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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lawrence, KS: As Roseanne Roseannadanna Used To Say ... It's Always Something, If It's Not One Thing It's Another

Mi Ranchito
707 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone number (785) 749-5600
Website: miranchitokc.com
Prices: $$$$

OK, maybe I was a little too harsh last time, giving them one BOMB out of ten, but their attention to detail is severely lacking, margaritas weak, chips way too thin, and service spotty at best. Having nearly killed my wife by serving her tomatoes after telling them that "she's allergic to tomatoes" last time we were there, I swore we would never return, but alas, the other Mexican restaurants in town are shit, so there you have it.

For example, last night we were greeted, if you want to call it that, by a redheaded, ponytailed hostess who was extremely rude. She took us to a table, without a word, in the bar, so we asked for a booth in the restaurant instead. If I wanted to sit in the bar, I would have walked into the bar and grabbed a stool, but their drinks suck and I would never have done that. She snatched the menus off of the table, grunted, walked to a booth in the restaurant, tossed the menus down on the table, turned around and walked away talking into her wireless mic. No "welcome", "I'm sorry", "of course", "enjoy your meal" ... nothing. Maybe she was having a bad night, but this young woman has no business being in the hospitality business and does Mi Ranchito a great disservice by being the first and last face that people see when they enter and leave the restaurant. The manager standing beside her must either be blind or clueless because he watched it all happen without appearing to give a shit less.
The food is "OK" by Midwestern standards (very low standards), but the service, chips, and margaritas all leave a great deal to be desired. We are going to Texas soon and I cannot wait for some "real" Tex-Mex, not the crap they serve in Lawrence and the rest of the Midwest that many "self-proclaimed" food critics refer to as "Tex-Mex" ... what a joke ... get a clue folks ... there is not a single Tex-Mex in Lawrence, Mi Ranchito included.
CombatCritic Gives Mi Ranchito (Lawrence) 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


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Read Chris S.'s review of Mi Ranchito on Yelp


Title: Lawrence, KS: As Roseanne Roseannadanna Used To Say ... It's Always Something, If It's Not One Thing It's Another

Key Words: Mi Ranchito, mi, ranchito, lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, Mexican, taco, tacos, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: BOHICA = "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again"

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lawrence, KS: No "Tie" Here, Thai Diner Is The Clear Winner As Best Value In Town

Thai Diner
2223 Louisiana Street, Suite E
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone number: (785) 551-7528
Website: thaidinerks.com
Prices: $$$$

On this, our second visit, the food was just as good and the prices fair, but the service left something to be desired.
We were not greeted when we arrived, only told to find our own table. It took quite a while for our server to welcome us and bring our water even though the place was virtually empty on a Sunday night with two servers working. We ordered the Mini Steamed Buns ($5.95) with sweet pork sausage and dried shredded pork on wheat flour buns and the Crispy Spring Rolls ($4.25 - Regular/chicken). The server asked me if we wanted the chicken spring rolls even though I ordered the "regular" variety which, according to the menu, come with chicken. I said. "yes, of course".

After taking our order, our server indicated that "everything" would be out shortly, but if you know me, you know I detest entrees arriving before the appetisers have been finished. I asked her to please hold the entrees until we had finished our starters, to which she readily agreed. The steamed buns (3) were OK even though the steamed whole wheat buns were not even baked. They had an odd look and texture (like eating raw bread dough) and were too big for the tiny dipping cups, but the flavor was decent. Not something we would order again. The spring rolls were good and a decent value at $4.25. The dipping sauces came in teeny weeny cups, too small even for the fried spring rolls which were not that big to begin with.

