Monday, July 13, 2015

Nano 108, Colorado Springs, CO

I am not a big drinker, though I do appreciate good alcohol.  As with all people in my youth a certain percentage of my time was spent attempting to drink in order to get drunk.  While this resulted in numerous interesting stories (of which I shall not go into detail at this time as I wish to retain some semblance of dignity), it did not provide me with a wide expanse of knowledge concerning what I loving refer to as "Booze."  As I have gotten older though I have taken a liking to the enjoyment, yes the actual taste, of alcohol in its many forms.

My go to has always been whisky, preferably aged and of Irish descent, strait.  Following that I will enjoy a good mixed drink.  Give me a Dark and Stormy, or a 77 with a twist (my mother of all people got me into this drink) and I am content.  It wasn't until I was married that my wife, and my father-in-law, showed me the finer aspects of beer as a beverage.  It is from my wife that I have found a love of Hefeweizens, or wheat beers, and blonds.  From my father-in-law I have sampled a variety of darker Mexican beers that have grown on me over time.  Perhaps it was San Diego, for upon moving there people would come out of the wood work to speak of and offer different flavors of beer.  Many popular brands I found I disliked (I'm still looking for a decent IPA), and some supposedly low class beers I found to enjoy immensely (a cold Budwiser is amazing after a night of dancing).  After moving to Colorado I held little hope of rediscovering the love I'd found for beer in San Diego, then I happened upon a little brewery named Nano 108.

I chanced upon it while out on a run, marked the spot in my mind, and came back later with my wife.  Down a long road just off a main street/highway and stuck between a strip mall and an industrial area the first thing you notice before you even see the sign for the brewery is an old derelict truck out front with a large sign stating "BEER", which for some reason made me smile.  Moving toward the front of the establishment is a sign hanging above it with the name.  There is an outdoor patio area with simplistic wooden chairs and tables, and then a door into a metal faced wall.  Not very inviting at first glance, never the less my wife and I entered the brewery.

The inside of Nano 108 is small but warm and welcoming.  There are a few tables in front of the bar, and a few off to the side.  When we entered the side tables were packed but there was room up at the bar.  We were quickly met with an easy going and patient bartender whose name I cannot remember at this moment, much to my loss.  Between checking on a delivery, serving beer, and talking to regulars he was what I pictured the ideal bartender to be.  This being our first time there my wife and I got a small flight, just four beers to taste.  We settled on: an Orange Wheat beer, a Hefeweizen, a Dunkelnweizen (not sure I spelled that right, but it is a dark version of a Hefeweizen), and a stout that caught my eye as it had some agave in it, and I love that stuff.

Here are my own impressions of the beer, and keep in mind that I am not a Cicerone (the beer equivalent of a wine expert).  The Orange Wheat beer was great, almost as good as the Hefeweizen for me, it fell in the same fruity vein in which I like my beer.  The Hefeweizen was my base, and I have to say Nano 108 made a pretty good one.  I especially liked that while there were notes of fruit it didn't overpower the beer with it.  The stout with agave was good but a little too stiff for my taste, my wife liked that one.  My favorite was the Dunkelweizen, which had all the slight fruit taste of the Hefeweizen but paired with a headier flavor that reminded me slightly of the Mexican beers I love.

As we drank our flight the bartender chatted us up between other duties.  He told us a bit about the brewery, and the one thing that got me was the pride he took in the beer.  He spoke to us of the owner, and the beers.  He even mentioned that if a batch didn't come out right they would dump the whole thing (which thankfully had only happened once that year).  There is something about an establishment that takes pride in what they serve to people that just elevates it in my eyes.  I would have liked to stay a bit longer and have a glass of the Dunkelweizen but my wife and I had other things to do that day.  Still I plan on coming back to Nano 108 in the near future, if not for the beer (which is amazing), then for the atmosphere.

And that completes probably my one and only brewery review.  For those of you who came to this site for the food there are food trucks that are scheduled to appear throughout the entire week.  So come on down to Nano 108 for a bite to eat and brew, you will not be disappointing.

Nano 108
2402 Waynoka Rd
Colorado Springs, CO 80915

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Crave Real Burgers, Colorado Springs, CO

The first thing I did upon learning I would be moving to Colorado Springs was research the food.  Well, that and how much sales tax would be (2.9% in case anybody is wondering).  In my first barrage of asking friends, relatives, random people at running events, and good ol' Google I came across a little burger joint know as Crave Real Burger.  A few minutes later I was searching for a website and what I found filled me with a warm feeling inside both my heart and my gut.  Images of large messy, and quite creative burgers.  It may sound strange but at that moment I knew that after moving to Colorado everything would be all right.

