Cancun Mexican Grill

While The Child was at practice last night we decided to use the opportunity to have Mexican for dinner because The Child hates Mexican food. Cancun Mexican Grill was our second foray into a Mexican restaurant. Our first was Los Compadres which was an outstanding experience.

Cancun Mexican Grill was busy which was a good sign. The bar was packed and most of the tables were occupied. We were seated in the back next to a large party celebrating grandma’s birthday. The decor was typical of any Mexican restaurant I have been in . Lots of orange and browns. The floor looked pretty worn and wasn’t the cleanest. The tables were pretty worn too.

Most of the tables around us were enjoying margaritas. I was surprised The Wife passed on one. Next time she said.

Looking at the menu the selections were not only different than Los Compadres but also different than what we are used to seeing. I looked for my  go to Chile Relleno and didn’t find it on the menu.

Chips and salsa were served. The chips were better than average. A lighter tortilla lightly salted. More like what Chili’s serves. The salsa was good. Some chunks of onion, not very hot but good flavor. We could have used more before our food came out.

The Wife loves a mess of nachos. What she calls “Slop.” She likes to get half and half beef and chicken, smother it in salsa and sour cream and then toss it like a salad until it’s a sloppy soggy mess. Rather than going with her usual though, The Wife ordered the Cabos Nachos. Not that dissimilar from her standard order but it came with only chicken, no beef, and a mango salsa. The Wife said the chicken was marinated and was by far superior to any chicken she’s had at a Mexican restaurant. She said there was the perfect amount of spiciness and it balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the mango salsa.

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I stumbled in my order. Usually I order a la carte because I’ve eaten so much bad Mexican food over the years. I just get an order of chile rellenos and beef tacos. I’m in long search for a taco like that of Mi Ranchito’s in Kalamazoo which was the absolute best greasy beef taco ever. I’m still searching. Not seeing rellenos on the menu I forgot to even look at the taco options and panicked when the server came to take my order. I said I wanted the Big Burrito, which isn’t on the menu, it’s at Taco Bell, and when the server got confused, I blurted out, “chimichangas, beef.”

The chimichangas were the same and different than every other order I’ve ever had. The side of rice and beans was exactly the same as everywhere, The burritos were not wrapped closed so I am confused as to how they deep fried them. Surely they didn’t pan fry them? The tortilla shell was also different. The same crispiness but a much darker color, almost as if whole grain. As usual the two chimichangas were topped with a lettuce salad with tomato, sour cream and guacamole. Everything seemed fresher. For example the lettuce was obviously cut from a head with a knife not bagged salad mix. And the guacamole was better than usual. Overall the chimichangas were excellent. I think the fact that they used beef tips made a huge difference.

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We greatly enjoyed our dinner at Cancun Mexican Grill. It’s good to know that not only do we have two go to restaurants for good food but that both Mexican restaurants, Los Compadres and Cancun have uniquely different menus.


Cedar River Landing

I’ve driven past Cedar River Landing several times and had been eager to try it. We went on a Monday evening. The place wasn’t too busy. A large group playing darts and several small trios around the bar. The place was open and the music was loud. We found a low four top off to the side and waited.

Eventually the waitress came over and took our drink orders and scurried off. As we waited we checked out the various TV screens and watched the people playing darts. By the time she came back we were ready with our order but she scurried off again.

So we waited some more and had fun catching up with each other. Finally our waitress came back and we placed our order. I was excited to order the Gator Fries and The Wife ordered the Breaded Mushrooms. For our entrees, The Child surprised me and ordered the Two Piece Dark Broasted Chicken Dinner instead of chicken tenders and fries, The Wife opted for breakfast and ordered a Bacon Egg and Cheese Sandwich with a side of fries. I think the only thing special about the sandwich was it is made with TWO eggs instead of one. For myself, I knew from the moment I opened the menu what I wanted. Jambalaya. And with our order in we waited.

And waited. Our drinks ran out and we called her over for refills. And we waited. And our drinks ran dry again and still we waited. Finally after what seemed and eternity our food arrived. I realize that people go to bars to hang out. So it makes sense for food not to come out at fast food speeds. But speed of service needs to be reasonable also. Over an hour for our food to arrive is excessive, especially when we were the only ones eating!

