Meokja Meokja: My New Favorite DC-area KBBQ

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RESTAURANT:  Meokja Meokja – Korean BBQ (“Let’s Eat”)

ADDRESS: 9619 Fairfax Blvd Fairfax, VA 22030

GENRE: Korean BBQ

AFFORDABILITY: This is a pretty tough question to answer for Korean BBQ – it really depends on how much you order and how many people there are. But for the amount of meat and sides my party ordered, Meokja Meokja is comparable to other KBBQ restaurants in the area. Meokja Meokja is in the style of Honey Pig in that it is not all-you-can-eat. However, they have really great deals on their combos.

PARKING: Limited parking in front of the restaurant, but plenty of parking in the lot behind the restaurant (in the bigger shopping complex). Note that Meokja Meokja is not in the bigger shopping complex!

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VENUE: The venue itself is a lot bigger from the inside than it looks from the outside. They have a cute little waiting area with booths, a fun sign, and mesmerizing TV display of futuristic traffic (It sound weird, but I could not stop staring), and a complimentary coffee machine.

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Mesmerizing never-ending traffic video

It was nice that it bright inside and the music was good and not too intense for the atmosphere.

GENERAL: I went with a group of friends who are very experienced with the KBBQ options in the area, from Iron Age to So to Honey Pig to Kogiya to several others. It was cool to find a quality place not in Centreville or Annandale.

The service was absolutely phenomenal! Hopefully it continues past their soft opening. David Y. was our server and he was great. Friendly, conversed with us, refilled our side dishes that we were demolishing quickly before we even asked, answered our questions, had perfect timing in beginning to cook more meat for us: he was just on the ball! The other servers and hosts were also extremely friendly. The service alone definitely was better than any other KBBQ restaurant I have been to, so I very much appreciated that. Reading other reviews, it seems like other people also agree that the service here is by far the best compared to any other KBBQ restaurant in the area.

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THE FOOD:  For four people we order the Large COMBO 2 and a Seafood Pancake.

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The water came out in a bottle that was really cool (almost thought it was complimentary alcohol). The cups were super small (could be bigger, because we were constantly refilling), but they were also kind of cool at the same time.

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The meal comes with Banchan which are Korean side dishes that are usually free at KBBQ joints. They vary per restaurant, but Meokja Meokja had a ton, which was awesome (makes you wish you had one of those spinning tables to keep passing them around). The Kimchi, Kale, and Mashed Potatoes were alright. A ton of onion, which was nice. I think the highlight for me was the radish and the other dipping sauce with the onions (not sure of the name), which I thought were extremely delicious. I think my biggest recommendation for them would be to provide everyone with the sesame oil, or at least one for each pair of people. I think that seems to be a more common practice at other restaurants (but they were super expedient in bringing out more for us and gave everyone that sauce with the onion).

Soybean Soup and Angry Egg are complimentary for orders over $30 and the Kimchi Pancake and Corn Cheese are complimentary with all COMBO orders. I didn’t really care much for the soup, but the Angry Egg was nice and fluffy, the Kimchi Pancake was solid, and the Corn Cheese was so good. They kept the cheese gooey by putting it on the stovetop and I couldn’t get enough. Some of my friends wished the corn was roasted, but I was fine with it the way it was.

The Seafood Pancake was really good. Compared to Honey Pig’s, it was crispier, had more veggies, and was less doughy. It was great; I think I liked Honey Pig’s more, but still very happy we ordered it (and it was super large and filling).

COMBO 2 was definitely a good decision. At first, we didn’t think it would be enough meat, but it definitely was.

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Meat!

The Galbi (Marinated Short Ribs) were some of the best I have had at a KBBQ place. It had a nice sweet and savory flavor and was just chewy enough. I could not recommend this meat enough and I really hope they keep getting the same high quality meat.

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MORE MEAT!!

The Bulgogi (Sliced Marinated Ribeye) was really nice – perfect amount of chewiness and had a great flavor.

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Meat again!!!

The Thick-Cut Unmarinated Pork Belly was fantastic – just fatty enough and nice and filling.

