Papa Juan Stefano’s

The Child hates Mexican restaurants. I had high hopes this would fix that problem. Papa Juan Stefano’s serves both Mexican AND Italian! And some American food too.

The inside of Papa Juan Stefano’s looks like any other Mexican restaurant. A large bar was off to the right with some dining. The main dining room was to the left where we were seated at a large string of 4 tops pushed together. There were about six other tables occupied all partaking in alcoholic beverages. A manager informed us that the kitchen was behind and the wait on food was 45-50 minutes. Well that explained the long faces and margaritas. Oh well, as long as there was chips and salsa. I can endure a 45 minute wait for food better than I can a 45 minute wait for a table, especially if I am warned in advance.

Chips and salsa arrived without too much delay. The chips were meh, thick yellow corn chips. A quick blast in the oven to serve them warm would have improved them. The salsa was nice and chunky with a lot of flavor. There was something off putting about it though. Too sweet? Almost as if they added sugar. It didn’t stop me from eating a whole basket of chips though. Our drinks took a little bit longer. Well more than a little bit but I was in a patient state of mind.

While we waited we perused the menu. Lots of interesting stuff worth trying. There was an extensive appetizer selection . The Mexican style potato skins and seafood rangoons looked intriguing. But since we knew there was a long wait for food and had chips and salsa we didn’t order an appetizer. We did order a bowl of white queso with chorizo to go with our chips.

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The Mexican side of the menu was pretty standard, a mix of tortilla wrapped entrées like burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, etc. The Italian side was predictably nearly all pasta dishes. I don’t like pasta. The Chicken Cordon Rouge looked like  an interesting take on the famous Swiss dish. And I was tempted to get the Italian Mac and Cheese with crab and bacon.

The American third of the menu was primarily all sandwiches, though they did have ribs, chicken tenders, broasted chicken and pizza. I was caught completely off guard but the Pablo Escobar burger. I’m not sure if it is ignorance or what but naming a sandwich after a Columbian cartel drug lord is certainly poor taste.

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The Wife ordered chicken fajitas. Of note, all dinners include two sides. She chose the Asada Potatoes and Vermicelli. Her favorite food, beans, is off limits because she is highly allergic to them. Poor thing, she only discovered this allergy shortly after The Child was born. She’s eaten beans her whole life. When her food finally arrived it was no different than any other Mexican restaurant’s chicken fajitas. She said it was really good. The Wife said, “I hate the potatoes. You can have them if you want.” Wow, that’s a strong statement. She had a bite or two of the vermicelli but said she was too full to eat anymore than that. She did say it was good.

The Child ordered the kid’s spaghetti. It comes with a bread stick, no other sides. The portion size was huge for a kid’s meal. Easily an adult portion at any other restaurant. She could only eat half of it. The Child was THRILLED to be able to get spaghetti at a Mexican restaurant so we may have a big hit on our hands here. Hopefully just more timely service next time.

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I ordered the Green Chili Pork Enchilada. I love tomatillo salsa. especially with pork. I do not like enchiladas preferring burritos because I prefer flour tortillas to corn tortillas. But the menu said flour tortillas right in the description! For sides I asked for the Asada Potatoes and the Mixed Vegetables. I did not care for the potatoes either. I ate most of the potatoes and left the cooked pico de gallo behind. The vegetables were smothered in cheese! Flashback to childhood when my parents would serve broccoli and cauliflower covered in cheese, the only way I would eat it. This was broccoli covered in cheese. Well, nacho cheese sauce. It was mostly good though the cheese had a sweetness to it that I didn’t care for. Good ol’ Cheez Wiz would have been better. The enchilada was good but again too sweet, sweeter than any green salsa I’ve ever had. I had a sweetness issue at this restaurant.

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Even though we were there entirely too long I think we will give Juan Stefano’s another try. It may be the perfect place for when The Wife needs a Mexican fix and The Child is resistant.

