Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No mo SoCo

Luckily since I am such an infrequent blogger, no one will shed any tears over SoCo Eats coming to an end. As folks who read the blog know, I spent half of 2011 in Maine. And while this was not originally planned, my wife and I will, at least for the next 2-3 years, be living full-time in Maine.

We have only rented out our place in SS, so the plan is to come back -- just not sure when. But there are other great SS blogs to keep you posted on all things happening in the region and in SoCo.

My food options have changed dramatically. I can no longer walk to chow down on Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Ethiopian, or good old American food. But at least in the warmer months I can stroll down to the dock in our little village and eat just caught lobster, clams, oysters, etc. So while a lot different than what SS has to offer, my new locale definitely has its advantages.

I'll be keeping my eyes on the neighborhood renovations - library, metro, etc. and will certainly get back into hood maybe a couple times a year to visit friends and try any new dining spots. See you on the flip side.

Best to all,
SoCo BlogBoy

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thai review and more

Well, we checked out the 'new' Thai place at 8655 Colesville the other day. It is called Kao Thai; it replaced another Thai eating establishment. But Kao Thai has stepped up the decor and it's more of a sit-down and be waited on restaurant than when it was Thai Flavor.

However, when all is said and done, I think the food at Thai Flavor might have been superior. Kao Thai certainly draws a large lunch crowd, but the missus and I were only ambivalent about the food. There were several lunch specials from which to choose, but every dish except one contained chicken. There were no veggie options on the daily lunch specials; there was one fish dish.

This missus did order this one. It was some kind of a fried salmon dish with rice and a spring roll, that left my better half pretty disappointed. She said the spring roll was the best thing on the plate. I will say the however, the dish photographs well.

I opted to order something other than one of the daily specials - meaning I lost out on a spring roll. I ordered the Dragon Noodles Jae. It was tasty, but nothing to get excited about. It was supposed to be spicy, but it wasn't. I also could have done with a bit more fried tofu and broccoli. They were pretty stingy on both counts. It was a filling lunch, but I'd give it a 6 out of 10. I think the next time we do Thai in the 'hood for lunch we'll head over to Charm Thai. When we walk to Thai for dinner, my legs know to take me straight to our old favorite Thai Derm. And I know, there are better Thai places around, but it is a sentimental favorite for us.

A few other items to note. What's up with Highland Coffee? The windows have been papered over for at least two weeks. There are no signs on the place to indicate what is happening and I saw nothing on line. Anyone have a clue?

No changes yet across the street from Highland at Fresh Start. The chairs are still stacked on the tables and it appears they are no closer to reopening. I spotted some of the old retirees who used to hit FS for coffee in the morning at Kefa. Cafe I felt kinda bad. I like Kefa and all, but it most certainly has a different vibe than FS. These guys didn't look all too comfortable there.

And across Silver Spring Ave from FS, the Krazy Claws truck still sits in the County lot. That thing has not moved since my return. So much for me walking to get a lobster roll. I guess I'll have to wait till I am back in Maine. Not sure about their business plan!

Just west and north of this intersection, Society Lounge is still struggling to open. The last post on their Facebook page is from Jan. 25. Every time I walk by an opening seems imminent, but it has not yet happened. This worries me about the long-term staying power of this place -- assuming one day it will open its doors. We shall see.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Breakfast, Coffee and Italian

"Good food coming soon." OK, there is your update on Fresh Start. I walked by this morning and they had an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper in the window telling the neighborhood what's to come. We'll see what kind of time line they are on. Not much has changed in the place in the 2 1/2 weeks since we've returned. But I will keep my eyes on them.

Coffee. Before I left at the end of June, I predicted Zed's Cafe would be no more on my return. Well, they are still around. Passed by them on my morning dog walk too, but no customers were in the place. I assume at some point in the day they do have customers, but I have yet to see that for myself. I typically walk by early or late, and so they are just opening or are closed. The place is fully of comfy chairs and looks inviting, so who knows. Long live Zed's.

Finally - Italian. I have lived in this neighborhood almost nine years now, and I can't tell you the last time I ventured over to the Blair shopping center. When we previously lived a bit north of here (near the YMCA off Colesville), we were at Blair fairly often. I remember many annoyed experiences at what I called the Geriatric Giant - not sure if that still applies however.

Anyway, the missus and I walked over and literally crossed the tracks to Blair the other day for a meal at Mama Lucia. I was a bit hesitant, but the friends we met wanted some place 'kid friendly.' As a non-procreator and food lover, this made me a shudder a bit. But, we didn't want to be complete food snobs. I do love almost all Italian food.