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So much meat!!!

And the Thin-Sliced Brisket – also nice and savory.

Again, I loved all the meat and the order they cooked them for us was perfect. The Galbi was by far my favorite, but the others were still really good too. My biggest fear is that like many of the KBBQ restaurants in the area, quality might go down over the years. But right now, the meat quality is really high and definitely worth every penny.

Almost wish they had some sweet ice cream or iced coffee to wash down everything afterwards. That would have been the cherry on top.

ACCOMODATIONS: Wheelchair friendly. Restrooms (nice quality ones, by the way) are not labeled as gender neutral, but there are two individual single-occupancy restrooms.

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OVERALL: Other than some minor food-related recommendations, the only area for improvement would be that because of the size of the tables I guess, occasionally a sizzling hot drop of water(?) would fly off the middle and briefly hit our arms. Could be the tables were too small, and it only happened a handful of times to me, but definitely a safety concern. In terms of safety though, they had all the safety sprinklers and everything above each stove top – that’s probably standard but for whatever reason I have never noticed that at any other KBBQ restaurant, so that was nice.

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safety!!!

So yeah, there were definitely some issues, but overall the experience was so great I can look past all the issues. The meat was phenomenal and hopefully the quality stays this high through the years. The service was expedient and friendly. I’ll definitely be back and I could not recommend trying this restaurant enough if you’re in for a KBBQ fix! My new favorite KBBQ in the area!

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American Tandoor: The Indian-American Fusion Restaurant That Was Better Than I Expected

American TandoorRESTAURANT: American Tandoor

I want to preface this review by saying I am an extremely harsh critic of Indian restaurants given the fact that I can get any authentic Indian food made amazingly well at home and I’m often eating at these restaurants with those very chefs.

ADDRESS: Tysons Corner Center 1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons, VA 22102 (2nd Floor next to entrance near Chipotle, McDonalds, Shilla, etc… They have some pretty heavy advertising in that section of the mall so you can’t miss it! Just don’t get it confused with the Indian Street Kitchen right outside of it)

GENRE: Indian (though I would say it’s an Indian and American fusion restaurant)

American Tandoor Venue

VENUE: The venue was very nice, with lots of traditional Indian décor and ample indoor and outdoor seating. Clearly a lot of effort went into it and it was elegant but not too formal. There was a view into the kitchen, which was also cool. The AC was blasting, but the warm Indian food quickly solved that problem!

GENERAL: Seating was quick and service was phenomenal. If you get a chance, definitely ask for Aly as your server, she was fantastic and my family very much enjoyed her energy and thoughtfulness. It was pretty busy for a late Sunday afternoon, which is always a good sign.

AFFORDABILITY: Although we ate at the same time as the Sunday brunch buffet, we opted not to go with the buffet option. $25 per person was a ridiculously high price for an Indian buffet (sorry, but Tysons Corner is not DC and I wasn’t willing to risk paying those prices), especially for an Indian restaurant that we had never tried before.

The entrees aren’t too expensive – mid-teens to $20. The quantity of food is appropriate. It’s pretty comparable to other Indian restaurants in Northern Virginia

American Tandoor Food

Food Spread

THE FOOD: We ordered the Chicken Tikka Naanwich, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Chops, and two orders of Traditional Naan. Our server implied that many guests order Naans as breads to be eaten before the meal, but we made sure to request it to be brought out with the meal to eat with the Chicken dish. Kudos to the server for checking with us as to when we wanted it.

American Tandoor Chicken Naanwich

Chicken Tikka Naanwich

The Chicken Tikka Naanwich (clever name!) was essentially a marinated chicken wrap in naan with masala aioli. It was honestly really good and I think it is probably one of their more popular dishes. It was simple, and really not too difficult to recreate at home. I will admit the masala aioli was kind of flavorless and very much overpowered by the marinated chicken, but it added a nice moistness to the naan. The fries that came with out were above-average as far as restaurant fries go. It came with an “Indian Ketchup” which was a tamarind-based ketchup that was very sweet with a spicy after taste. Tasted good and was especially useful as a dip for the Naanwich (again, the aioli didn’t really add much flavor and the chicken wasn’t with a curry in the naan so it was a bit on the dry side). It was a simple Indian-American fusion item (almost to the point that I almost wish I ordered something I bit more complex), but it was filling and delicious. Definitely something I would recommend!