As I mentioned, the entrees did not arrive until we had finished our appetisers, so once we were done with the starters we waited and waited and waited, and more than 10 minutes later our entrees were finally in front of us. 
My wife had the Yum-Tum Phad Thai ($9.95) which she raved about, a stir fry of rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, cabbage and lemon grass with tofu. She cleaned her plate and would have likely licked it clean (I'm joking of course) if we were not in public, stating "that was absolutely delicious". I decided to try the Yellow Curry with beef ($9.25), a good size portion of potato pieces, yellow onion, sliced carrots and thinly sliced beef in a deliciously sweet, savory and spicy curry that dazzled the senses. It was an excellent curry.


The decor is simple and basic, but tasteful, but I would recommend not sitting anywhere near the double front doors on a cold and/or windy night because our napkins flew and the chill was breathtaking every time someone entered or left, some several times, including one couple who did not know the difference between Thai and sushi, having missed their mark by several hundred feet and leaving as quickly as they had entered.
Even though the service was suspect on this occasion, a plus was that I found out that you can "BYOB" (meaning wine I believe), because they advertise "no cork (corkage) fee". The minuses, they insist on "tipping your server appropriately" (better left unsaid as common sense tells you that if they provide the glasses and uncork the wine, then you should tip accordingly) and that you must leave any unconsumed alcohol behind (which is likely state law).

CombatCritic Gives Thai Diner 8 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!



Eight Bombs Equates To:
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Title: Lawrence, KS: No "Tie" Here, Thai Diner Is The Clear Winner As Best Value In Town

Key Words: Thai Diner, Thai, diner, Lawrence, Kansas, KS, 23rd, curry, Phad, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: WTFO! = "What-The-Fuck ... Over!"

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lawrence, KS: Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Crappy Attitude ... Papa John's

Papa John’s Pizza

918 Mississippi Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone number: (785) 865-5775
Website: papajohns.com
Prices: $$$$

There are no photos, sorry, you know what Papa John's and their pizzas look like and this review has nothing to do with pizza. 

If Nathan, the manager, is any indication of quality at this location, they are in deep kimchi and their far less than "stellar" 2.5/5 rating on Yelp seems to indicate that fact. If I were the owner of this location, I would be very, very concerned, but then again, they churn out pizzas for KU's famished and undiscerning student body whether or not their quality standards and customer service are terrible, which they are.

This was the second time we have ordered online for pickup at this location and it will be the last. Their website sucks. They text me their "specials" EVERY FRIDAY, but I usually delete them and wish I had this time as well. I followed the link, chose the crust, size, sauce, and toppings for each pizza, only to be told, after going through this with two pizzas, that the promo code (PJ40) they texted me was "INVALID". I tried again and received the same message, so I went to their "Specials" page where I found a two topping extra large (16") pizza at $9.99 each ... BINGO! But when I clicked on the link that came up advertising that special, I was told "this page doesn't exist", so I tried again with the same absurd outcome.

I finally ordered a couple large pizzas for pickup because by this time we were famished and went to the store with order in hand. I tried to tell Nathan, the manager, about the difficulties that I had with the website and ordering what we wanted, but he refused to listen to what I was saying, insisting that I had received the "PJ40" promo code discount when, in-fact, I had ordered the large (14") two topping pizza specials ($7.99 each). I continued to try to explain the situation and the problems I had with the website, but Nathan obviously was not listening ... "uh huh, yea, uh huh", so I said "you really don't give a shit do you?". He told me there was a Help Line I could call if I was not happy, pointing to a decal on the side of the pizza display case.

Then, when he went to retrieve my order, even though I had arrived 30 minutes after ordering (the email I received said they would be ready in 15-25 minutes), our pizzas had not even been made yet. He lied, telling me they were in the oven, then ignored me other than telling me to "get out of the way" when the next customer arrived. Seriously? Get out of the way? Is that any way to talk to a customer? You know the answer to that question. After another 10-12 minutes, our pizzas were finally ready and I departed, giving Nathan my card and telling him to read my review on my popular blog and on Yelp.

