Golden Bowl exterior - Mobile, AL

Food Review: Golden Bowl Chinese Mobile, AL 36606

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Golden Bowl Mobile, Alabama Gift Shop

Golden Bowl Mobile, Alabama Gift Shop

We recently visited the hidden gem that is Golden Bowl, located at 309 Bel Air Blvd Mobile, Alabama, 36606. Restaurants that are hidden gems are one of our favorite finds, especially when we’re hungry. Golden Bowl is a hiding in plain sight in Mobile, Alabama just across from Bel Air Mall. Compared to all of the other Chinese buffets in town, and arguably across the entire state, Golden Bowl has them beat. This fine Asian restaurant serves Cantonese, Hunan, Thai, Japanese (yes, there’s sushi on the cold bar), and Szechuan. This is genuine Chinese food when you order from the menu. And we haven’t ever had Chinese food this good outside of Chinatown.

Their hours of operation are 6 days a week, Tuesday-Thursday: 11:00AM to 9:00PM * Friday & Saturday: 11:00AM to 10:00PM * Sunday: 11:00AM to 9:00PM. They are closed on Monday. They can be reached by telephone at (251) 470-8033 and Fax at (251) 470-8030.

General Tso's Chicken with Fried Rice

General Tso’s Chicken with Fried Rice

The outside of Golden Bowl is markedly deceptive: It’s in a building that’s been around forever that was a Chinese restaurant 20 years ago when Bel Air Mall was the biggest deal around — long before Amazon had ever been conceptualized. When you walk past the golden lions and enter the front door, you will find yourself inside a very interesting Chinese gift shop filled with lucky cats, real bamboo, jade Buddha statues, and stress balls. Very shortly after, you should be greeted and brought into the main dining room where you can have a regular table or Hibachi any time of the day.

Once you’re seated (and if you’re new to Golden Bowl) one of the employees may give you a very thorough walkthrough of the menu. You should also be alerted that there’s a hot and cold bar that includes ice cream when you’re done with your meal. If you’re doing take-out, the hot and cold bar isn’t available, so there’s a perk to dining-in. There’s a large variety of different items that you’d expect from a Chinese restaurant such as Pepper Steak, Moo Goo Gai Pan, Sweet & Sour Chicken, and everyone’s favorite General Tso’s Chicken.

Golden Bowl Mobile, Alabama Hot Buffet

Golden Bowl Mobile, Alabama Chinese Buffet

Most of these full entrees, plus the hot and cold bar, are available for $9.95. This also includes white or fried rice. Lunch is just $6.95 during the week and $7.55 on the weekend. That’s honestly a steal considering what a large Whopper Value Meal at Burger King costs. Hibachi starts at a modest $6.95 at lunch and $8.50 for dinner.

You’d think that with prices this cheap that the quality of food is going to be poor, but you’re very wrong if you do. Golden Bowl serves extremely fresh food that’s made to order. If you’ve put off Chinese food in Mobile, AL since you’ve gotten burned by China Chef or Golden Dragon, Golden Bowl is the best place to go in, arguably, the entire state and Gulf Coast.

Don’t forget to like Golden Bowl on Facebook or check in to “Thai Fountain” since they have a Pokemon Go PokeStop at their location! Golden Bowl also has an amazing new website at http://goldenbowlmobile.com. Enjoy!

Benja's Thai and Sushi Restaurant

Benja’s Thai and Sushi – 5369 US-90, Mobile, Alabama, 36619

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Eating out every once in a while is an experience that most of us appreciate. Sometimes making a decision on where to eat and what to eat might be the elephant in the room. For all the food lovers out there, trying out new recipes or tasting exotic food is one of those things that make life worth living. There is something about Thai food that is simply breath taking. I do not know whether it is the unique combination of essential ingredients or the kind of passion and emotions behind making the dishes. But one thing is for sure – Thai food is fantastic. If you live in Mobile, Alabama, and you have been wondering where to take that special someone on a first date, Benja’s Thai and Sushi is the place for you.

Benja's Thai and Sushi Restaurant - InteriorThe ambiance is inviting, and the aura brings this exhilarating feeling that assures you that you are in the right place. There is a touch of beauty in the simplicity of the decor but at the same time hidden behind the simplicity is a wave of sophistication that only an artistic eye can decipher. The hangings on the wall are the perfect stimulant, and they are just right for this kind of setting. On the contrary with a theme color of blue and somewhat orange or peach, there is something warm about Benja’s Thai and Sushi that makes you fall in love at first sight.

Benja’s Thai and Sushi is in Tillman’s Corner area of Mobile. The feeling of being treated like the king or queen that you are is not only rewarding but it makes you understand that indeed this is value for your money. There are no regrets walking into a place like Benja’s Thai and Sushi. On that note, even your date may get the impression that you have indeed gone out of your way to make them feel special.