American Tandoor Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

The Chicken Tikka Masala… was good. But it was most certainly not an authentic Chicken Tikka Masala. Just a curry chicken. It was a good quantity to share between multiple people and tasted decent. The chicken were breast pieces that were a great size and not overcooked – being a chicken thigh fan myself, it was great to find an Indian restaurant that cooks breasts the right amount and cuts them to the right size. I don’t think there were any major complaints from my family – a good chicken curry dish, just not an authentic Chicken Tikka Masala… (which is a common problem with many Indian restaurants in the area).

American Tandoor Lamb Chops

Lamb Chops

We ordered the Lamb Chops well done. They were good and had a really nice Dijon sauce with it. The quantity was a bit small, but it came with two sides so we ordered Cumin Potatoes and Dal Makhani. The Dal Makhani was really nice (soupy with a great lentil flavor). The Cumin Potatoes, as our server suggested it would, tasted like home-style fries. It was not spicy which was exactly what we were looking for. Overall happy with this dish.

American Tandoor Dal Makhani and Cumin Potatoes

Dal (Lentil) Makhani left and Cumin Potatoes right

ACCOMODATIONS: They have vegetarian options available. They are also able to control spice levels for many of their dishes.

American Tandoor Fries

Fries with Sweet-Spicy Indian Tamarind Ketchup

OVERALL: Honestly we were satisfied. The three entrees we ordered were filling for four people. I’m a pretty harsh critic of Indian restaurants, but the venue was really nice, the service was phenomenal (ask for Aly!), and it was reasonably priced with good food. I also appreciated the amount of effort they put into presentation – some of the food items seemed to have some more traditional presentations that take more effort, and I definitely noticed that. This is definitely one of the few Indian restaurants I would feel comfortable bringing back my friends to (both Indian and non-Indian).

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Honey Pig: Centreville Korean BBQ by the Dish

Honeypig Food

RESTAURANT:  Honey Pig Korean BBQ Centreville 

DATE OF VISIT: 7/2/17

ADDRESS: 13818-B Braddock Rd Centreville, VA 20121 (Four locations in the DMV area)

GENRE: Korean BBQ

VENUE: The restaurant is a lot larger than expected. Industrial feel and loud.

Honeypig Meat on Grill

Meat on the grill — they will help cook it for you!

GENERAL:  Getting seated was an efficient process. Picked up a ticket and waited for my number to appear on the LED-screen. Only took a few minutes. At this Korean BBQ restaurant you order appetizers and meat by the plate and the servers will come and cook the meat for you on the grill.

AFFORDABILITY: This is a tough question. I am a big fan of Korean BBQ and often go to the all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurants which often are around $25 to $30. I spent $25 here at Honey Pig and was definitely filled and the food was delicious. Some parts were definitely tastier than the all-you-can-eat restaurants, but I don’t know if that really justifies coming here and spending as much or more for less variety than the Korean BBQ buffets. Might be more worthwhile for larger groups of people who aren’t looking to get absolutely stuffed.

THE FOOD: We ordered Seafood Pancake and for our meat, my friend and I shared the boneless rib. We also both had rice, which is a little extra money.

Honeypig Banchan

Banchan

The meal comes with Banchan which are Korean side dishes that often are free at Korean BBQ joints. They vary per restaurant, but the ones here felt pretty standard for the area. The kimchi was definitely the best I have had! The salad, steamed egg, mashed potatoes, and sauces were also great.

Honeypig Seafood Pancake

Seafood Pancake

The Seafood Pancake was the size of a small pizza, definitely way bigger than expected. It tasted absolutely great; super filling and a great amount of seafood in the pancake. Crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Definitely will order again.

