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Big Oh’s [4/5]

Big Oh’s [4/5]

Big Oh's

Big Oh’s opened on the north side of the square last December, breaking Jordan Lane’s stranglehold on Korean food in Huntsville. I had been impressed at the soft opening, so after letting them settle in a bit, the hubby and I dropped by for lunch one Friday.

We ordered and paid at the counter downstairs–Bulgogi for me, Spicy Pork for him, and order of Yakimandou to share and two drinks–before heading upstairs to grab a table. Just as in previous incarnations in this spot, there is seating downstairs, both at the bar where you can chat with the cook and in a handful of tables, but I’m always partial to the upstairs room. As we reached the top of the stairs, we saw a new addition–a bar has been added to the back of the seating area. I imagine on busy evenings this ensures faster service since there is always an employee upstairs watching over patrons.

The radio was on, a little loud for the quiet handful of diners present but not so loud that we couldn’t carry on a pleasant conversation. The glass table tops sat over beautiful black and white linens and small framed photos of Korean dishes, costumes, and parades decorated the walls. I was charmed by two wooden ducks sitting in the window near a plant. The fabric chair covers were the formal style you often see at weddings with sashes which matched the table tops.

Big Oh's

Our Yakimandou arrived first, pipping hot still coated with a bit of oil. They had a little bit of crunch, an even texture and a mild, meaty flavor, the pork more of a presence than the vegetables. The accompanying dipping sauce was a blend of soy and sesame, tangy with a flash of heat. My husband enjoyed it, but I was happy with the Yakimandou as they were.

There was some confusion over our drinks, in part due to my mishearing our server, so they arrived after our appetizer was already on the table. It was caught and corrected before we had started looking for them, which speaks to the management’s attentiveness.

Big Oh's

My Bulgogi featured beef that was a touch chewy, long slivers of crunchy carrots, thin slices of mushrooms, and sweet white onions. The onions still had a bit of a crunch and were lightly cooked, such that the larger pieces were still a bit punchy. The dish was coated with a sweet soy sauce based dressing which tied everything together nicely and served alongside a scoop of white sticky rice.

Accompanying my meal were two small cups of kimchi. The cucumber kimchi offered crunchy cucumbers and a quick, tip of your tongue burn. The cabbage kimchi was spicier, a “medium” hot according to my husband who enjoyed it.

My husband’s Spicy Pork (shown at the top of this post) was served with the same scoop of sticky rice and kimchi sidekicks. The pork itself was well seasoned with a nice texture. The veggies were crisp and he enjoyed the sauce. The namesake spice was a dry heat, the spiciness building for a slow burn.

Big Oh’s brings some welcome variety to the dining options downtown and some improvements to the space they are in. If you are looking for something different in the beverage department, check out the Soo Jung Gwa. Although I didn’t order it on this trip, I was able to sample some at the soft opening and the cinnamony flavor was a nice break from often overly sweet American punches.  We enjoyed our lunch at Big Oh’s and will happily return.

Total for the meal: $38.66 (Included two entrees, one order of yakimandou, and two soft drinks.

Big Oh's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Appetizer: Royal Rose Diner

Appetizer: Royal Rose Diner

On occasion we get invited to soft openings for restaurants. These are events usually held a day or two before the public opening which are meant to generate buzz and help work out any final kinks in service or set up. It wouldn’t be fair to do a review but we do want to give you a peek at what is to come. In these appetizer posts you can expect a few notes on what stood out and/or what you can expect. It should tide you over until the restaurant has a chance to settle in and we visit for a full review. Enjoy!

Royal Rose (12)

Royal Rose blends American, Greek, Italian and French dishes with an emphasis on seafood. It’s an interesting blend with spanikopita cozying up next to oysters Rockafeller and chicken fingers.

A few notes from our visit:

  • The bread was outstanding. Thick, spongey, slightly sweet, and served with an herbed butter. This is the sort of bread I dream of when I attempt to make bread at home.
  • At the time of our visit there were no high chairs but the staff was friendly to the boys and we were able to slide their car seats onto the booth bench.
  • The dessert case looked fabulous with towering cakes and a generous pecan pie.
  • The cod fish fingers were flaky and fresh.

Untitled design (2)

The menu is not yet up on their website, but you can click the logo below to see the copy I scanned.

Royal Rose Logo

Old Black Bear Brewing [4/5]

Old Black Bear Brewing [4/5]

Old Black Bear (5)

Old Black Bear Brewing may be a taproom, but unlike many where patrons rely on food trucks and delivery for meals, they are also a full-service restaurant. My husband and I headed in for lunch one Friday with empty stomachs and lots of anticipation.