Benja’s Thai and Sushi is a family restaurant. There is something for everyone, and you can tag your kids along for that long awaited dinner and believe me they will have the time of their life. There is so much to appreciate about Benja’s Thai and Sushi. It brings a sense of authenticity and belonging. This restaurant is merely a glimpse of what real Thai cooking has to offer.

What’s on the Menu

A good chef understands his or her clientele especially when serving a population like those living in Alabama; it is important to comprehend the need for diversity. This is exactly what Benja’s Thai and Sushi offers-variety. There is no limitation to what you can get. As a matter of fact, the minute you skim through the menu you will be spoilt for choice. There is an array of dishes to choose from based on preference. For lunch, you could try the chef’s special. Thai fried rice with Chicken or Pork.

Pad Thai Chicken from Benja's Thai and Sushi Restaurant in Mobile, AlabamaFor the vegans, some broccoli or carrots will serve a worthy accompaniment. To any observer or reader for this matter, these might sound like your usual combination of main dishes, but there are certain times when you let your taste buds be the judge. The Chicken is cooked just right, not to tender but with a burst of natural ingredients that leaves a lasting impression on your tongue.

If your heart points towards exquisite Thai food, I would recommend the Pad Thai Shrimp. Seafood, when not done right, can turn out to be wanting. However, this is not the case at Benja’s Thai. From the name, you get the impression that seafood is their specialty. The Pad Thai Shrimp is one of the best dishes that you can try out. It will give you the whole Thai experience and without a shadow of a doubt, it will keep you wanting more.

I must commend Benja and her team for their culinary skills. The servings portray a lot of creativity with lots of attention paid on the presentation. The goal is to stimulate naturally your visual senses, which will only be complemented by the amazing taste. Many have presented their great testimonials about the Spicy Tuna Roll or the Thai Boxing Roll. The Alabama Roll has also received commendable recognition from the customers.

If there is one thing that pre-determines a judge of a good main course is the kind of appetizer served. The soups at Benja’s are scrumptious, and they have a touch of elegance, you might think they are made out of a secret recipe. On the other hand, the deserts are also mouth watering. I would recommend that you try out the Table side banana foster for dessert. The taste of this particular piece is purely heavenly.

It is impossible to talk about a good restaurant without a mention of the kind of drinks that they offer. There is something creative about the cocktails served. The wait staff go out of their way to ensure that you get the perfect saki. Such little things that point towards customized service are some of the things that keep this restaurant afloat amidst the growing competition in Alabama.

From the chicken nuggets to French fries, even the kids have something to delight in. If that sounds cliché, the crispy corn dog with some French fries is what your children may eat on their day out.

Angel Roll from Benja's Thai and Sushi Restaurant in Mobile, AlabamaSushi is not just the usual sushi at Benja’s Thai and Sushi. It is interesting how they can work their way around and create so many different types of rolls from the very necessary ingredient. From the Dragon Roll, to the Angel Roll, to the Mexican Roll, every single roll makes the sushi delightful. If these doesn’t fancy you, the Bama Roll might catch your attention. Well, this is not before you start off with an assorted five-piece sushi appetizer. Just the thought of these sushi rolls brings an awesome feeling that makes you want to visit this place. If you are one of those people who likes going all natural, the California Roll might be exactly what you need. With some crab, cucumber, avocado, and Masago on top, the taste is refined. It might be a little confusing at first, but it gives a perfect blend at the end of each bite.

The bottom line is that the menu at Benja’s Thai and Sushi offers an array of different food options. To some extent the options can be quite confusing but the fact remains that every option is viable, and it all depends on your preference. If by now you are not convinced that this place might give Hell’s Kitchen a run for their money. In my opinion, it is simply pitch perfect.

The Prices

Every restaurant owner understands that although the business must be successful, denting people’s pockets is not the way to make your restaurant attractive. It is fundamental to accommodate clients from various walks of life without a compromise on the quality of services and the touch of class. Good food is not the only thing that keeps the customers coming back.

Bama Roll from Benja's Thai and Sushi Restaurant in Mobile, AlabamaCan you imagine having a sushi appetizer for as low as $4.00? This looks insane but at you can get the Sashimi appetizer at this price. This is entirely fair for such a restaurant. To scale it up a little bit, the crispy calamari appetizer goes for $7.95. These are just examples of the high prices at Benja’s. An unfamiliar customer might imagine it is one of those days when everything is on offer. Most of the entrees might cost a maximum of $12.95. Simply put these are great meals for awesome prices.

With only $2.95 your kids can have themselves some Thai donuts for or with $5.95 they can enjoy some fried ice cream for dessert. The chef’s special for lunch or dinner also attract an average of fantastic prices. One of the things that put Benja’s Thai and Sushi on top of their game is the fact that the prices are customer friendly.