The meat tasted great too! It was cooked just right, not too chewy and not too tough.

ACCOMODATIONS: It is a Korean BBQ restaurant but there are vegetarian options for those who need them.

OVERALL: Enjoyed this restaurant a ton and do recommend! Many of the side dishes and the food was definitely high-quality; I probably enjoyed it more than some of the all-you-can-eat Korean barbecues.

Though with the comparable prices and the lack of variety, I don’t know if I can justify coming here too often unless I definitely know I do not want to eat a buffet. At least not without a large group of people. May return for that Seafood Pancake though, absolutely delicious!

I hear they give out Groupons a lot, so that definitely might make it worthwhile.

Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot: Sweetest Sensation in Historic Clifton

petersons.jpgRESTAURANT: Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot

DATE OF VISIT: 7/23/17

ADDRESS: 7150 Main St, Clifton, VA 20124

GENRE: Ice Cream

AFFORDABILITY: One of the more affordable ice cream places in my opinion and the scoops are quite large. Pro-tip: If you want to save some money, ask for two scoops and an extra cup – it’s fairly easy to move one scoop to another cup. I’ve seen many people do it successfully!

PARKING: There is a parking lot across the street and also street parking. Can get full at times, but usually you’ll be able to find some parking.

VENUE: On warm summer nights you will suddenly see masses huddle towards the side of a (seemingly random) house. This house is the wonderful Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot. You order from one window, pick-up from another. There is seating behind the house and towards the side along with a water jug with which you can wash the stickiness from your fingers if needed. The best word to describe it all is historic charm. Not sleek, not new, but that’s not why you come, you come for the charm and home-y-ness (and of course, the delicious ice cream).

GENERAL: Service it typically fast. You have local high-school students and college students often times working there, so on Yelp you’ll find the occasional complaint about a slip-up. But my experience was great; the people are super friendly. I’ve also had their ice cream at several events (through their catering service) and have always met friendly people and delicious ice cream, no complaint.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. They have a restroom inside the building that can be accessed through the side door.

THE FOOD: Peterson’s has Ice Cream, Shakes & Malts, Gelato, Sorbet, Soft Serve, and even some food (Hot Dogs, Fries, and Sandwiches).

Many flavors also are not listed on their website – I ordered a scoop of the Happy Ending flavored ice cream and that definitely left me happy.

The texture is absolutely perfect – soft and easy to eat with some chewy bits that melted in my mouth. It wasn’t too sweet either. I have pretty high standards for ice cream, and honestly it was some of the best I have ever had.

OVERALL: You have to try Peterson’s at least one – if not for the ice cream then simply for the charm of Historic Clifton. Could not be happier with my experience. I am definitely going to come back every time I am in Clifton!

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Iron Ice: “Edible Bubble Wrap” Waffle Ice Cream

IronIceRESTAURANT:  Iron Ice

ADDRESS: 13814-D Braddock Rd Centreville, VA 20121

GENRE: Ice Cream (Puffle Ice Cream)

AFFORDABILITY: The Puffle Ice Cream creations are $6.50 each, which sounds a bit pricey. But the scoops of ice cream are fairly large and the puffle cone is filling as well. It is a novelty item, but I wouldn’t say its ridiculously overpriced, especially when you start comparing it to Monster Roll, Snocream, Ben & Jerry’s, Coldstone’s, etc.

PARKING: Large shared parking lot in the shopping complex.

VENUE: Iron Ice has a cute venue. It’s not super large, but there is limited barstool and table seating. It’s white and sleek but also homey which gives it a nice atmosphere. At busy times it’ll definitely be tough to find a seat, which can be a bit frustrating.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly.

GENERAL: I think the main attraction is, other than trying ice cream in a puffle cone, is “ordering for the Instagram”. Iron Ice does a good job of making their product look good, which is really awesome. You can order from a list of preset creations or create your own. They also sometimes have special seasonal creations.

Iron Ice also sells chillers which are drinks in bags/puches – think like sweet fruit juices or capri suns – super popular among my friends and fairly tasty too.

