Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jimmy John's

Sandwiches the size of a child's head.

Today, Jerome and I were joined by our fifteen-year-old friend Danielle again. You may remember Danielle from such reviews as FiveGuys. Coincidentally, today’s restaurant, Jimmy John’s, is two doors down from Five Guys in the same mini mall. I fell in love with Jimmy John’s in my college days in East Lansing, Michigan and tooted a porcupine (not a real saying) when I found out one was opening (and subsequently opened) a few blocks from my house. Jerome fell in love with it too, and the wife tolerates it.

Our history lesson begins in 1983. Jimmy John’s namesake Jimmy John Liautaud just finished second-to-last in his preparatory school class. His father gave him a choice: he could join the military or start a business. So, in a garage in Charleston, Illinois, Jimmy John opened the first Jimmy John’s. To build up business, he offered free samples to local college kids. The company still uses this tactic today: I gobbled up all the free samples at my work when they arrived. Nowadays, there are over 1600 locations in 41 states. The 1000th location is up in Beaverton, Oregon.

Jimmy John’s is best known for its fresh ingredients and “So fast, you’ll freak” delivery. Their bread, baked fresh daily in house, is good enough to eat on its own. There are meat and cheese slicers right there at the assembly station. And, I’ve never experienced bad vegetables at Jimmy John’s. Their delivery really is incredibly fast. I’d say fifteen-minute deliveries are the average with less than 10 minutes fairly common.

Here's Jimmy John's on the outside.

Today, we chose to dine in at the West 7th location in Eugene, where there was no line at all at 2pm. I just realized I have not mentioned at all what Jimmy John’s serves. They subsist solely on serving calamari and escargot. Not really though. Jimmy John’s is a submarine sandwich shop. They serve sandwiches that are shaped like submarines that are missing their hatch and periscope and propellers and such. There might be a nuclear reactor if nuclear reactors are shaped like alfalfa sprouts falling off of the submarine.

Jerome’s favorite aspect about Jimmy John’s is that they serve “snow” lettuce, which is commonly referred to as iceberg lettuce in the Midwest. Jimmy John’s piles it on every one of their numbered sandwiches (1 through 17). There are plain submarines, which just have meat and/or cheese; regular submarines; club sandwiches, which have twice the meat and cheese of the regulars; and the J.J. Gargantuan. The Gargantuan features five types of meat, provolone (the only cheese they offer), mayo, Italian dressing, and various vegetables.

Typically, I order the Gargantuan at Jimmy John’s, which weighs in at 990 calories. But, I’m trying to trim off some of my pregnancy pounds (my wife is pregnant and contagious in her weight gain). Next month, we are heading to Las Vegas, Nevada, and I want to look good in a bikini. I ordered the more modest Turkey Tom (#4 on your scorecard). The Turkey Tom is only 520 calories and consists of turkey, tom(ato), cucumber slices, shredded lettuce, and Best Foods (also known as Hellman’s East of the Rockies) mayo. The kids, being horribly uncreative and failing to understand that a food blog should explore as many of a restaurant’s food options as possible, ordered the same thing.

The Turkey Tom: the sandwich all three of us uncreatively ordered.

Our tab looked like this:
Turkey Tom $4.95
Turkey Tom $4.95
Turkey Tom $4.95
Total $14.85

Danielle had never been to Jimmy John’s before, though she was familiar with the concept of submarine sandwiches. She was struck by the giant tubs of Best Foods, which served as the décor along with kitschy little placards with cute sayings like “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” An unpleasant part of the décor on this visit was a worker mopping right next to our table. Nothing is quite as appetizing as mop water.

How We Rate It:
Danielle rated Jimmy John’s 20 out of 27 stars: “since they dance while working, don’t give you napkins, and want you to fall on the wet floors. But, I’d give the food 100%”

Jerome again refused to use the correct 27-star rating scale and instead went gave them the number of stars equal to “as much genes as is in my body, which is really, really really good.”