The taste or quality of the pizza is irrelevant at this point, being the same mass produced pies you can get at any Papa John's in the U.S.A. It is the nerve and unprofessionalism I have now experienced on two occasions at this same location and from the same person if I am not mistaken. Nathan should be counseled and put on double secret probation if not fired. He gives this location specifically and Papa John's in general a bad name, leaving a bad taste in my mouth ... literally.

CombatCritic Gives Papa John's And Nathan The Manager 1 Bomb Out Of 10 And A Spot On My "WALL OF SHAME" ... More Bombs Are Better!


One Bomb Equates To:
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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!

Papa John's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read Chris S.'s review of Papa John's Pizza on Yelp

Title: Lawrence, KS: Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Crappy Attitude ... Papa John's

Key Words: Lawrence, KS, Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Papa John's, papa, John's, John, pizza, Mississippi, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: FUBAR = "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair"

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lawrence, KS: Port Fonda's Ship Will Soon Set Sail ... Into Oblivion

Port Fonda
900 New Hampshire, Ste B
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone number: (785) 856-2535
Website: portfonda.com
Prices: $$$$

I forgot my phone in the car, so please excuse the lack of photos. I have been wanting to try Port Fonda since they opened, but, to be honest, the menu never did do much for me. I like traditional Mexican food and am not enamored with the many Mexican-fusion menus and ingredients that have become so cliche lately. However, before I leave Lawrence and the Midwest for the Left Coast later this year, I thought I should give them a try.

I met a friend downtown and we walked over, entering a large, but mostly empty, dining room that looks more like a sports bar than a Mexican restaurant. I despise paying for chips and salsa, but we ordered it anyway ($5), coming in a small tin bucket accompanied by choice of two salsas (we got the corn and roasted tomatillo). The chips were  a bit skimpy, but fresh and obviously homemade, and the salsas good. but not great. I was a bit disappointed for $5.

The "special" sounded good, a deep fried chimichanga filled with chicken, rice, pork belly and some other stuff topped with a poblano (or was it serano?) chile cheese sauce ($14). The chimichanga was quite tasty, but very greasy, feeling my arteries clogging with every mouthful. It was about half the size of your average chimichanga and came with zilch, zippo, nada, making it the equivalent of a $28 chimichanga, ale carte, no rice, no beans, at your run of the mill Mexican place. Not a great value.

Because my ratings are based on value, bang-for-the-buck, and not on just the quality of the food, I cannot in good conscience give Port Fonda even an average rating (5 Bombs Out Of 10). Let's face it, their ala carte chimichanga belongs in the $6 to $8 range max, not $14, particularly at lunch. Additionally, I detest restaurants that charge for chips and salsa and $5 is ridiculous for what we received. The highlight of our lunch was the server, who was very attentive, but then she should be as we were two of the few customers in the place at noon on a Thursday.

Now I know why the place is empty and why they have received such mediocre ratings. I doubt that this place will be around much longer and am surprised they have remained open for over a year.

CombatCritic Gives Port Fonda 3 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Three Bombs Equates To:
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Read Chris S.'s review of Port Fonda on Yelp


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
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Title: Lawrence, KS: Port Fonda's Ship Will Soon Set Sail ... Into Oblivion

Key Words: Port Fonda, port, fonda, New Hampshire, Lawrence, Kansas, Mexican, Mexico, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: SNAFU = "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up"

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lawrence, KS: Taco Taco, Just Give Me A Taco!