My wife and I finally managed to make it to Crave a few days after landing in Colorado Springs.  It was a sunny Saturday afternoon when we parked at the strip mall that Crave was located.  Walking in we were met by a pleasant server that quickly directed us to our seat.  After sitting down I took a look around.  The place had a nice feel to it, not upscale but also not fast food.  It leaned more the towards the diner experience.  Clean booths lined the walls, menus stacked against the wall at each booth, a la Islands.  We could see the kitchen off in the distance and hear the rattle and shake of cooks flipping burgers and preparing food.  The sound was actually quite soothing.

Our server appeared quickly and greeted us with a smile.  We ordered our drinks and took a long look at the menu.  The beauty of Crave is in the creation of the burgers.  Of course you can design your own burger, but I find the creations on the menu to be so alluring that it makes you want to try them.  For example there is one burger called the Popper, which I cam very close to getting.  It has beer battered cream cheese and jalapenos, lettuce, tomato, onion, chipotle may and avocado.  Something about the combination pushes beyond the whole novelty factor of "let's see what we can get people to eat" and enters the territory of a well thought out burger.    That is probably what attracted me to Crave in the first place, the burgers aren't aimed at the hipster, new sensation, experimental crowd but you can't call them the "average" burger.  They are not burgers a person dares to eat, they are burgers a person actually wants to eat.

After much consideration my wife settled on an Italian themed burger named the Wise Guy with a side order of Garlic Parmesan Fries (with roasted garlic mayo), and I ordered the Love Stinks with a side of Das Fries (beer cheese, cheddar, bacon and jalapenos).  Then we sat back and passed the time examining the list of milkshakes.  Some had a few interesting ingredients, such as cheesecake, and Reese's Pieces, but all of them sounded pretty good.  Then there was another section of "Adult Shakes" with various alcoholic additions, such as Kahlua and Vodka just to name a few.  These too sounded pretty tasty but today I was there for the burger.

Less than twenty minutes later our burgers showed up.  I looked down with glee upon the Love Stinks.  It contained pretty much everything I loved to put on a burger (garlic cream cheese, crispy onion strings, candied bacon, roasted red pepper, onion, garlic mayo and red pepper aioli).  To say the least it was delicious.  The flavors really melded well together, and the burger was cooked perfectly.  The only drawback was that it didn't feel, for lack of better words, "Stinky."  It felt like a burger with  bunch of ingredients that were designed to give bad breath.  I've had burgers before where you felt the onion and garlic as you ate it and you knew that your breath would fairly reek afterwards.  It just didn't get that feeling from this burger.  Not a bad burger at all, but not the intense flavor I was expecting.  The Das Fries on the other hand were exactly what I was expecting.  The beer cheese had tons of flavor and the bacon and jalapenos added just the right kick to the fries.  It was so good that I ended up stealing a few fries from my wife so that I could sop up some of the beer cheese sauce.

My wife did let me steal a few bites from her burger.  Now when my wife asked our server about the burger the server told her that it tasted very Italian.  In the first bite I knew exactly what she meant.  My wife's burger had crispy mozzarella (a flat chunk of it that managed to be both crispy and gooey), prosciutto, fresh basil, tomato and onion drizzled with balsamic, olive oil and pesto.  It was exquisitely Italian.  You could taste every ingredient in it and they all just worked together perfectly.  I've had Italian themed burgers before, usually brought about by adding deep fried mozzarella sticks and a heaping amount of red sauce, this was nothing like that.  This is what an Italian burger should taste like.  I also tried the Garlic Parmesan Fries.  At first I thought they were not bad, but then I dipped one into the roasted garlic mayo, and then the flavor hit me.  It was a great addition to the Italian burger.

Would I go back to Crave Real Burgers?  I'm already planning on going back there this weekend.  Not only that, I am aiming to try every burger they have on the menu, and not just because they give you a free T-Shirt when you have had one of each.  Everything on the menu looks delicious.  There is pretty much nothing I would not eat there.  A burger, maybe with an "Adult Shake", and I'm a happy man.

Big Bad Wolf Challange, Winners Board

Crave Real Burger
7465 N. Academy Blvd.
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
(719) 264-7919

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Las Cuatro Milpas, Barrio Logan, San Diego, California

You will notice there is only one picture in this blog.  That is because there only needs to be one picture.  You are looking at five rolled tacos (okay I might have eaten one) covered in cheese, crema (not sour cream), filled with the best tasting pork you will ever eat (I added diced onions to mine).  This is not your average burnt piece of carnita, those have their place but not here.  These are more like steamed chunks of meat.  You can taste the hours that went into their production, though not for long.  These chunks of pork will last just long enough for you to cram them into your mouth.  The price for these, you ask, one dollar each, and that is a steal.