Jimmy John's provides service to people of all body types.

I give the overall Jimmy John’s dining experience 24 stars out of 27. I like that they are stingy with their napkins. I don’t like the décor or the mopping while I’m eating. I think in the future, I’ll just opt for having it delivered to my mouth. I know it won’t be an irresponsible decision, since this particular location has a cyclist make the deliveries.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Some say he looks like he's 23.

This was only our second trip to Togo’s. Only in the last year did they make it to Eugene, where there are now two locations. In 1971, Togo’s opened up shop in San Jose, California. Curiously, in all my internet research, I was not able to find the founder’s name. He was just referred to as Our Benevolent Founder. Togo’s got its name because the first shop was really a shack that only seated four people. A sign read, “Sandwiches To Go.” And, thus, some illiterate person christened it Togo’s.

In 1997, Togo’s was acquired by Dunkin’ Brands, of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins’ fame. In 2007, Mainsail Partners took over Togo’s. Mainsail Partners is a weird investment group owning a variety of companies. As far as I could tell, Togo’s is their only restaurant chain, which suggests it is likely just a front for the Illuminati. Today, there are over 350 Togo’s locations, primarily on the West Coast.

Togo’s, apparently not intimidated by the over-saturated submarine-like sandwich market, mainly sells submarine sandwiches, though they NEVER refer to them as submarines. They only refer to them as sandwiches while pushing the slogan “Better than a Breadwich,” implying their ingredients are better than nothing. I can agree with this. Togo’s also serves soups, salads, and wraps.

As a complete and utter recluse, entering a Togo’s was off-putting. Hellos from over half a dozen (7) workers immediately bombarded me. “Everyone must be required to greet you upon entering,” Jerome quipped. My critical eyes turned to the corner, where a sharp-dressed fella with a laptop sat. The bossman was in house. They must have known we were coming. But, who tipped them off? The only person who knew we were going to review the place was Jerome, who suggested we review it. I can no longer trust Jerome.

According to staff at Togo's, they do not grow their vegetables on the side of the building.
Pearl Street Togo’s is brought to you by the color eat-more-food orange. The images on the walls were mainly advertisements and promotional materials for Togo’s. There were two people ahead of us, but we still received prompt service. This large dude who looked like he could work in a Chicago sausage factory started chatting up Jerome. “How old are you? 22? 23?” The worst guesser in the history of the world surmised. After Jerome clued him in, he gave Jerome a Togo’s yo-yo (surprisingly easy to say five times quickly).

They can't buy Jerome's love with a yo-yo.
Our tab looked like this:

  • 9” BBQ Pulled Pork Submarine $8.25
  • 6” Turkey and Bacon Club Submarine $5.75
  • Total $14

Jerome was not full from his smaller submarine. I was stuffed silly from my 9 inches of pork. The BBQ pulled pork submarine appeared to be their special submarine they were pushing. It tipped the scales at 1270 calories, but I had to try it because I owe it to you readers. It came with a generous portion of pulled pork in barbecue sauce and a layer of coleslaw, consisting mainly of just mayo and cabbage. I also added pickles and onion to add to the crunchiness and sloppy joe feel. I did not get any cheese. Jerome just got pickles, tomato, and lettuce on his. The kid never gets any sort of sauce, spread, or dressing on his submarines.

This submarine nearly conquered James.
How It Rates:

After thinking for a moment, Jerome, the math genius, rated Togo’s 30.5 on our standard 61-star rating scale. “They have good pickles (a major selling point for Jerome), and I feel like all the produce is fresh, and the tomatoes are juicy. Togo’s is good. I don’t think it’s bad at all. I just don’t think it’s super good.”

I was much more satisfied. I gave it 44 out of 61 stars, even though I’m pretty bored with submarine shops. It seemed like good value, the service was great, the ingredients were flavorful, and the bathroom was not completely covered in blood.