Each and every day we seek convenience and to narrow it down, there is nothing better than having good food delivered at your doorstep. If you love thai food, all you have to do is call and place an order and they will deliver right to your door within 15 minutes of the restaurant. Need I say more? Thai food is excellent and so are home deliveries. Check Benja’s website for their delivery menus. These attributes take popularity of local restaurants a notch higher.

If you have not had the chance to wine and dine in this elegant restaurant, go to Benja’s Facebook page and like their page. You can also leave a comment behind right now, and this automatically earns you a chance to win a $25.00 gift certificate or a free Sushi roll. In other words, there is no excuse for not dining at this Thai restaurant.

Conclusion

The testimonials regarding Benja’s Thai and Sushi are remarkable. It is not enough that they offer more than just the ordinary, but having something for everyone puts them at an advantage. This restaurant even saw itself make it into the finals of the Nappie’s “Best Ethnic Restaurant” category in in the first year open. This is evidence enough that they more than what meets the eye when looking at this very simple yet catchy place to wine and dine. With an extensive international clientele network it goes beyond just any other place to have lunch or dinner but it also a great avenue to network and hold meetings. Benja’s restaurant is an awesome choice for that anniversary dinner or maybe if you want to pop the question this is the perfect place, right after trying out their Pineapple curry with steamed curry.

The authenticity of the Thai culture portrayed by the nature of the food served makes it imperative that people should head out to Benja’s and get a taste of what Thai food is all about. The truth of the matter is that the Chef has outdone himself. The staff has a mastery of words and refined service, and the interior designers knew very well that appearance speaks volumes.

Benja’s Thai and Sushi is not just your average corner restaurant; it is one of those places that leaves a lasting impression. Regardless of what your mood was for the day, you can be sure that there is only one feeling that you can take out of this restaurant- fulfillment.

Pick your coat and walk to Tillman’s Corner area in Mobile, Alabama and get a firsthand experience. Tell your story about your most recent escapade which is eating out at Benja’s. Better still, take a friend with you or show that special someone the other side of food which can only be found in a Thai restaurant. There are no regrets, and there are disappointments. Benja’s Thai and Sushi is by far one of the success stories that are yet to be told. Truth be told, if you have never had a meal at this excellent restaurant, you have yet to discover what you have been missing.

OK Bicycle Shop Mobile Alabama Dauphin Street

OK Bicycle Shop – 661 Dauphin St, Mobile, AL 36602

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On any given day that you happen to be in downtown Mobile, Alabama and have a craving for beer, sushi and/or tacos, the OK Bicycle Shop and Dauphin Street Taqueria should be your absolute first choice. This past Sunday, we decided to begin our reviews of Mobile, Alabama food at this lovely establishment. Since the OK Bicycle Shop is open every day from 11AM until 3AM (and serving food until at least 2AM), we were more than happy to grab a bite of Mexican and Japanese in the same sitting. I believe a recent episode of Louie called this a “Bang, Bang”, except here you can stay in the same restaurant. And yes, they sell bicycles (and deliver on them) too.

OK Bicycle Shop Sign
We’re sure the OK Bicycle Shop has some awesome beers (16 on tap) and margaritas (7 different house made ones to be exact), but this visit we were here strictly for the food. We started out with Chips & Queso Fundido but decided to mix it up a bit and go half-and-half on the dip and add the Salsa Chipotle. Ask your server and they’ll be more than happy to do this. The appetizer alone is extremely filling and probably great with an IPA. This queso with a kick is a melted white cheese with chorizo, roasted red peppers and onions. We noted it as warm and creamy with a twist. The Salsa Chipotle was the perfect amount of sweet and heat. Visually the dish we were served looked like it would be hot, but it is served cold. It had the perfect balance of spice with the heat just tickling the back of the throat.

Sampling an appetizer from the Liquid Lounge side, we decided to have the Calamari Salad – which is marinated squid with herbs. Out of all of the dishes we ate in this sitting, this was the only one we knew that could be easily replicated elsewhere. A very sizable amount of food compared to other sushi restaurants though. Served cold.

Beef, Pork and Mushroom Tacos
It didn’t take long to get our food and our drinks stayed full too. From the Dauphin Street Taqueria side, we ordered the Crispy Fish, the Beef, the Pork and the Mushroom Tacos. Each is an adventure for your mouth. The Mushroom Taco was tasty, but not spicy, mushrooms marinated and cooked perfectly. The pico combined with the goat cheese creates a smooth flavor. The Pork Taco, which is marinated in cumin and slow roasted topped with cabbage and pickled red onion, all we can say is “wow.” This was a flavor explosion of sweet, sour and tangy. The Beef Taco was probably our least favorite of the four we had as the salsa was a little overpowering and it made the taco a little watery. Visually, it wasn’t that appealing either. The Crispy Fish Taco on the other hand was excellent. It’s a masa-crusted white fish topped with avocado cream, cabbage and pico. The fry on the fish was perfect too – not greasy and just the right amount of batter.