All of our food came out at once, appetizers with entrees. The mushrooms were good, as they seem to be everywhere we go. I loved the alligator tail. It was great as is and didn’t need their Cajun sauce that it comes with. The Child found the Broasted chicken to be acceptable but passed on the fries because they were seasoned. I heard no complaints on the BEC sandwich.

My Jambalaya looked different than any I have had before. But I was open minded. It was amazingly good. I get irritated with shrimp served with tails on but at least they were on top and easy to pick. The only complaint would be the slivered onions were stringy. I could only eat half of the plate and looked forward to leftovers.

There were a couple of things on the menu I’d like to try. And it looked like a great bar to just hang out.They had a live stage and so maybe some good acts come their way. But the service has to get better, A LOT better. I’m hoping it was just an off night and our next time will be great.

Tomaso’s Pizza

I had to take my wife’s Subaru in for service. We’ve never lived near a dealership so this was an advantage to be taken since moving to Cedar Rapids. Since the dealership is in Hiawatha I figured we’d eat in Hiawatha. The Child wanted pizza and I saw the sign for Tomaso’s. We’ve gotten coupons in the mail from them but of course those coupons were at home.

There must be some county ordinance that says any eating establishment must look closed from the outside. Tomaso’s was just like all the others when viewed from the parking lot. Nondescript, dark almost mirrored windows. But they were indeed open and not closing any time soon. Only a few people were inside. We were warmly greeted by the staff in the kitchen. The restaurant is not big and they did not invest a lot of money in decor or furniture.

You order at the register. There was a place in Canton GA called Uncle Maddio’s that was similar in concept, albeit with more franchise polish. We had never heard of Detroit style pizza but as ex-Michiganders we were eager to try it. There did not appear to be any kid’s menu so we ordered a small cheese pizza for The Child and a medium Detroit Deep Dish Meat Lover’s plus Mushrooms for the adults.

The pizzas are delivered on a metal grate for some reason. The cheese pizza looked amazing. Lots of cheese! The Child only had one piece though. Not sure of the why. She claimed to not feel good but I ate it and it was delish.

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The Detroit pizza is described as “Thick and bready, NO LIP. Cheese all the way to the edge of the pan so the crust caramelizes.” It looked good. The Wife really liked the sauce on top of the toppings. Meh. I don’t love pizza sauce like she does. Matter of fact the less sauce the better for me. The pizza was good. But the crust edge was AMAZING! I’d order this again just for the crust. It was the best cheesy bread stick I’ve ever had.

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We will definitely be trying Tomaso’s again, hopefully with coupons next time! My favorite Chicago pizza is Giordano’s and I want to see how Tomaso’s compares. If you have any vegetarians in you life, this looks to be a great place to bring them. Tomaso’s has two vegetarian combos plus a chicken option. I know where to take The Child’s BFF when she visits.


Olive Tree

We stumbled into the Olive Tree by accident after skating practice. We even drove into the parking lot by accident. But hey, it was there, it was open, and we were hungry.

The Olive Tree is not in the best location. It’s difficult to see from the road, the signage doesn’t line up wit the building well. Even if you know it’s there it is easy to miss.

The inside is old and worn. The owner told me they’ve been in operation for decades but not always in the same location. I’m not sure how long they’ve been on 16th Ave. There were only a few people left in the restaurant. All of them seemed to be regulars and all  of them were finished eating and just talking across tables to each other.

The menu is classic immigrant American diner. The Child went completely off script and ordered a Beef Patty with Gravy, Corn, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. She really likes brown gravy. As in she will drink it straight if you aren’t looking. Surprisingly she ate half of about everything all the while raving to the server and the owner about how much she loved the food and the restaurant. I wonder if she was tired.

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The Wife, ever in search of good sawmill gravy, ordered the Country Fried Steak and Gravy with Eggs and Potatoes. It turned out to be more than she could eat. She rated the gravy as excellent. Another source for biscuits and gravy then, assuming the biscuits are good. Next time.