I walked out yelling “TOGO! TOGO! TOGO!” like some idiot at a submarine sandwich-themed frat party.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Taco Bell

The tamest $1 Happier Hour one might ever encounter.

Today, we went to Taco Bell. Taco Bell is another favorite destination for us when Jerome’s mom isn’t around because she hates the place. We visited the Eugene location on West 7th Street.

First a little history: the first Taco Bell opened in 1962 in Downey, California. Successful restaurateur Glen Bell (not to be confused with Glenn Beck) founded Taco Bell and is the likely namesake. In 1978, Bell sold Taco Bell to Pepsi. Today, Taco Bell is owned by Yum! Brands, who also own KFC and Pizza Hut. There are over 6,400 restaurants worldwide.

For the few uninitiated, Taco Bell serves Tex Mex cuisine cheap and fast. Their menu features the usual burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas and their cousins gorditas, chalupas, and “grillers.” Taco Bell ranks alongside McDonald’s in the collective unconscious’s list of restaurants devoid of any nutritional value. Best known for allegedly causing explosive diarrhea, Taco Bell is also famous for bizarre commercials featuring a now-deceased Taco Bell-enjoying Chihuahua. I guess the take home message was that their food is meant for dogs.

Taco Bell’s décor could be described as vaguely Southwestern-hued with a market-researched focus on enticing mass consumption. The dining area is composed of furniture that can be easily hosed down if need be. The clientele included a family engaged in a lively discussion about a three-year-old’s peeing habits. Apparently, the time between bathroom visits was too short for the parent’s liking, and the three-year-old would “not be permitted to use a restroom ever again.” I half wanted to follow the family to find out what would happen when the child inevitably needed to urinate again, but I had dog food to review. Apparently, Taco Bell was also concerned about three-year-olds using their bathroom too much because one had to enter a key code to get into the restroom. The code is “0704.”
Sure, Taco Bell employees are supposed to wash their hands before serving pasketti (bottom right), but what about other foods?
On this visit, we ran into our friend Pat. Pat is in the local band Black Delany, and he just got back from a two-week tour up-and-down (and back up) the West Coast. Pat was a good sport and let us eat with him and ask him about his food.

There was no line when we arrived a little after two. And, from 2pm to 5pm, Taco Bell has “$1 Happier Hour.” I took advantage of my timing and purchased one of each of the “grillers”: Spicy Buffalo Chicken, Loaded Potato, and Beefy Nacho. According to Google, “griller” is Spanish for crap rolled up in a tortilla and grilled. In addition, I ordered the Cantina Doublesteak Quesadilla because it looked new, and people prefer to read about new stuff. Jerome ordered what he always orders: a bean and cheese burrito kids meal with an extra bean and cheese burrito and a cheesy roll-up, which is basically a small cheese quesadilla rolled up.

Our tab looked like this:
  • Bean Burrito Kids Meal (includes Cinnamon Twists and Small Drink) $2.99
  • Bean Burrito $0.99
  • Cheesy Roll-Up $0.99
  • Loaded Potato Griller $1
  • Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller $1
  • Beefy Nacho Griller $1
  • Cantina Doublesteak Quesadilla (includes chips, salsa, and sour cream) $4.99
  • Total: $12.96

I should not have eaten all of this.
This was more than enough food for the two of us. I could have conceivably been fine with just the three grillers and had a $3 lunch. Jerome wasn’t able to finish his cinnamon twists (aka “churros”.)

As for quality, “Bean and cheese burritos are one of my favorite foods. Taco Bell makes them really well. I like the burritos really hot and melty. That is when they are the best. If it’s just warm, it is stiff. Today, my burritos were hot like I like them, but sometimes they are not.”

Jerome also really enjoyed his cheesy rollup, but he could take or leave the cinnamon twists.