Bayou Roll OK Liquid Lounge Sushi
We end our food journey at the OK Bicycle Shop with a dish from Liquid Lounge – the Bayou Roll. The Bayou is one of three tempura five-cut rolls and is listed as a Crawfish roll with cucumber, cream cheese and red curry sauce. This was the roll that brought us back. It has an extremely peculiar and addicting flavor along with a perfect tempura fry. Very creative and very tasty.

For under $50 plus a good tip, a Mexican/Japanese dining experience like this is a must-do if you’re in the area. If you visit in the evening, there’s a good chance you’ll be visiting when there’s some local musicians playing in the courtyard. Parking is available either in one of the many surrounding parking lots or on the street. Stop by and you won’t be disappointed.

Food Photos

Here are some photos we took of the delicious food from the Dauphin Street Taqueria and Liquid Lounge.

Menus

Provided below are menus from the OK Bicycle Shop, the Dauphin Street Taqueria and Liquid Lounge.

Overall Score

We give this visit an overall 8.5/10 score. The OK Bicycle Shop is a “must visit again.”

The Plug

Looking for a review of your restaurant or venue? Look no further. We also make websites, do online event promotion and social media for restaurants. Contact us and we’ll make arrangements to stop by.

Checkers Reopens In Mobile Alabama Saturday; Free Fries For a Year Giveaway

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Checkers LogoIf you’ve driven down east Airport Boulevard in Mobile within the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed something great. Checkers is coming back with a brand new look. And coming back is great because they have some of the best burgers and fries around. Not only that, but they’re going to be giving away to the first 100 people who attend the launch on Saturday Free Checkers Fries for a year!

According to their website, Checkers was first started in Mobile back in 1986 and has been cooking up great burgers ever since. The Checker’s story, which some of you may know from outside of the area as Rally’s goes like this:

“Checkers & Rally’s restaurants were born out of the idea that a bland and flavorless burger was downright bad and that Americans everywhere deserved a better tasting burger — one that was unexpectedly bold, made-to-order and priced at a value that was hard to beat. Founded by experienced foodies with a renegade spirit, both the Checkers & Rally’s unique double drive-thru concept, with its over-the-top checkerboard squares, chrome styling, red neon signs and of course the food, was an instant hit. These two new burger experiences were hot, fresh and served with a smile. People were hooked, and the world of cookie cutter corporate burger establishments was about to change.”

And here’s the official release about the re-opening:

Checkers French FriesThe new reimaged Checkers restaurant at 2213 Airport Blvd in Mobile, AL will host a Grand Opening celebration for the hungry public on Saturday, November 12, 2011.

To kick off the grand opening on Saturday, November 12, Checkers is offering FREE fries for a year to the first 100 guests in line. And, guests in line, 101 and after will receive FREE fries with purchase all weekend. So, be sure to be one of the first people in line, as we anticipate people camping out!

During the grand opening celebration, there will be a kickoff to food eating contests open to the public with a competition showdown at 11am between the University of South Alabama’s STATS (Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow) student organization versus the University of Mobile’ SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) student organization.

Checkers will also give away prizes, coupons, and promotions to reward the community and its loyal fans.

Hoping to see you all there!

Japanese Express (Hibachi on the Go) 28825-A Hwy 98 Daphne AL 36526

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Shrimp Hibachi from Hibachi on the Go in Daphne AL

Shrimp Hibachi

It’s always great when a good restaurant opens. It’s even better when a good restaurant opens that has awesome food for a reasonable price. Japanese Express, formerly Hibachi on the Go, located at 28825-A Hwy 98 in Daphne, Alabama (near Subway and I-Hop) is the latest addition to the Eastern Shore that is definitely worth it if you enjoy Japanese cuisine.

Miso Soup and Seaweed Salad from Japanese Express hibachi in Daphne, Alabama 36526

Miso Soup and Seaweed Salad

They’re open every day from 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM and can be reached by phone at 251-626-8818. Lunch and dinner portions are available. The restaurant features appetizers that you can’t find anywhere else in the area such as Japanese Egg Rolls, Tempura Mushrooms, Kani Salad and Japanese Nachos. The hibachi and teriyaki choices are vegetable, chicken, tofu, steak, shrimp, salmon or tuna, which is also a larger variety than that of all of the other hibachi restaurants around and offer a huge selection of sauces to accompany the meal.