 

 

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BBQ This!

One thing we left behind in the South is good barbecue. There weren’t a lot places surprisingly but there were enough to make it difficult to replace. Jim’s Smokin’ Que even had national press.  I thought it was only OK, but another place that has national notoriety is Col. Poole’s. And the NC BBQ Trail began by our old digs.

In searching the internet it seems that Caribbean Kitchen had the best ribs in Cedar Rapids but alas they are no more. Scouring with Google some more turned up BBQ This! I liked the idea of dry rubbed meat that you sauce yourself. I associate this with Texas and if it’s good barbecue I don’t even use sauce.

BBQ This ! is tucked in a small shopping plaza off Boyson Rd. It is another one of those “fast casual” establishments. You order under the big “Order Here” sign, one order at a time, and pay at the end of the line, exactly like Subway. Our order totaled $55 though so this is less casual than I would have thought. They aren’t using this model to keep prices low, that’s for sure.

We came here in search of good ribs. BBQ This! has baby back ribs rather than spare ribs. They cut each rib off the rack for you. I ordered a full rack for The Child thinking she would eat half and I would eat half. She also ordered mac n’ cheese and homemade chips. She went to town on the mac ‘n cheese but only had a rib or two. She didn’t care for them but didn’t have a real good reason as to why. But she did say she did not like the barbecue sauces. I did not care for the ribs either. I found them to be very dry. I would have liked them to be tender and juicy . The search continues.

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The Wife went with a two meat combo, pulled pork and sausage. For sides she got the potato salad and the cheesy potatoes which was like a hash brown casserole. All of the combos come with a side of sweet corn bread. She preferred the spicy barbecue sauce.

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I ordered the sliced beef brisket and sausage with sides of baked beans and apple crisp. I began seeking sausage out at barbecue places after all my trips in Texas. I call a brisket, pulled pork, sausage plate a Texas plate. BBQ This didn’t have a three meat combo to offer though. The brisket was good but I found it to be dry. It was good with both the mild and the sweet sauce. But truthfully, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two sauces. I love smoked sausage and it was quite good. I just poured one of the sauces over the sausage like I was in Texas.The baked beans were so-so, they had a vinegary flavor to them. Being a Yankee I prefer sweet corn bread to dry southern corn bread, but I need butter. The corn bread was slightly sweet, and tasted pretty good with the whipped spread I found, though I would have preferred real butter. The apple crisp was a winner. It was fresh from the oven and oh so good.

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Not really my kind of barbecue joint but the sausage was good enough to go back. Next time though I will probably try the smoked wings.

Daisy’s Garage

I discovered Daisy’s first on the internet by searching for all you can eat crab legs. I didn’t find AYCE crab legs but I did find a restaurant that served crab legs. And they have mudbugs!

Parking. Is a bitch. Let’s just say it is tight and limited behind the restaurant. I didn’t feel like parking on the street. We had to circle around a few times before a spot opened up. When we got inside it was a 30 minute wait.

The ambiance is perfect. Old garage decor of course. Staff uniform seems to be jeans and a flannel shirt. Tattoos and piercings are the norm here. The place is loud and full of energy. Every table seemed to be having a great time.

We wanted to order the corn bread loaf as an appetizer but it was sold out. I’m fortunate, or unfortunate if you consider the expense, that my kid loves crab legs. She can eat a pound or two by herself. I was tempted to get the steam pot and let her have the crab legs and I eat the rest. But she wanted her own with a side of mac and cheese. The Wife ordered the Fish and Chips. We both love fried fish fillets but they need to be cod or preferably haddock. She said they were delicious.

I was here for the crawfish though. God I love crawfish. I just said give me two pounds! Truthfully I can eat four. I used to when we’d go down to Tallahassee for dinner. And under eight bucks was a steal. They could have used a little more zing but they were still good. I’ll be coming back again and again for these.

We had a GREAT experience. and will definitely be coming back.

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