Taco Zone 
13 E. 8th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone number: (785) 424-7123
Website: thetacozone.com
Prices: $$$$

I was not extremely impressed the first time we ate here and am not overly so after the second. I hear many in Lawrence raving about Taco Zone, but have yet to see what all the fuss is about other than it may be the best of many mediocre Mexican food options in a city of nearly 100,000.
The food is pretty good, hence my rating (in comparison only to Lawrence, Kansas and the lack of decent retail food establishments), but in Los Angeles, San Antonio, New York City or other food havens, they would deserve 3-stars at best.
I am acquainted with one of the owners (through the American Legion where they do most of their preparation), a very nice man and well trained at the infamous Le Cordon Bleu in Paris on a scholarship from Julia Child no less, but think Taco Zone is trying too hard to be a "trendy", Mexican-fusion outlet when they should focus a bit more on the basics. There has not been a traditional Mexican taco filling option on the menu in my two visits ... "chorizo and potato", "chicken mole", "chile rojo beef and sweet potato", and "braised lamb and green olive" for example. They should stop trying to be quite so trendy and eclectic and stick more to the basics (carnitas, adobada, carne asada, al pastor, etc.), offering at least a couple traditional Mexican taco fillings.
Then there are the tortillas. I have rarely seen such tiny corn tortillas used for serving "street tacos" and when I have (which is rarely), there are traditionally two. The fillings appear generous when compared to the teeny weeny tortillas, but when you can eat an entire taco in three (not so large) bites, something ain't right. Their "Taco Plate" consists of three tacos for $7 or $2.33333333 per taco with no rice or beans, only some pickled carrots. On "Taco Tuesday" you can get the Taco Plate for $5, a much better deal, but the tortillas are still ridiculously small.
Their guacamole is decent, but also small for the price, coming with chips that are better than many places, but fried a little too long and a tad too salty. The strangest thing being the fact that they scrutinize the number of chips they put in each paper bag order, weighing them on an electronic scale to ensure you do not get one chip more than they have deemed necessary.

I really do want to like this place more because I encourage creativity, thinking outside the box, and the entrepreneurial spirit. If you are familiar with my blog or reviews, you know that I am also brutally honest and rarely give 5-stars (9-10 Bombs) and 4-stars (7-8 Bombs) is reserved for those who go above-and-beyond the call to duty. Taco Zone is average in my book, not a bad thing at all, no matter how many reviewers in general and LFK brethren in particular bestow the highest rating far too frequently in my eyes.

CombatCritic Gives Taco Zone 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... A Slightly Above Average Rating In My Book And A One Bomb Downgrade From My Previous Review Because My Recommendations Were Ignored ... More Bombs Are Better!
Six Bombs Equates To:


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Title: Lawrence, KS: Taco Taco, Just Give Me A Taco!

Key Words: Taco Zone, taco, zone, Lawrence, Kansas, KS, University of Kansas, KU, university, Mexico, Mexican, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: G2G = "Good To Go"

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lawrence, KS: Undercooked Steak, Paltry Pasta, And "Nosebleed" Table Left Me Uninspired

Merchants Pub & Plate
746 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone number: (785) 843-4111
Website: merchantsonmass.com
Prices: $$$$

I have been wanting to try Merchants since they opened over three years ago, but every time I checked their menu online, it just did not inspire me. Local hipsters and metrosexuals gave them high marks, raving about their food and beer options, but these are the same people that gives 5-stars (10 Bombs in my book, a rating reserved for only the very Best in Value) to some of the many mediocre restaurants in Lawrence. As a matter of fact, links on Merchants' website list them among "The Best Restaurants In Lawrence, Kansas" (KCUR Radio) and "Lawrence is a great day trip for foodies" (Kansas City Star), along with several less than stellar Lawrence restaurants, according to Kansas City media outlets.
We arrived at around 5:30 for our Valentine's Day reservation, having been called the day before to confirm our reservation and asked if I was "disabled", a rather odd question. I said no, even though I am an 80% disabled veteran, because it's basically none of their business, and was told "good", we'll put you upstairs then". Rather than make an issue of it, I painfully made my way up the stairs to not the first balcony, but to the very top floor, two stories above the "prime" dining room. I survived, but felt like a second (or is it third because of the floor we were on?) class citizen.


