Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FvF on the Road: North Carolina (Carolina Beach/Cape Fear)

Wake &Bake Donuts - Carolina Beach, NC

I always meticulously plan our meals while on vacation so that we don't go out for any meal too often. If you pay for breakfast every morning, that adds up quickly. I always plan on going out for at least one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner throughout the week-long vaca. Everyone from the area, or who's ever visited the Cape Fear/Carolina beach area will give you a fire-and-brimstone speaech about how great Britt's donuts on the Boardwalk is. I've never had them, so I can't say either way - but they only serve plain glazed yeast donuts, and that doesn't appeal to me. As with cupcakes and french fries, you better get pretty creative in terms of a flavor profile for me to blow calories on some donuts. the other option that popped up in my Yelp! app, though, was Wake & Bake, which had opened fairly recently. Good choice! The flavors were as colorful as the staff themselves, and my son almost had blacked out when he saw a trough of donut holes o the counter, just there for the taking. We got the cinnabomb, fruity pebbles, Wake & Bake (maple bacon), peanut butter sriracha, s'mores and strawberry cheesecake. I fully expected to swoon over the maple bacon. It was good, but the cinnabomb blew it away with all of it's buttery goodness - like the very last inner bite of a cinnamon roll when you eat it from the outside in. 5/5

Island Hots - Carolina Beach, NC
Stopped by here for a quick lunch after a visit to the Port Fisher Aquarium (which is awesome, by the way). Hot dogs w/stuff on them. Think Zombie Dogs, but slightly less adventurous with their flavor profiles. Served on a coney-style bun with all beef franks, they offer toppings like chili, pulled pork, baked beans and slaw. We all enjoyed our dogs, but my only wish is that the frank was a little bigger. Service was counter-style, quick & friendly, and your kids might go apestuff because their combos will be served on a frisbee that they get to keep. 4/5

Frank's Pizza - Carolina Beach Boardwalk, NC

New York style pizza, but a little overpriced and not impressive. Maybe we caught it on a bad night (or I was butt-hurt about the claw machine eating my money and management not offering to refund it), but it just wasn't good. The FvF family REALLY likes pizza, but this didn't do it for us. Lil FvF still had no problem polishing off a whole slice as big as the paper plate it was served on, but the grown-ups thought it was overcooked. You should be able to fold a slice of NY-style pizza. When we attempted to fold our respective slices, it crackled and the top of the crust just crumbled like a cracker. 2/5

Island Ice Factory - Carolina Beach Boardwalk, NC
Finally got the kid the damn sprinkles ice cream he wanted. For a beach, the place isn't exactly overrun with ice cream shops and for a place that makes fresh ice cream and rotates flavors, we were really rolling the dice that we could score rainbow sprinkle anything. But lo, birthday cake ice cream. I got a scoop of salted caramel, and while the flavor was just okay - the texture was rich & dense. Reminded me a bit of frozen custard. Won't be on my "MUST revisit" list next year, but that's not to say we won't go back.  3.5/5

Fish Bites - Carolina Beach, NC
Let's be very clear: I don't like fish. I'm always a sport to try it when my husband orders it, but rarely do i taste something that I like enough to order myself. That is, until my son ordered the fish sticks here and I was trying to convince him that he was full so I could have the rest. You're right on the beach here, so the first score is that you're eating fresh fish. Their fish sticks are hand-battered north Atlantic cod pieces as big as a Twinkie. I wish I would have taken photos, but I didn't expect it to be this good. You can find plenty on Yelp, though.  I ordered a margarita chicken dish that was good, but not nearly as memorable as the fish or the side I ordered - zucchini fries. I don't mean the bullshit ones you bake up at home as a healthy side to your grilled chicken. I mean julienne-cut, perfectly seasoned, batter fried goodness. I've thought about them weekly ever since. Mr. FvF also raved about his Old Bay broiled grouper and cajun shrimp. Oh, and he insists that I mention that they have Cheerwine on tap. That pushes them to a full 5/5. Also, while none of us are lobster eaters, the lobsters served here appears to be roughly the size of a cat.

The Basics - Wilmington, NC
Half a smoked chicken with a hoppin' john. That's all I'm sayin'. I mean, I'll say some more, but just gaze upon it for a minute.

 The Bird is the word, y'all. 
Yeah - you like that, don't you? This was one of the best chickens I've ever had, only to be outdone by Dayton's own Nelly's. It shared a lot of the same great characteristics, though - well-seasoned both under and atop its crispy skin, juicy without being greasy, and good enough that you'll embarrass yourself by picking every last piece of edible chicken from the bone using any means possible. The slaw was different, and I can't quite place the flavors. Definitely creamy, but seems like there had to be some sort of mustard in the base. The hoppin' john was easily the best I've had. Sassy, but not so much that it would keep a spicy sissy like me from finishing it. they had a decent craft beer list and a great kids menu. We were actually hesitant to eat there with the little because their website didn't show a kids menu, but we heard so many great things about it that we risked it. They were very accommodating and Lil FvF flirted so hard with our server that she blushed. Mr. FvF ordered the shrimp and grits, but didn't quite finish it since it had a small heap of onions (new readers: the dude haaaaaaaates onions) nestled between the grits and shrimp, but he did enjoy the part he did eat.  Great services, reasonably priced and amazing Southern food. Would nom again. 5/5

Monday, August 3, 2015

Chappy's Brunch - Dayton, Ohio

It's difficult for me to get out to new restaurants because of our family's schedule, but a weekend brunch is a pretty easy one to pull off. The only thing better than brunch is a boozy one, so I was stoked when I heard Chappy's was starting weekend brunches. Craft beers would be a great change from the usual mimosas that accompany that not-quite-breakfast meal.

My sister, my Dear Prudence and I embarked upon Chappy's that day with big hongries (and some thirsties for cold ones). I'd been daydreaming about the praline bacon, and the order is around half a pound (it's actually considered an entree). It was a bit difficult to find something on the smaller side to go along with that as the menu is limited, so I opted for a biscuit & gravy. Both the other gals went for chicken and waffles, one with regular syrup and one with spicy syrup. All of the food was amazing - but for a sissy like me, the gravy was too damn spicy. I've never seen red pepper used in gravy before, and I grew up eating biscuit & gravy every weekend in two different households (my own and my grandma's), as well as occasionally at friends' homes, but never encountered it. It was just too much. The biscuits were great and the gravy had a good texture, but it was inedible for me. Also,  it's nearly impossible to take an appetizing photo of sausage gravy - so I won't subject you to it. Just trust that it's as big as advertised.

I sampled the chicken and waffles from the other side of the table and they were outstanding! I'd heard Chappy's had great fried chicken, but I'm always tempted by the siren song of the beer-batter fried chicken. The tales proved to be true, though, and they know how to make a mean Belgian waffle as well, with plenty of deep pockets for sizzurp. 

The praline bacon was a great balance of sweet and salty, and a level of doneness that would appeal to anyone - not chewy like bubblegum, not super crispy (probably due to the saturation of the sugars).

Just perfect. It was big enough that someone with a small appetite could easily get away with ordering just that and an egg or two.

Our waitress was top notch (never had bad service there) and she knew all about their beer choices, even recommending a few beers that taste great when mixed half & half together. So many brunch options are popping up around Dayton, but I'd definitely do another brunch here just to order my own chicken and waffles. And if you're a fan of spicy, their Big A** Biscuit and Gravy is right up your alley.

4.5 out of 5 sporks!