Japanese Express hibachi in Daphne Alabama Japanese Eggrolls and Sushi

Japanese Eggrolls and Sushi

In addition to traditional hibachi they offer Yakimesi, which is fried rice, with chicken, steak and shrimp. And hibachi isn’t the only thing they offer; sushi is also an option to eat while dining here. From favorites such as the California Roll to Spicy Tuna Rolls, to specialty rolls such as the Hibachi on a Roll and the War Eagle Roll, the selection is large enough to satisfy any craving you might have. And sushi is worth a try for the price.

One of the best things about Japanese Express hibachi, aside from the food, is that you can call ahead and pick up your order from their drive-thru, literally making “on-the-go” a reality. Or if you would rather dine-in, you can easily seat a party of 6 or more in the dining room area as well as sit at the bar for a quick bite.

We’ve had a few meals here already, have been patrons since their grand opening and we’ve yet to be disappointed. With hibachi at nearly half the cost of their competitors and the drive-thru alone, you can’t miss this. The wait for the food is usually about 10 to 15 minutes or less depending on if you called ahead or not. Don’t let the absence of cars out front fool you though as they get their food out quick and you’re “on the go”. The price is moderate and about $12 to $15 per person with appetizers, hibachi and a drink depending on your selection.

We hope you’ll give them a try as we’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything on the menu so far and will continue to stop by, even if to satisfy our seaweed salad craving. Here’s the menu so you won’t have to go hunting it down.

Hibachi on the Go Menu - Front

Hibachi on the Go Menu – Front

Hibachi on the Go Menu - Back

Hibachi on the Go Menu – Back

Pizzeria Ozio – 697 US Hwy 98 Daphne AL 36526 – Pizza, Cocktails and More

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If you’re just passing through or new to the area, you may miss this jewel called Ozio located in the southern part of Daphne on US Hwy 98, but it’s well worth actually stopping in and grabbing a bite to eat for dinner or lunch. We chose dinner and found a selection of gourmet pizza at its finest.

We arrived at Ozio shortly before 7PM to find an almost packed house lined up to enjoy fine wine, mixed drinks, cocktails, live music by Jeff Glickman on acoustic guitar and, most of all, pizza. It took a moment, but we were greeted with a smile and the absolutely most attentive and polite waitress that we’ve ever had to date.

Both reviewers had un-sweet tea but were offered wine, mixed drinks, and Coke-Cola products as an alternative. We started off our meal with the calamari appetizer, which was served lightly battered with a very delicate but spicy lemon butter dipping sauce unlike any we’ve ever had. One reviewer stated that the calamari was unique enough to be a highlight of its own for the restaurant.

The pizza we ordered was called “Gardinio”, created with fresh red and green peppers, Crimini mushrooms, sliced red onions and arugula. We later found out that the dough of the pizza is not actually tossed. Instead, it is kneaded by hand into the delicacy that it will be once baked. Made as a 14 inch pie, this pizza was both light, healthy and filling all at the same time.

As you can see from the picture, it’s a delicious, hand-made pizza that is served fresh. We didn’t ask if it could be made to order. But judging from what we saw in the kitchen it wouldn’t be hard to get your pizza exactly the way you prefer, given some time.

Ozio provides an atmosphere that’s available for special occasions, a reason to be romantic and families. When you consider the quality at the same price, if not a better price than the corporate chains that really never put that extra care into the experience like Ozio does, you know for sure that you’ve found a keeper.

You can find Ozio online at:

Twitter: @PizzeriaOzio
Facebook: Ozio

Ozio is easily the dining that you’d wished you’d always knew about – a best kept secret of the Eastern Shore and Daphne, if you will – for an absolutely world-class and stellar experience. The service alone was enough to want to go back, not just the food.

Los Tacos – 28991 U.S. 98 Daphne, AL 36526 – Great Fish Tacos

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Los Tacos Daphne AlabamaHave you ever had a taco that you just couldn’t put down and when you were done with it you just wanted another one? We have, and they come from Los Tacos Fresh Mexican Grill in Daphne, AL. You can call them at (251) 626-6110. They’re right next to Taco Bell (imagine that) and it’s so much better. The prices and wait time is comparable so there’s absolutely no reason not to try them out. Los Tacos has eight different preparations of meat: Ground Beef, Chicken, Shredded Beef, Steak – Asada, Carnitas, Lengua, Pastor and Cabeza. And Los Tacos menu ranges from $0.79 to about $8.49 (Fajitas) and is mostly on the cheaper side.

We decided after talking to a very special relative that it would be a great idea to go try Fish Tacos. And I can’t say that I could have picked a better place to try my very first grilled AND battered Fish Taco. As Los Tacos menu states, Fish Tacos a battered or grilled Fish Taco consists of cabbage, pico and zesty sauce. We also had the Shrimp Tacos as well with some rice and Chips and Salsa.