But I am jumping ahead.  A friend of mine was coming down to visit and suggested a certain Luchador themed restaurant that will not be named.  I noted that while the place certainly has flare it was lacking in flavor, and I was speaking specifically of their food.  Instead I remembered a happier time three years ago when my co-worker would get a nod from the boss to go out and bring back food from a place only spoken of in a whisper, Las Cuatros Milpas.  They would arrive back an hour later with some of the best pork I'd ever put into my mouth.  Ah, those were the days.

So we decided to meet up at Las Cuatros Milpas, and after searching around the area I snagged a parking spot a block away.  Barrio Logan is not the easiest place to park in general, but finding a parking spot in front of this place is nearly impossible.  The first thing you see is a line of people coming out the front door.  The people span the rainbow of skin colors and ethnicities, but what they do have in common is a love of great Mexican food.

Entering the front door you see two older Mexican ladies working behind the counter dropping rolled tacos into a big, wide bowl filled with oil.  At the same time they are shoveling in pieces of meat into small greasy corn tortillas.  The operation is simple:  grab food, quickly prep, drop on plate, and pay.  The whole operation takes a minute or so.  You can ask a question, but make it fast as there are a lot of hungry people behind you.  The best part, as far as I can tell there is only one type of meat, pork.  No confusion or questions, just let me have that.  There are other foods there.  The beans and rice are pretty good.  On Saturdays they have menudo.  But what people go there for is the pork, and most people go for the rolled tacos, lots of people, pretty much every day of the week (except Sunday, they are closed Sunday).

There is only one picture in this blog.  What you are not seeing are the women behind the counter hard at work putting a meal together.  What you do not see are the other women further on in the restaurant working with large industrial sized machines making all the food from scratch.  What you do not see are the smiling faces, full stomachs, and sighs of contentment from the people who have just finished their food, or their grimace as they realize they will have to get back in line to get more.  There is only one picture in this this blog, and it is the only picture you need to see.

Las Cuatros Milpas
1875 Loan Ave
San Diego, CA 92113

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Huddle, Mission Hills, San Diego, California

When people say Mission Hills down here in San Diego, they think classy houses and rich people, but buried right off Washington is a little hole in the wall diner.  I actually discovered it by accident when I first made the long drive down to court my wife (wow that sounds old, like I had to offer her father a couple of oxen for her hand in marriage).  Here is my little review of one of the best little places to grab a quick bite in Mission Hills, the Huddle.

Never has the term hole in the wall been more apply applied.  Across the street from Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria , and a few doors down from Brooklyn Girl, is a small glass window next to a small door with a metal screen.  Surrounded by expensive eateries you had to wonder what this place was doing here, but once you taste the food you'll realize that every city needs a Huddle.

The first time we, my wife and I, had gone to the Huddle was when we were taking her ring back to be re-sized.  I had gotten up early for a long run and was starving at this point.  Not wanting to hunt down a fancy restaurant after dropping off the ring we stopped in my wife's old neighborhood, actually a few blocks down from it.  We considered grabbing some pizza but Lefty's wasn't going to open for at least an hour.  Instead we made our way into the Huddle.

Once inside we were greeted with a smile by a giant of a man who I believe was the owner, or at least the manager.  With a big smile he pointed us to a table.  We quickly met our server, and feeling the need to gorge I ordered a Chili Omelette with a side of hash browns and an English Muffin.  My wife got a cheese omelette, country potatoes, and wheat toast.  Then we sat back and examined the decor in more detail as we waited for our food.

Quaint would be a nice way of putting it.  The interior reminded me of the a home converted into a greasy spoon.  Wallpaper covered one wall, and behind the counter stood a large refrigerator that looked like it had been around since the early 50's.  To the right of it was a large flat grill where everything from flapjacks to burgers, to my omelette was produced.  Against the far wall was a single bathroom, and a good two feet away from that door was what appeared to be the pantry.

Our food arrived in less than 15 minutes, and this was on a busy Saturday morning.  The chili was placed in a small container to the left of my omelette which was a bit of a surprise but after distributing it evenly between my eggs and the hash browns I proceeded to wolf it down without a second thought.  Everything I had ordered was delicious and comforting in a way that only the best greasy spoon can deliver.  I even managed to snag a little of my wife's toast and gave their in-house perseveres a try, strawberry, apple, and marmalade.  They were so good that I bought a jar of the marmalade for my dad as he has a weakness for it.

Our waitress and the owner were polite and attentive.  The food was hot and fresh.  The environment was welcoming.  Overall I highly recommend giving this place a chance.  Also if you do go, and have a hankering for something sweet I'd ask for the Shake of the Month.  They made me one of the best chocolate and peanut butter milkshakes I've ever had.

The Huddle
4023 Goldfinch Street
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 291-5950