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Every one in Iowa has a breaded pork tenderloin. “Ours is the best.” Yes, everyone says that too. But I went with it any way. However, I added GRAVY! along with a side of crispy hash browns. I have never had such thinly grated hash browns before. They were fantastic. And the gravy smothered tenderloin was out of this world. I hurt when we left I was so full.

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Looking around the restaurant, the decor, the menu, the name Olive Tree, they had to be either Greek or Lebanese. Our server was shocked that I guessed Lebanese. I was right. She brought out the owner to introduce us. I told her Lebanese food is my favorite. Unfortunately they do not cook or serve any at her restaurant. But her nephew has a Lebanese restaurant in Hiawatha called Pita’s. She said we should check it out. We will. And we will be back to the Olive Tree.

Newbo Alehouse

A Sunday night after gymnastics practice I made an attempt to get something quick to eat. I headed the wrong way or made a wrong turn or something but ended up in Czech Village. Not wanting to drive all over town we stopped here.

Neat place. Big open dining area and bar. Obviously this was a former bank because there were three giant vaults on the back wall. This place was practically dead. I don’t know if that was because it was Sunday night or the flurries quickly covering the streets.. But they were open and not closing any time soon.

We got a table right by the bar and the vaults which was great for The Child to check out while we waited for food. We ordered the pork strips and fried mushrooms as an appetizer. I don’t know why but every place in Cedar Rapids we have ordered fried mushrooms they have been great, better than any place in Georgia. The pork strips turned out to be just a pork tenderloin sans bread cut into strips. That doesn’t meant they weren’t very good. They were!

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The Child ordered Mac n’ Cheese. It looked amazing and she ate over half of it which meant that the cheesiness factor was good. I had a bite and concurred. I especially liked the shaved cheese on top.

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The Wife ordered the Broasted Chicken. It looked on par with what I had had at Jerseys Pub and Grub. She said it was excellent. Best she has had since we left south Georgia.

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I ordered the Pork Trio Po’Boy. Wow! Pulled pork, bacon and sliced andouille sausage smothered in barbecue sauce. It was amazing. I could only eat half. I took the other half home and it was still amazing the next day. For my side I ordered the Cheesy Potatoes which I had hoped would be like the hash brown casserole at Cracker Barrel. It was not. Just shredded potatoes in cheese sauce but sill very very good.

Our waitress was super friendly. She explained to us that the sushi bar next door is shared space. And if you eat at the sushi bar you can order off of the Newbo Alehouse menu. This is great if you are dining with friends who aren’t crazy about sushi but you are. Newbo Alehose also serves breakfast. I was shocked to see that they serve it every day! Not just on the weekends. There is a large very nice back patio that looks like a great place to enjoy cold drinks in the warmer months and maybe they have live music too. We will have to see.

The Breakfast House Cafe

We had been trying to go to The Breakfast House for several weekends but could never get in. It’s very small and on weekend mornings there was a 30-45 minute wait to get a table the times we had tried. There’s not even enough room inside to wait for a table. The Wife had a week day off from work and we were able to easily get a table Tuesday morning.

This restaurant is very old school to use a worn out phrase. I’m thinking like Mel’s Diner. The kitchen is in the dining area behind a half height wall. There’s only one guy slinging the spatula so don’t come here in a hurry but the wait for food to arrive was not long.

The Wife ordered the Country Fried Steak and Gravy. Being a Georgia Girl she did say the gravy was acceptable and she could order again. Whew! I’ve been worried about how to sate her biscuits and gravy needs.

I ordered the South of the Border Skillet. Next to omelettes, skillets are probably my next favorite breakfast item. I like big bold flovors. I used to do a lot of work in Texas. It was in Texas that I learned to like salsa and sour cream on my eggs. Before then I would have turned my nose up every time. I was thankful that this version of South of the Border skillet/omelette came with seasnoned beef. I’ve seen too many that were just suped up ham and cheese and even more that contained NO meat. WTF!

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Both of our breakfasts were excellent. Great place to eat on a weekday morning. A little harder on the weekend. Perhaps we should try getting there before 11am? LOL.