Some of you may have had Los Tacos from the locations in Fairhope or Foley, maybe even from the Los Tacos van that can perhaps come to your place of work or even have your party catered by Los Tacos where you can “Spice Up Your Next Fiesta!”. We picked up a card at the restaurant that for Los Tacos Catering to call (251) 648-2788 for a personalized menu that fits your budget.

Los Tacos Daphne AlabamaYou can visit Los Tacos online at http://www.lostacos.org and see just about everything you’d like to see about their company including a menu. As stated on their site: “Los Tacos Fresh Mexican Grill has been been spicing up Baldwin County for over five years. With the addition of our third location in Daphne, you will have even more opportunities to enjoy the authentic flavors of Mexico.” There was a statement on the site that you could call the location nearest to you and have your meal available for pickup. Sounds like a great plan for lunch or dinner!

Overall Ratings:
Reviewer #1: 7.5/10
Reviewer #2: 8.5/10
Overall Score: 16/20

Olive Garden Sucks

Olive Garden in Spanish Fort AL 36527 – Never Again

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Olive Garden Spanish Fort AlabamaAt one point or another in our lives, we weren’t experts in our fields and we weren’t born that way either. We were the people who broke our backs to bring in money and grew up knowing what we didn’t want in our future and setting higher goals for ourselves. As a point of humility and openness, I happened to work at this particular Olive Garden I’m writing a review about a very long time ago before I even owned TurkReno Incorporated. I know that it may seem or sound bias to even go back to do a review of somewhere that I used to work, but the management and staff is 100% different now and my partner and I were hungry.

I am both gifted and plagued with a mind that never forgets – especially things that I was trained on or did repetitively on a daily basis. You may think that I am about to be overtly critical, but I can’t help to not remember the training and how I was taught to handle guests. I’m also, out of the remote chance of being libelous, omitting any names except for the General Manager at the end of the post. Here we go.

Inside Olive Garden Spanish Fort AlabamaSo what’s our beef with Olive Garden #1656 in Spanish Fort (located at 30500-D State Highway 181, Spanish Fort, AL 36527 – just in case somehow they manage to build two there’s a separation)? Let’s start from the top. We arrived at the restaurant at 6:45PM on a noticeably slow Thursday evening. A true “Hospitaliano” (Term registered to Olive Garden) experience starts off with you being greeted at the door with a warm welcome, not a blunt and unpleasant “How many?”. So we get seated in a booth. It takes approximately 6 minutes before our server even notices that we’re present only to be told their name and asked what we wanted to drink while they’re manning a completely empty section. The restaurant is NOT busy – at max, 20% capacity.

This isn’t being nit-picky, but I was taught to introduce yourself and give a presentation that includes offering a sample of wine, recommending an appetizer and an entree. Instead, we were thrown into the typical, apathetic “How can I help you?” that I could have gotten at McDonalds. So we give the server our drink order. They walk off before I can even get a word in edgewise to ask for an appetizer. The server comes back and I have to ask them what appetizer they would recommend to see if they’d possibly redeem themselves on the presentation. It took another 6 minutes to get our drinks, a simple un-sweet tea and water. 12 minutes to just start off == Fail.

Burnt Chicken Marsala Olive Garden Spanish Fort AlabamaWe order the Calamari as a starter. The server then takes our order, which is really simple: one Spaghetti with Meatballs and one Stuffed Chicken Marsala with extra mushrooms (yes, I love mushrooms as you may know from our previous reviews). It took about 10 minutes to get our appetizer and our salad with breadsticks. Now we’re at around 22 minutes, just to get started on eating – and we’re both starving at this point. The Calamari is sloppy: the breading is falling off of the squid and it’s almost as if it’s a little wet. Edible, but just not good at all. It should have been an indicator of the next to come. One of the “secret tricks” of Olive Garden is they hope you gorge yourself on the Breadsticks, which are good, so that they can distract you from how long it takes to get your entree. About 7 minutes later, we’re served our food. Here’s where the disaster sets in. As I said before, I ordered a Stuffed Chicken Marsala with extra mushrooms. Instead, I get this charbroiled stack of chicken with no mushrooms at all that would be easily comparable to the KFC’s Double Down in color and crispiness. Nothing wrong with my assistant’s food except he says it tastes like “Chef Boyardee with a splash of Chianti”. I ask my server, “Shouldn’t this have mushrooms on it, extra mushrooms?”, and they reply, “Yes, let me go get you some more.” It gives me some time to eat at least the mashed potatoes that taste like a ready-mix water and milk mashed potatoes.