What is a “puffle cone”? It is based off of a Hong Kong egg waffle. As the Washington Post put it, “Instead of a Belgian waffle’s grid, a bubble waffle, or egg waffle, consists of an interconnected hive of spheres. Think bubble wrap, but edible (and much less noisy).”

THE FOOD: I’m always a big fan of Fruity Pebbles on ice cream because they are colorful and add a great crunch.

It was a bit tricky to eat at first because the warm puffle starts melting the ice cream fast. Definitely eat the top of the ice cream quickly and then I would recommend taking out the whole puffle cone and eating it like a taco.

The puffle cone itself was soft, fluffy, and absorbed the ice cream drip well. Really enjoyed it.

The cookies & cream ice cream itself was pretty good too. I wouldn’t say it was amazing, but it was good enough quality. Maybe mine was a little bit icier than I would have liked or the texture, which was easy to scoop, was still a bit crispy. The strawberry ice cream was a little bit smoother, but again, that could have just been because I had a bite of that a little later.

I think the warm puffle made up for it and honestly it was really filling all together.

ACCOMODATIONS: Had options that didn’t contain either chocolates or fruit or nuts.

OVERALL: Overall I recommend trying Iron Ice, at least once! I could see myself coming back in the future because it was a tasty and filling dessert and a great place to bring friends who want to try something different. Just don’t expect to find room to sit inside the restaurant.

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Monster Roll Ice Cream: Rolled Ice Cream Bliss that won’t Break the Bank

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RESTAURANT:  Monster Roll Ice Cream

DATE OF VISIT: 7/30/17 (Second Day of Opening)

ADDRESS: Fair Oaks Mall in Fair Lakes, Fairfax, VA – 2nd floor between Sears and Auntie Anne’s (Across Finish Line and Journey’s)

GENRE: Ice Cream (Thai Ice Cream/Rolled Ice Cream)

AFFORDABILITY: $5.95 per ice cream order with up to 3 toppings and unlimited drizzles. Sounds sort of pricey, but the quantity is good, and it really isn’t that much more expensive than Coldstone’s or Ben & Jerry’s. Also, it’s a little bit cheaper than what you would get from similar restaurants in New York City.

PARKING: Plenty of parking around the mall.

Monster Roll venue

One side of the venue

VENUE: Monster Roll just had its grand opening two days ago after two weeks of a soft opening. It’s a sleek grab’n’go ice cream place with a small bench on the side of the wall that can seat a few people. There are also three viewing stations to watch the employees make your rolled ice cream, which was cool (everyone had their phones out recording the experience). It was really sleek and new but I was slightly disappointed that the venue wasn’t bigger and there wasn’t more seating, as there isn’t immediate seating outside the venue either. I don’t think the layout was the most efficient use of space in terms of flow of purchasing, watching, waiting, and seating. Perhaps a bigger location would have been better. But it still worked out well enough!

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly.

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Rolled perfection!

GENERAL: Overall I was very impressed. It does take a few minutes for your ice cream to be made, but you get to watch it happen which is part of the experience you are paying for. Lines moved quickly and they had plenty of employees to make sure everything was running smoothly.

I think there can be some trickiness in terms of ordering the right toppings and drizzles. Some toppings and drizzles go better with some flavors than others. Flavors ranged from Smores and Oreos to fruitier ones like Strawberry to more Asian ones like Thai Tea, Green Tea/Matcha, and Lychee.

A lot of people are also going here for the Instagram picture. Because there really is no set formula to how the toppings and drizzle are added as there is so much variability to each order, the ice creams themselves may not have the most artistic appearance (something other Ice Cream stores like Iron Ice pride themselves on – I actually moved around the pocky sticks in my above picture to make the photo a little more interesting). Some orders may look empty and others messy. Not necessarily a drawback, but just something to keep in mind when ordering if you are doing it for the Instagram.

THE FOOD: I will admit I ordered something I thought would picture well, but it also happened to taste amazing which was a huge plus.