As for me, of the three grillers, I enjoyed the Loaded Potato Griller the most. It had the most flavor. The potato chunks were deep-fried and reminiscent of French fries. There were bacon bits in it which are no substitute for real bacon strips, but at least the flavor was there. As for everything else I ate, each was more indistinguishable than the next. Texture aside, any single ingredient rolled up in or thrown between tortillas could be substitute for any other and no one would notice.

The Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller was somewhat spicy, but there was nothing even suggesting the chefs at Taco Bell had any clue what the hot sauce created by Teressa and Frank Bellissimo in 1964 Buffalo tasted like. The Beefy Nacho Griller was nowhere near crunchy enough to have “nacho” in its name. And, the Cantina Doublesteak Quesadilla would more fittingly be called “Steak-Themed Gooey Messadilla.”

Step 1: Offer kids toys with meals. Step 2: Market it during kids' TV shows. Step 3: Have kids begging their parents to take them to your unhealthy restaurant. Step 4: Profit!
How We Rate It:

Pat had a Volcano Burrito, and he was disappointed it wasn’t as spicy as he wanted it to be. On a scale of 1 to 54, he rated Taco Bell as “in the 20s.”

Jerome gave Taco Bell 32 out of 54 because “Unless it’s really really good, it’s hard to rate it high. I put restaurants in to five categories: Pretty Bad, Bad, Okay, Good, and Really Good. Taco Bell would be good.”

I give Taco Bell 22 out of 54. As a frugal person, I like that I can fill up for very little money. Yet, I almost always regret eating there because the food really isn’t that good for you. I recommend saving Taco Bell for those nights when you’ve had too much to drink and nothing else is open. Otherwise, visit any of your local Mexican restaurants. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good they are.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pita Pit

Jerome, the blurry individual, eats with great concern.
Pita Pit is Jerome’s favorite restaurant. So, when I let him know that Pita Pit is a chain, he insisted we review it next. I suppose this anecdote would make more sense if I covered the criteria we use for choosing which restaurants to review. There are only two: the restaurant must have a dine-in option, and it must be a chain with locations outside of Oregon. Pita Pit, a Canadian company with 350 locations, fits the bill.

The first Pita Pit opened its doors in 1995 in Kingston, Ontario, which is apparently someplace in Canada. It was founded by John Sotiriadis and Nelson Lang. In all my research, I was unable to find any special corporate mythology about Pita Pit. This will likely be its undoing.

Looking at its website, Pita Pit positions itself as a low-carb alternative to burgers, pizzas, and submarines. Judging from the nutritional facts (which it is not legally required to be honest about), the menu is fairly healthy. Pita Pit celebrates offering fresh ingredients, and our experience would not suggest otherwise. Though, would any restaurants advertise ingredients that are not fresh?

Fresh ingredients?
As its name might suggest, Pita Pit specializes in pita sandwiches. In fact, aside from some chips and beverages, that is all it sells. It is the largest pita sandwich restaurant in the world. And, as far as I know (I don’t know much), it is the only pita chain. If, for some reason, you go to a pita restaurant and absolutely hate pitas, Pita Pit doesn’t punish you for your idiocy (though it probably should): you can have your meal “fork style,” a saladized version of the pita options. It also serves breakfast pitas all day, which is good because it doesn’t open until 11am. Pita Pit also delivers and is open until 3am Wednesday through Saturday to serve the binge drinking crowd.

To me, our local Pita Pit, located at 11th and Willamette in Eugene, really lives up to its name: it’s the pits (and it serves pitas.) There are always stinky bums outside the door reminding me of why I don’t tattoo “F@#$ THE WORLD” on my face. Our Pita Pit does not have a bathroom, presumably because Mr. F@#$ THE WORLD would f@#$ the bathroom (seeing as how it would be part of the world). Also, if you want water, you have to pay for it.

