's Diner, you should definitely "like" them on Facebook. The owner told me and my Pop that they have lots of spur of the moment specials that you can only find out about if you're connected with them on Facebook. It's definitely worth it! 

Good Food In Springfield, MO (It Could Happen) Results
Food: GGG
Portions: GG
Service: G
Cleanliness: B
2 GOOD!!
(Good to Bad Scale: GGG, GG, G, B, BB, BBB)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Las Margaritas Rolls Out The White Paper For You!

Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
2113 West Republic Road
Springfield, MO

Wow, I've felt about twenty thousand different ways walking into various restaurants in my life, but this one was completely unique. I had some reservations about trying Las Margaritas on the south side of Springfield, but ultimately acquiesced.

Wow, what a bizarre place! When you walk in, you're not quite sure what to think, whether it is upscale or not upscale. When you look in the menu, and see the prices, you start to think, well, maybe it is supposed to be upscale. After all, they have pretty nice tables, cloth napkins and nice decor. However, in a twist, once we sat at the table, I realized the table was covered in two long strips of white paper. Kinda like when I was a kid and my mom had to take me to a public restroom and she placed toilet paper on the toilet seats to minimize the spread of germs. The paper on the tables also felt a bit like we were puppies with newspaper spread out underneath us.

I was so perplexed by the this, I actually asked the waitress why they spread out the white paper on the tables. Our waitress was very pleasant, probably the best part of the experience. Anyway, sh said well, it had to do with a lot of guests having children and making messes and also it was great if they had crayons and they could color the paper. I was still perplexed. It seems to me when you have restaurant tables are just gonna get dirty. That's just part of it. If you don't like cleaning tables, maybe you shouldn't have a restaurant.

As far as the food, the salsa was some of the better salsa I've had in Springfield. However, the hot salsa they offered with the regular salsa was just plain ridiculously hot. Even when you mixed it with the regular salsa, it spoiled the flavor and just made the whole mixture hotness in lieu of flavor. I ordered a burrito enchilada style (8.99-one of the cheapest things on the menu), which came with refried beans and rice. The burrito itself was smaller than the price would warranted, in my opinion. My girlfriend ordered enchiladas, also with refried beans and rice. I have to hand it to Las Margaritas, because their mexican rice was possibly the best tasting mexican rice I've ever had. Unfortunately, everything else on my EXTREMELY hot plate wasn't so flavorful. In fact, it was strangely devoid of flavor.

So, the end result of Las Margaritas is, nah, it's not a do-again place. At least not for me. It was a Friday night and the place was pretty busy, so who knows, maybe they aren't all that desperate for business. Apparently somebody in Springfield likes this place. Not me so much. At these prices the food should have a bit more flavor, and the tables should probably be white paper free.

Good Food In Springfield, MO (It Could Happen) Results
Food: BB
Portions: G
Prices: BB
Service: G
Cleanliness: G
(Good to Bad Scale: GGG, GG, G, B, BB, BBB)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Surprise Suprise! You just got ripped off!

Maria's Mexican Restaurant in Downtown Springfield

I went to Maria's with my gf and aunt and it basically sucked. Yeah, the food was okay. But the hostesses didn't seem to know what hostess means. They weren't inviting or welcoming in any way. Then the waiter wasn't much better. He got my gf a refill but I had to ask for one. He seemed annoyed. I ordered the Sergio but instead of shredded beef, I wanted ground beef. After a short wait, the food arrived and I was shocked to see how small the portions were, considering this was nearly a 10 dollar dish. I was unpleasantly surprised when my sergio cost more than my gf's who got an "ultimate" sergio (I can't remember if it was called ultimate or some silly thing). I asked the waiter how this could be and he said it cost extra to substitute the shredded beef for ground beef. I asked, "It cost extra for a cheaper meat?" He said, "Yes", again somewhat annoyed. I said I would have liked to know that but at this point, it was obvious he didn't care. As we left, the hostesses just talked to each other instead of telling us, "Thanks for coming," or anything like that. Ridiculous. Food was good but portions were comical. Service was serviceable but completely dead fish friendly. Won't be back.

And oh, to the rest of Springfield, as a warning, the next time a waiter/waitress doesn't tell me something cost more to change or whatever, it's coming directly out of your tip! I'm sick of this.

Good Food In Springfield, MO (It Could Happen) Results
Food: B
Portions: B
Prices: B
Cleanliness: G
(Good to Bad Scale: GGG, GG, G, B, BB, BBB)