There was a brief wait for a table which we spent on a couch in the front room, next to a coffee bar made from round cross sections of logs. We were then shown into the middle (and main) room of the restaurant where high top tables clustered around the bar. The tabletops were richly lacquered wood and the bar was backed with reclaimed wood and exposed brick. Seats at the bar were half backed stools, but at the tables all of the stools were backless. That’s not my favorite seating, but it was more comfortable than I expected. Although the middle room appeared to be the only one open for lunch, we could also see a third, outer room with a mix of four up tables with chairs and high-tops made of barrels with wood tops and more stools. Beyond even that was an outdoor patio with long benches and more barrels turned tables.

Immediately upon being seated, our server appeared with an old-school glass milk bottle filled with water and two glasses. I was sorely tempted by the root beer on draft (!) but being that I need all the caffeine I can get these days I opted for a tea instead. My husband ordered a diet Pepsi and we settled on a Potato Tornado appetizer to share, an Adult Mac and Cheese for me, and a Pimento Burger for my hubby.

We chatted as we waited for our food and I found myself staring up at a branch mounted to the wall above our table and the stuffed black bear lounging on it.

I was soon distracted by the arrival of our Potato Tornado.

Old Black Bear (12)

Spiral cut and loaded down with large parmesan flakes, thick cut bacon and green onion slices, cheese sauce oozing out the bottom, it was a beautiful sight. The potato was held together by a skewer, but the slices were easy to pull free. The dish leaned a bit crispy because of the skins but the body of the potato held together enough to be handled. The seasoning added color and a bit of flavor, as did the bacon. The beer cheese sauce featured a prominent beer flavor and tingle. Slightly spicy, it danced on the back of my tongue. It’s difficult to make a cheese sauce without Velveeta or or other processed “cheese foods” which remains smooth, the cheese particles want desperately to cling together and make your sauce grainy. Those same forces were at work here, though the graininess was slight enough to be unobtrusive.

Our appetizer was served with sides of ranch and ketchup, both of which tasted housemade. The ketchup was creamy and sweet, but it was the ranch which captured my full attention. Thin enough to run and with a deliciously sharp flavor, it put bottled dressing to shame.

As we waited for our entrees a train ran by outside, while noticeable, it was not obnoxious. The pause between our appetizer and entrees seemed to stretch on and on, leaving me to wonder if they were a bit short on staff for the lunch seating.

Once our meals arrived, they looked delicious.

Old Black Bear (3)

My macaroni and cheese was made with penne pasta bathed in a thin, creamy beer cheese sauce and topped with a crispy panko crust. Tucked under the crust was bits of bacon, cooked soft, leaving it with a bit of chewiness. Parmesan shavings topped off the dish.

The accompanying broccoli was steamed, tossed with a bit of butter and sprinkled with pepper. It was a nice light contrast to the heavier macaroni and cheese and pepper added a bit of pep.

My husband greatly enjoyed his burger (shown at the top of this post) describing it as flavorful and “pretty darn good”.

When our server brought our check I was tickled to discover that the flowers decorating our table were actually the pens to sign the checks. My husband and I enjoyed our meal and would happily return with friends as a place to hang out and catch up. In the future, I think I’ll stick to evening hours however, unless I have a day where I can easily take a long lunch.

Total for the meal: $31.16 (included two entrees, two fountain drinks, and one appetizer)

Old Black Bear Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Old Town Beer Exchange [4/5]

Old Town Beer Exchange [4/5]

 

Old Town Beer ExchangeRecently Old Town Beer Exchange (OTBX) opened their doors to an excited beer and wine loving public. The beer and wine retailer is located in downtown Huntsville and is pretty much walking distance from everything. (I suppose you can say that about anything depending on how far you’re willing to walk, but  you can easily grab dinner at several nearby restaurants and then walk to OTBX.)

OTBX

I have been to OTBX several times for work and pleasure and I have enjoyed it every time that I’ve gone. If you are going to buy alcohol to-go they have the necessary components: a wide selection, pleasant ambiance and knowledgeable staff.

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The prices are comparable to other Huntsville locations. There is a wine chiller in the store, which will cool your warm beverage within 5 minutes, allowing you to show up to your party with ice-cold beer so no one needs to know you bought it last-minute.

If you want to drink on location there is also a full bar with 32 beers on tap and a selection of wines that you can buy by the glass.

I arrived to OTBX with fellow blogger Katie (check out her blog Katie Actually) and her boyfriend Joel at 5:45 pm. The bar was already pretty full at this point.

Katie and Joel

We managed to procure a table and two chairs, so Joel chivalrously offered to stand.