As we entered, it was clear Mama Lucia was kid-friendly (and very well lit too). Now I won't say the food my food was lousy, but I can't say it was any more than mediocre, that is for sure. I could have given my simple dish of penne in arrabbiata sauce a little more than mediocre if perhaps it had some heat to it (I mean the dish is supposed to be spicy, that is why I ordered it), but at $13.50, I just cannot do it.

They advertise they use De Cecco pasta - which by the way they also sell in dry form at Mama Lucia and promote it as 'Imported Italian Pasta'! That seemed kinda odd to me, since it's sold in pretty much every grocery store. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against De Cecco pasta, I buy it too. However my problem lies in the fact that the dish contains a pretty inexpensive dry pasta and a very simple tomato sauce - no meat, no seafood, no cheese - and the price of the dish doesn't seem to fit. Yes, I was disappointed.

The missus did find her eggplant parmigiana pleasant enough. And I admit, I had some of her leftovers the next day and reheated, it was OK. But our starter of fried calamari was some of the worst I have ever eaten. I don't know if the squid had been sitting in the freezer too long or fried too long or what, but it had so little taste. Even when dunked in the marinara sauce, the taste was still MIA. And again, $12.50 for not such a big plate of not-fresh squid, breaded and fried. In my mind, this was a $9.95 dish at most!

We did appreciate a salad that accompanies each entree, but beyond that, the best apart about the meal was certainly the company. In my opinion, I would choose Olazzo over Mama Lucia any day of the week. The prices are competitive, salad comes with each entree, and they both serve traditional Italian-American dishes. But for me, the atmosphere, quality and service at Olazzo trumps Mama Lucia by a decent margin.

One final update - the covering is off the windows at Society Lounge. It looks like it's almost ready to open. And maybe it is open already? Looking at their web site, it has their hours, menu and a link to reserve. Anyone have any news on this??

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back in the 'hood

Hey, hey, hey. Happy new year. SoCo blogboy is back in town and ready to eat. The missus and I got back late on Friday and for lunch on Saturday we hit the SS restaurant where we first at back in the mid-1990s. It was called Kim Than then and it is now known as Lotus Cafe. And they did not disappoint.

But before I talk about the lunch, I did want to mention a couple changes I noticed after being in Maine for the last 6 months. First off, Fresh Starts is no more. What happened? I don't see anything about it closing on-line. But when I walked the dogs by there about 8am on Saturday morning, the doors were closed and all the old timers were nowhere to be seen. Kinda sad. While I was not a customer of Fresh Starts, I was glad they were still around. But I'll keep my fingers crossed that a new restaurant will take over and not another braiding establishment!

Another item also caught my eye right across the street from Fresh Starts in the County parking lot. It was a food truck called Krazy Klaws. It claims to sell lobster, crab and shrimp. Their Facebook page says they have the "best" seafood on the east coast! Their web site says they are, "proudly to serve executive lunches starting at $6.00." Hmmm? I think a web site editor may be in need. Also, as a non-executive might they still serve me an executive lunch? I will have to inquire. Has anyone tried them out? They are selling Maine lobster rolls and shrimp rolls too. They better bring their 'A' game if they want to impress this lobster aficionado. I certainly ate my fair share of lobsters over the last few months, so let's see what they got.

Now back to Lotus. We didn't recognize any of the staff from our last visit in June. I assume since it was early on Saturday, maybe the regular servers were not working till the evening. However, the food was very familiar. We started with some veggie spring rolls. Crispy, not too greasy and quite tasty. What a deal for $3.00.

And as you can see I had a Fischer to accompany the meal. Yummy. For our lunches, the missus order the vermicelli salad with fried tofu and I had the soft egg noodles with bean curd and peanut. The preparation was a bit different than I remember. I never recalled in the past that string beans were an ingredient. But that's OK, it was still quite good. The vermicelli salad was also a winner, with the missus saying it was the best one she'd had in a long time.

It's a little odd, even though we did not eat meat or poultry for almost 20 years, now that since we're fully back on the carnivorous diet (as long as the animal was humanely raised) we rarely eat a vegetarian meal out. The meal may not always include meat or poultry, but if it doesn't then there's probably some kind of fish in the mix. But we have no problem at all skipping meat at Lotus or many other Asian establishments. Tofu fills the void quite well, especially if it's been deep fried.

I think this was our first Vietnamese meal in over six months and it definitely hit the spot! Now, what's next??

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On hiatus for the rest of the year

Sad news to report, SoCo Eats will be off the air (do people still say that?) until 2012.

My wife and I are taking advantage of an opportunity to move to mid-coast Maine for 6 months and we are taking off as of this Thursday. We are very excited. We will try to merge our real jobs with hosting friends and family who will no doubt be crashing at our place over the summer (and probably fall too) and also our new underground supper club gig (Dining on the Rocks Georgetown).