Besides Mr. F@#$ THE WORLD, Pita Pit also offers cartoon anthropomorphized vegetables and meat products for its décor. Each character has bulging eyes. It’s almost as if they spend every hour of their existence witnessing customers savagely devouring their friends. Mr. Cooked Bacon was especially perplexing. Did he get his eyeballs from the original pig? Also, how can he be alive after being fried? Pita Pit seemed to offer more questions than answers.
Have you ever seen a zanier group of meat products?
Jerome and I visited Pita Pit at 1:45pm. There was only one guy working and six people ahead of us. It took eighteen minutes from the time we entered the door until we had our pitas in our hands. For a fast food company, which it claims to be, that is unacceptable. I vowed to whine about it on my little blog.

Our Pita Pit only has six seats: three tables with two chairs each. Luckily, we were able to claim a table for Jerome’s club sandwich (with lettuce, pickle, and olive) and my chicken souvlaki. With Pita Pit, you basically just order what meat you want in your pita. They throw it on a tiny grill until they get around to removing it. Then, they put it in a pita and ask you what toppings you want. If you don’t know the precise toppings that make, say, a gyro taste great, you are in trouble. The workers don’t seem to know either, and they count on you to tell them what goes in your pita (tzatzikikiasdfd sauce, tomato, feta, onion, and some other stuff in this case).

Our tab looked like this:

  • Chicken souvlaki $7
  • Club $6.95
  • Total $13.95
Underpaid employee prepares for body cavity search next to tiny grill.
We didn’t purchase sugar water. I also didn’t purchase plain water because respectable restaurants give it to you for free, and I did not want to reward their behavior.

Asked why he liked Pita Pit so much, Jerome tried really hard to explain it: “They make their food really well. It’s fast enough so you’ll get it in time for when you’re so hungry you could eat anything, but it’s slow enough to bring you to the brink of starvation. The longer the wait, the better the taste.”

I wasn’t famished, so the wait didn’t bother me. The food was unremarkable, but I will remark anyway since this is a food blog. The chicken was nondescript, it didn’t really capture the souvlaki flavor I enjoy, and it seemed like they just warmed it up and presented it to me (which they did.) The toppings weren’t particularly flavorful, which makes me think they went for the cheapest, mass-producing supplier.

How It Rates:

On a scale of 1 to 85 stars, Jerome gave it a perfect 85. “The food is just so good. They should put caution stickers on the pitas that say, ‘So good it might kill you.’”

I give Pita Pit 39 out of 85 stars. It was expensive for how full I got (not very.) I like that it is low in calories (the chicken souvlaki weighs in at 315 calories.) But, I’d need two pitas to get full, and that would run me about $14. And, for that kind of money, I’d rather have lobster. I recommend only going to Pita Pit if it is your son’s favorite restaurant, and he’s begging you to go. If your son has never been there, avoid it at all costs. In fact, if your son is hanging out with a friend for a long enough time that the friend’s parents feel obligated to feed your son, I would advise them that your son is allergic to Pita Pit. Mention explosive diarrhea, and they’ll likely steer clear.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Five Guys

The kids scarfing down their cheeseburgers.

Welcome to the Eating with Jerome and James blog. Jerome is a ten-year-old with a love for cheeseburgers and pot stickers. James is his 32-year-old father, who likes to take him out to eat and write about it. This blog will catalog our culinary adventures as we visit restaurants, give  a little bit of their history, and critique them through the eyes of a father-son duo. Enjoy, give us feedback, and let us know if there are any restaurants you’d like us to review.

Today, Jerome and I visited one of our favorite fast food restaurants: Five Guys. Five Guys is where we go when Jerome’s mother isn’t around. She likes Five Guys too, but she doesn’t share the same love we have for it. For this trip, we were joined by our friend Danielle (aka, “Speedy Peaches”). Danielle skates for the Emerald City Junior Gems’ Reservoir Dolls, a team featuring Eugene, Oregon’s best junior roller derby players. Danielle had never been to Five Guys before, but she was familiar with cheeseburgers and fries.