I ordered the Strawberry Lane ice cream (Strawberry-Blueberry ice cream) with Pocky Sticks, fresh strawberries, and fruity pebbles as my toppings and both strawberry drizzle and whipped cream as my drizzles.

 

 

It was super awesome to watch them make it, crushing fresh strawberries and blueberries, getting me more and more excited to eat it. When I took my first bite, I was genuinely surprised. It tasted really really good! First and foremost, it was fresh, which is a huge plus. I think the strawberry drizzle and fruity pebbles really paired well with the Strawberry Lane flavor – wasn’t too sweet but still hit the sweet spot. The ice cream wasn’t too hard and the texture was light and fairly fluffy, which was really nice. The fruity pebbles added a nice crunch that wasn’t too sweet either while another nice texture to the overall experience.

The Pocky sticks really didn’t add anything to the ice cream, but the Pocky along with the fruity pebbles made for a really colorful and dynamic picture.

Monster Roll 1

My Mom’s Cheesecake Flavor with Graham Crackers, Strawberries, Blueberries and Strawberry Drizzle

I also tried the Lychee and Cheesecake flavors. Both tasted good, not as good as the combo I described above, but definitely still good. The ice cream is high quality, which I really appreciated.

ACCOMODATIONS: Had options that didn’t contain either chocolates or fruit or nuts.

OVERALL: Fun experience to watch freshly made Thai Rolled Ice Cream made in front of you and tasted delicious too! Honestly couldn’t ask for much more than perhaps some closer seating. I definitely recommend trying it at least once!

I personally think the fruitier and more Asian flavors will be easier to match toppings and drizzles with, so if you are unsure, go with one of those flavors!

 

Four Sisters Grill: Best Pork I’ve Had

Four Sisters Grill

RESTAURANT:  Four Sisters Grill

DATE OF VISIT: 6/3/17

ADDRESS: 3035 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201 (right outside the Clarendon Metro Station, WMATA Orange/Blue/Silver line)

GENRE: Vietnamese Food

AFFORDABILITY: Entrees are under $10 and are filling!

PARKING: Limited paid street parking available on streets nearby.

VENUE: The restaurant itself is really nice. Great for casual lunch or something a little bit more formal. The interiors are well-done and there is outdoor eating space as well. You walk in and order your food, similar to a deli, and then have the option to take a seat at the table and have a server wait on you or just leave with your food.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: Overall very impressed with the restaurant! When I ordered my Banh Mi, it was very nice of the cashier to double-check if I wanted jalapenos in my Banh Mi (as I bet a lot of people probably don’t want that spice). Although my friends all ordered our food to-go, we decided to sit outside. A server brought our “smoothies” outside which was really nice. There was a mishap with an order – accidentally brought out coconut water instead of a coconut smoothie with bubbles but they took care of it and resolved the problem super professionally and quickly. And a server came by and brought us sauces even though we weren’t officially “dining-in” which was very awesome.

THE FOOD: I ate the Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng (Grilled Pork Sandwhich) and a Large “Mango Smoothie with Bubbles”.

When I opened the Pork Banh Mi, it was so much larger than I expected and I appreciated that. It was by far the BEST BANH MI I have ever had. The pork had such a delectable flavor, I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. It. Was. So. Good. The onions were very fresh and the bread was moist. It was a great amalgamation of textures and flavors, I strongly recommend.

The “Mango Smoothie with Bubbles” was comparable to a Mango Slush bubble tea you could order elsewhere EXCEPT it was clear how fresh the mangos were. I like to think of myself as a bit of a mango aficionado and I could really tell the freshness and the quality of the mango used and I appreciated that. I ordered a large, which was 24 ounces for a really great price. Super refreshing. I only wished there were more bubbles.

I honestly feel like every time I go I would order the same thing, but maybe ask for more bubbles in the “smoothie”.

ACCOMODATIONS: Had Vegetarian and Gluten-Free options.

OVERALL: Wonderful experience. Parking nearby. Fresh and scrumptious food. Filling portions. Really well-kept venue. I plan on coming back and 100% recommend!