So, I instantly grab my iPhone and start the stopwatch and start using the “lap” feature to record just how long it takes to get this remedied. It takes the server around 3 minutes to go and get a dish of mushrooms in sauce. At this point, I’ve already mentally talked myself out of putting in my mouth this disgusting failure of food in front of me. I ask the server “Would you eat this?”, and they reply, “Probably not.” They then ask if they would like me to get a manager and I tell them “Yes”. During this time, the table adjacent to my assistant and myself actually get served the same dish I ordered and it looks EXACTLY the way I wanted it – puffy, white chicken breasts topped with tomatoes, mushrooms and sauce. A manager arrives almost exactly a minute later (not hard to do since they were all huddling in the lobby anyway) and asks me what the problem is. I introduce myself and that I explain that I was a former employee some years ago. I then ask them “Would you eat this?”, and they reply the same as the server did. They ask what I would like to be done and offer to have the meal re-cooked for me. I say sure, and also interject that I don’t understand why this would have been served to a Guest and that the Guest behind them right now was eating what I was expecting to pay for.

How Long It Takes To Get A Manager At Olive Garden Spanish Fort AlabamaHere’s where the Double Down begins. Both the server AND the manager forget to take the food away from me. I’m sitting here, watching the clock and now I’m taking photos of this heat-lamp baked crisp chicken and tweeting it by nine minutes into lap 3 and I’m getting mad. Why? Because I know that it should only take 8-10 minutes to get a Chicken Marsala and everyone is huddling in the lobby including our server and the manager. I’ve had to sit here for right at 20 minutes and stare at this nasty food that I’m about to be re-served. 15 and a half minutes later, I finally get my meal at 7:33PM – 45 minutes after into coming to the restaurant on a dead Thursday night starving.

But it doesn’t stop there. The manager didn’t really seem to care nor did he comp the Chicken Marsala even after agreeing with me that it should have never left the kitchen. I get the ticket and it’s $40.58 for two people. I could have easily cooked myself three evenings from Wal-Mart the Macaroni Grill Chicken Marsala for that amount and fed two. I’m not exactly mad about the service because I tip the server $5.00, I’m disappointed that they didn’t fix it by taking this nasty dish I had to stare at for 20 minutes off my bill.

“It sounds like you know more about my job than I do.” – Olive Garden Manager

I conference call with a neutral party and call the restaurant today. The same manager that was there last night was there and another manager was present. Since I was peeved enough to call, I wanted to speak to a different manager since the General Manager, Scott Dumas, wasn’t present so that I could get as many people involved in this horrible experience as could be. It took the manager 10 minutes to get on the phone while we had to shout over this loud, ear-drum piercing, Italian knock-off muzak before the manager requested answers the phone. I gave a good overview of what happened, explained that why I was calling was because of how much things had changed and because I felt as if I should have been given the dish for free. That manager said that “It sounds like you know more about my job than I do.” What. The. F*#K. Then they tell me that since it’s a credit card purchase that it will be Monday before they can even reverse and correct the charge through “corporate”. We’ll update and see if they actually do. But know that this leaves such a bad taste in our mouths that we’re going to see this one through since we paid for it and had such a horrible experience. Never again.

Overall Ratings:
Reviewer #1: 5/10
Reviewer #2: 2/10
Overall Score: 7/20

If you have a problem with the Olive Garden at 30500-D State Highway 181 in Spanish Fort, Alabama, 36527, I’d suggest you speak directly to Scott Dumas, the General Manager as of the time of this being posted, who can be reached at 251-625-1490 or call 1-800-331-2729 and speak to a Guest Relations Representative. You’re also more than welcome to leave a comment and we’ll approve it if it’s relevant to your experience at this restaurant.

Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom – Mobile, AL 36602

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Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom - Mobile, ALHopjacks Pizza Kitchen & Taproom, located at 251 Dauphin St. Mobile, AL. 36602, is a pizzeria and bar located in the heart of Downtown Mobile. Most of you may know the location of Hopjacks from where Picklefish once was – on the Corner of Joachim and Dauphin Street (adjacent to the Sanger Theater). Right off the bat we can tell you it’s much better than the restaurant that used to be there. We decided to try it out since we had already had it recommended by a friend and wanted to see what it was all about. Since everyone here loves pizza and beer, it was a win-win situation.

We were impressed from the moment we walked in. On a busy Friday night, you almost come to expect no one to even acknowledge you in any restaurant. We got immediate attention, were offered drinks and a place to sit. We got to review a large assortment of beers on tap (49 according to our waitress; 50 total she said if you counted root beer), an awesome assortment of bottled beers and a very interesting selection of appetizers and entrees. They even had Mixed Tap beers named things like Snakebite – Cider and Guinness, Dirty Hoe – Hoegarden and Framboise, and Chocolate Milk – Rogue Chocolate Stout and Lefthad Milkstout. They had everything from Dips, to Hummus, to Wings, to Salads. At lunch, they even serve pitas! Had we stayed a little later, we would have gotten to hear some live music (usually starts at around 9:30PM).

Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom - Mobile, ALWe started off our meal with the Belgian Fries. Those were awesome potatoes, classic-cut french fries, fried in duck fat topped off with ground salt and pepper. Served with Roasted Garlic Herb Dip and Ketchup. We loved them in both, so it doesn’t matter what you choose – it’s going to be good. The menu says that you can get crash helmet upon request, but we took a risk and ate them without looking silly.

It didn’t take long to get our Wild Mushroom pizza either. This was an awesome 16 inch pizza for mushroom lovers like ourselves, topped with Shitake, Portobello, Oyster and Crimini mushrooms on a red marinara sauce with what seemed like a mix of Italian cheeses. It had a unique, smokey flavor to the crust and was baked just right. These guys weren’t kidding around when it comes to good pizza (and we eat pizza all the time).

Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom - Mobile, ALReviewer #1: 9/10; Reviewer #2: 8/10; Overall Score: 17/20.

We did a little research of our own and found out that Hopjacks has a website. They’re open from 11AM to 2:30AM, they deliver to the Downtown Mobile area and also have a Pensacola location (located at 10 South Palafox, Pensacola, FL. 32502). At the time of this article, they scored a 94/100 with the Alabama Health Department.

For two people, a round of beers, appetizers and a large 16 inch pizza, it came out to be $32.40 before the tip. Overall, it was totally worth it. The next time you’re in the Downtown Mobile area, we recommend you pick up a slice of pie at Hopjacks!

Opening Review: Dragon City Buffet – Daphne, AL 36526

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Dragon City Buffet in Daphne Alabama Opening ReviewWe recently visited the newly opened Dragon City Buffet, located at 28611 Hwy 98 Daphne, Alabama, 36526 on opening night (also St. Patrick’s Day) for a review since we’ve enjoyed so much of their delivery from their Dragon City restaurant further down 98. The restaurant is located in the old Rousso’s and Ruby Tuesday’s building, near the intersection of Van Buren St. and Hwy 98. They serve a wide variety of foods including Cantonese, Szechuan, Hunan, Sushi and even Hibachi. It’s not a traditional sit-down Hibachi Grill, but nonetheless Hibachi made-to-order and unique to any other Chinese Buffet in the area.

Their hours of operation are 7 days a week, Mon-Thurs.: 11:00AM to 10:00PM * Friday & Saturday: 11:00AM to 10:30PM * Sunday: 11:00AM to 9:30PM. They can be reached by telephone at (251) 626-5666 and Fax at (251) 626-2838.

Dragon City Buffet in Daphne AlabamaOur initial impressions were that they were very busy…and the restaurant was quite loud with customers.  Lots of kids, so we would say it’s family friendly. The adults were being louder than the kids, but that’s to be expected in Alabama. There was a lot of activity from the staff attending to the buffet, but not really focused entirely on customer service or any type of personal attention. Room for improvement there.

Their Health department rating was at a 94 when we visited. We didn’t stare at the ratings, so not entirely sure what those 6 negative points were for. The food also leaves something to be desired. Almost the typical feeling of being full with Chinese food and then an hour later starving again. We sampled just about everything we could before we got stuffed. The pork-on-a-stick was very tender and fresh, but the NY Strip Steak was almost rare and we couldn’t find a knife in sight. The sushi had a very fishy taste to it and there wasn’t a huge variety and it wasn’t restocked before we left. If you want sushi, go to a sushi restaurant like Furama.

The lighting bad in some of the dining areas. The men’s restroom sink was completely covered in water and towels. It didn’t seem like somewhere we’d want to wash our hands and leave the bathroom with clean hands to eat. We’ll still give it to them that it was opening night, but still a very important place in the business to make sure is tidy.

Dragon City Buffet in Daphne AlabamaWhen our drinks were empty, we did receive prompt attention. After that, however, we were served our bill way too fast. We felt like we were being rushed out so that they could turn as many tables as possible in their first night. Not exactly how we’d want to feel when trying to enjoy a meal. At least ask if there’s anything else they can get us or what we thought before the check arrives.

The cost of two people, both soft drinks and buffet, cost $24.70 – sort of pricy since you’d almost expect the drink to be included for that amount and the quality of food. Lunch is cheaper, but they don’t have the Snow Crab legs like they do at Dinner.

Our Scores: Reviewer 1: 6/10; Reviewer 2: 7/10 – Overall score 13/20.

In closing, the buffet doesn’t match their other restaurant in Daphne that fortunately delivers, and we’re totally grateful for delivery, decent Chinese food in Alabama. If you’d like to order their delivery service, which in our opinion is 100 times better than the buffet, call them at (251) 621-8501 or visit them at Fountain Square, 2101 Hwy 98, Suite J, Daphne, Alabama 36526 (across the street from the AT&T Store).

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