Merchants advertises "Happy Hour", but fails to mention anywhere on their website or menu what time Happy Hour actually is. It turns out, after asking our server, that it is from 5pm to 6pm, so I ordered an IPA ($3.50 vice $7) and a porter ($3.25 vice $6.50) before the clock struck six. Both were quite good and a great value at half of their regular price.
For our appetizer, we were trying to decide between the Local Mushroom Arancini ($9 - arancini are indigenous to my wife's hometown of Naples, Italy) or the Burrata ($10) with broccoli pesto candied garlic, smoked pecan, and slices of grilled Wheatfields baguette. Even though my wife is from Southern Italy and I lived there for three years, neither of us had remembered hearing of "burrata", the menu says nothing about it being made from mozzarella cheese, and our server failed to mention the fact as well. Because the arancini came with a tomato-based sauce (my wife is one of few Italians that hates tomatoes), we decided on the burrata. It was actually quite good, but there was too much of the creamy spread for the six very small slices of baguette. At $10, it was a fair value, but would have been better had it come with a couple more slices of baguette to spread the sweet and savory concoction on. The menu should also mention the fact that burrata is a type of mozzarella cheese because even a Southern Italian had not realized that mozzarella was the main ingredient.
For entrees, my wife had the Housemade Fettucine ($16), a rather skimpy and dry plate of reddish pasta, apparently in a white wine butter garlic sauce with spinach, almond, onion confit, dates, and breadcrumbs. Beside being quite a small portion for the price, it was very dry and tasted mostly of onion. Not a very good dish and my wife, who is not a big eater, was still hungry when she finished it. 

I had the Grilled Ribeye ($32), the most expensive thing on the menu, a 12 ounce steak in a peppercorn, red wine-shallot butter and Worcestershire onion jam sauce (incorrectly spelled "worchestershire" by the way, uncapitalized - Worcestershire is a county in England - and with an "h' where there should not be one). I ordered it medium/medium-well, telling our server that I do not like bloody meat and that a "little pink in the middle" would be great. The steak came out more medium rare than medium well, but even though the server offered to have it cooked some more (meaning "thrown in the microwave"), I declined and ate the "bloody" thing. Even though it was much rarer than I prefer, it was actually quite tender and the sauce extraordinary, making up for unappetizing color of the meat. It came with horseradish roasted potatoes, which were decent, and creamed greens (kale perhaps), which were extremely good.



Because my wife was still hungry, and she has a massive sweet tooth, she could not resist the Persian Love Cake ($7), a cardamom sponge cake with "spiced pistachios, rosewater and saffron scented cream, and candied rose petal dust". It sounded quite bizzare on the menu, but was actually quite exotic and tasty, a nice finish to a decent meal.
First of all, our server, Devin, was very good, quite attentive, and the highlight of the meal. The atmosphere is also warm and inviting, even if we were in the nosebleed section. However, I got the impression that the chef in particular or the establishment in general are trying a bit too hard to be trendy and "gourmet", pulling it off on some occasions (the steak sauce and the dessert) and not on others (the pasta and undercooked steak). The prices are not exorbitant, but when you drop a C-note for dinner, it should be closer to flawless than we experienced at Merchants (e.g. my raw steak).


CombatCritic Gives Merchants Pub And Plate 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For The Measly Portion Of Pasta (1 Bomb), Bloody Meat (2 Bombs), And "Nosebleed Section" Table (1 Bomb) ... More Bombs Are Better!


Six Bombs Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


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View my food journey on Zomato!



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Read Chris S.'s review of Merchants Pub & Plate on Yelp


Merchants Pub and Plate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato









Merchants Pub & PlateMerchants Pub & Plate





Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Valentine's Day Menu





Title: Lawrence, KS: Undercooked Steak, Paltry Pasta,  And "Nosebleed" Table Left Me Uninspired

Key Words: Merchants Pub, Merchants, pub, plate, Massachusetts, Mass, Street, Lawrence, KS 66044, University of Kansas, university, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: G2G = "Good To Go"