DOTR is now live with its own web site (I know, how passé) at Dining on the Rocks Georgetown.com, and we are also venturing into Twitter, our 'handle' is @DOTRGtown and Facebook (you can search for 'Dining on the Rocks Georgetown').

I'm sure for all your local restaurant/food news Sligo and Thayer will keep you well informed.

I wish you all a good rest of the year and if you happen to be near Bath, Maine over the next few months and are interested in a home-cooked meal (that would likely include lobster in some form or another), give me a shout.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thai Charm(ed) me, plus other news

The missus and I finally got over to our new Thai establishment last week, Thai Charm, and we were both very happy with our experience. And I will tell you, if you don't know already, I am a Dedicated fan of Thai Derm. So I am not saying I am changing my allegiance, but I will say, I plan to be back to Thai Charm.

Now at least as it compares to Thai Derm, Thai Charm obviously has a newer look, certainly more modern, and I'm guessing in the evening (we went at lunch), probably more atmosphere than TD. I know some of my friends complain TD is a bit of a dive, and while I won't argue too much, TC definitely cannot be lumped into that camp. I see it as a frequent lunch spot for folks doing a business lunch in downtown. Anyway, onto the food.

While it was only lunch, we did want to start with a couple apps so we could sample more -- and we were starving! We ordered the garden rolls served with plum sauce and the curry puffs. Both winners in my book. The garden rolls were like you might find at many places, but they were fresh and tasty and the plum sauce was not overly sweet. The curry puffs we had not tried before. I would compare them to a veggie samosa on the inside, but the outside was flaky and buttery puff pastry. They were accompanied by a relish sauce. I recommend them.

And for those who like it spicy, make sure you ask for the spice tray. I certainly did and it added a good kick to both of the apps. I will also say TC has lunch specials too, $7.95. But if you want a spring roll or soup and a drink with it, they charge $3 extra. It's really not much cheaper than just ordering a standard lunch and a roll/soup. Maybe my only complaint of the meal.

For our lunches we did green curry and the mai pha. The curry was tasty and filled with peppers, eggplant, bamboo shoots, etc. They give you a nice amount. As expected this is a mild dish, but the curry sauce does have a rich flavor. The mai pha was a noodle dish, cellophane noodles with egg, celery, carrots and spring onions. And for my meat I added fried tofu. That's kind of like meat, isn't it?

I was very pleased with this dish. Again, a nice serving size (especially for lunch) and the noodles were well cooked; the dish was a hit. And since I still had the spice tray I definitely increased the heat.

I heartily recommend TC. I very much expect it to have a longer lifespan than old Mr. Chicken.

After lunch we walked over to our latest cafe, Zed's. Now I can't say I really expect Zed's to be a longtime fixture in the hood. The owner, Zed, has said he wants folks to see his place as one big living room and to hang out. That's all well and good, but don't they need to spend money too. I assume he has rent and other bills to pay. I am just not sure he's going to sell enough coffee drinks to keep things going. And by the looks of the food in the fridge, I'm thinking folks will grab a sandwich elsewhere.

But hey, I'd like to be proven wrong and see Zed succeed. He did seem like a very nice fellow -- just one who may not have the best business plan around.

My final thoughts take me north of Colesville, yes, NoCo. I heard from a commenter on the blog here that Ren's Ramen, formerly of Bethesda had recently re-opened in Wheaton. Once I heard that I made my plans to head over for a lunch. And I am glad I did.

The place is pretty small, 8 tables and about 6 seats a the window. They don't serve alcohol at this point and the menu is limited. But if you want ramen and don't want to head over to NE, check out Ren's. The broth in my ramen was great. I got the Sapporo style with the miso and pork broth ($10), but opted not to get any ground pork or pork roast with the ramen, only veggies. They have about three other options available and a veggie option too if you want to avoid the pork broth.

And man, it was tasty. The noodles were perfectly cooked. I would call them toothsome. And again the broth was fab. It wasn't too salty as some Yelpers have complained, but it could have been much spicier. However, they did have some Japanese pepper on the table so that helped.

There were plenty of veg in the dish and a little bit of seaweed too. I would have liked more of that. And I guess if I had forked over an additional $0.75 I could have had more seaweed. But in the end I really didn't need it.

One thing to note, Ren's is a cash only place. That could change, but if you head over anytime soon, hit the ATM if you need to. You won't regret your trip. It is oishi!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fire at Big Greek Cafe

Just a quick note here. I walked by the original and famous Big Greek Cafe this morning and noticed a sign on the door stating they would be temporarily closed. It appears a small fire broke out the other day and so no gyros for you.

I don't have anything else to report except that they hope to re-open on Thursday (6/16). If you're planning to head over for some grub I would definitely give a call beforehand. But I guess you could always head over to the Greek Place for your fix. Just don't tell the guys at the BGC you betrayed them.