First, a little history: Five Guys was founded in 1986 in Alexandria County, Virginia by Jerry Murrell. It got its name from the number of males in the Murrell household: Jerry + his four sons = five = Five Guys. In Five Guys’ first fifteen years, they only expanded to five locations, all in the District of Columbia metropolitan area. Then, it exploded. Currently, there are over 1000 Five Guys locations in the US and Canada. In 2010 and 2011, it was the fastest growing chain in the world. On average, five new Five Guys open every week. Basically, Five Guys is the Genghis Khan of restaurant chains.

Five Guys restaurants are distinguishable by their red-and-white checkered décor. Danielle referred to this as looking like “a hobo pizza place.” The walls are covered with newspaper and magazine clippings singing the Five Guys’ praises. The dining area doubles as storage for the potatoes and peanut oil used for making the French fries. There are also large boxes of peanuts available for snacking while in line.

Even the bathroom is covered with Five Guys' ego trip.
We arrived a little after one on a weekday, and there was no queue. We indulged in the peanuts anyway and tossed our shells on the floor because that’s what we saw people do at a completely different restaurant 2,000 miles away.

Five Guys’ menu is limited as far as general items go: burgers, fries, hot dogs, a vague “veggie sandwich,” and grilled cheese. The variety is in the 250,000 topping combinations.

As far as burgers go, they offer a regular burger and a little burger. The little burger is one patty. The regular is two. Yet, if you order the regular burger, they will still ask if you really want two patties. So, if you are concerned about efficiency, I would recommend specifying “I want a two-patty bacon cheeseburger,” which is precisely what I ordered. I topped mine with lettuce, tomato, (non-grilled (also needs specification)) onions, mayo, and ketchup. Jerome ordered a cheeseburger with pickle (not relish), ketchup, and mustard. Danielle, being an awkward teenager, just got what Jerome ordered.

My burger and thumb.
Five Guys prides itself on giving you hobo fries, those fries that couldn’t quite fit in the container and ended on the bottom of the bag. They specifically add extra fries to the bag on top of the full fry container. So, no matter the size of your party, I recommend only ordering one “Regular” size fry for the group. It was more than enough for us. Five Guys makes their fries from regional potatoes. Our fries were made from potatoes grown in Sugar City, Idaho.

For the three of us at Eugene’s only Five Guys location, our tab looked like this:
  • Bacon Cheeseburger $7.39
  • Cheeseburger $6.49
  • Cheeseburger $6.49
  • Fry $3.29
  • Total: $23.66

This was with all of us drinking water because I’m not some fancy rich guy able to buy sugar water for every kid who comes along.

Every order is made “to go.” As a tree-hugging pinko commie, I’m not a fan of this. To go orders typically create more waste, since you need some disposable devise to transport the food.

Nonetheless, the food was delicious. Five Guys burgers are heavy on grease, yet one can hold the burgers without getting messy. Both kids commented on how nice the pickles were, but I didn’t really care and refused to include it in the review.

To access the hobo fries, I tore off the top-part of the bag to make it shorter. This caused fifteen-year-old Danielle to comment, “It’s like a basket for a hobo.” I told her not to use that word.

Bag o' fries.
How it rates

Overall, Danielle liked Five Guys’ burgers because “it doesn’t taste like McDonalds.” She gave Five Guys a rating of 62 out of 73 stars.

Jerome said, “The burger has a good texture, feels good in my mouth, and is delicious.” He refused to rate Five Guys on a standard 73-star rating system and decided to go with 8.5 stars out of 10.

I give Five Guys 65 out of 73 stars. The bacon on the burger was crisp and abundant. The other toppings were great complements, though I’m not a fan of American cheese, the only cheese they offer. The fries were tasty, and they were able to give me the side of mayo I required for my fries and burger. It is a little bit pricey compared to most fast food fare. But, I always seem to leave with a full stomach.

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