OTBX has a lot of fun elements in it giving it a rustic, yet chic feel. Most of the furniture and decor is constructed with locally refurbished wood that was salvaged from various homes, barns, businesses, etc. The tables are made from pieces of old barns and houses and the chairs were salvaged from the Kaffeeklatsch.

In addition to the local touches there are lots of techy gadgets. There are USB ports to charge your various technology, which will die quickly as you Instagram every beer you drink and duck face selfie you make.

The digital menu board tells you exactly how much beer is left at each tap. While you are Instagraming, Tweeting or Untappding your beer hashtag your posts with #otbxhsv and you’ll see your post pop up in the menu board. The wonders of technology! Another tech feature is OTBX also accepts Bitcoins.

Another feature is you can go drinking with your four-legged friends because dogs are welcome! Maybe cats too, but I forgot to ask. The hooks under the bar are to attach your canine’s leash to and  there a water bowl out front is for thirsty pups. If you ask the bar tender they will give your canine a couple of doggy treats. DO NOT GIVE YOUR DOG BEER! It is very bad for them.  I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but you never know.1Y2B8883Katie and I muscled our way to the bar and each ordered a flight of 4 beers. Depending on what beers you order your flight can range from $10 to $14.  Mine was $11 dollars plus tip.

 

1Y2B8893The taps are constantly changing, so this is a good location to go and try new things. If you are unsure what to order (it can be overwhelming with so many options) just ask the bartender. They are all very helpful, knowledgeable and happy to let you try a sip before giving you a full pour.

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My only complaint is how crowded it was, but we were there at peak time on a Friday night and you can’t fault a business for being popular. If crowds overwhelm you go at lunch time or early in the evening. The bar opens at 11:00 am so you can sneak away from your desk for an early lunch. Though OTBX doesn’t offer food they are fine if you bring food in and there are plenty of places nearby to get something to go.

It is hard to recommend a beer because the taps are always changing, but you can check out the OTBX’s website and see what is on tap before you go. I recommend getting a flight so you can sample several different beer.  I had a Good People Coffee Oatmeal Stout with an ABV 5.7%. It’s a nice comfort beer, perfect for the cool weather.  I also had a lovely plum brew from Japan. It was amazing, but sadly I can’t remember the name or info on it.

I have already been back to OTBX and I’m sure I’ll go again soon.

Fire and Spice [4/5]

Fire and Spice [4/5]

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One Friday, while on the hunt for lunch, the hubby and I decided to stop in at Pinhook Provisions. After parking, we checked out that day’s food trucks and settled on Fire and Spice. Sister food truck to the popular Earth and Stone Pizza, they serve Mexican food with a kick.

The menu, which is posted on the side of the truck, has a helpful heat index so you know what you are getting yourself into (or as the case may be, fleeing from). We ordered at the truck window and the person taking our order offered to bring our food into the Cantina for us, which was very welcome on a blustery day.

I selected the OG tacos with smoked chicken. This promised to be one of the more mild dishes on the menu, though you could always opt to spice things up by ordering the Russian Roulette, which is the same order of 3 OG tacos, where one of the three tacos has habanero slices added. My husband chose the Fire and Spice Burrito and we added two canned sodas.

My tacos (shown at the top of this post) were built on toasted flour tortillas with a layer of melted cheese at the bottom, topped with tender chicken, piled with a mix of spinach and romaine and finished off with pico de gallo, sour cream, and cilantro.

The smoked chicken was moist and flavorful, imbued with a subtle smokiness and well marinated in a red sauce. The person staffing the truck had informed me that the tacos would include “drops” of Texas Pete hot sauce, which is considered fairly mild in the hot sauce world. The pico de gallo which featured chunks of fresh tomatoes and onion. I was delighted by the toasted flour tortillas as it’s one of those little details that makes a big difference in flavor and texture and a personal favorite of mine when making tacos.

I don’t know if it was the Texas Pete or the seasoning in the chicken, but there was enough of kick for me to feel a burn back in my sinuses and support my decision to stay far-far away from the truly spicy offerings.

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My husband’s burrito was deemed “nice and spicy and tasty”. He liked the bold flavors, commenting that they didn’t just mush together like some other rice based burritos.

Fire and Spice lives up to it’s name offering plenty of heat for those that enjoy it. For those who prefer things on the milder end of the spectrum, pay attention to the heat index and opt to skip the hot sauce. I would happily dine there again.

Total for the meal: $23 (includes one order of tacos, one burrito, and two canned sodas)

Fire & Spice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Appetizer: Farm Burger

Appetizer: Farm Burger

On occasion we get invited to soft openings for restaurants. These are events usually held a day or two before the public opening which are meant to generate buzz and help work out any final kinks in service or set up. It wouldn’t be fair to do a review but we do want to give you a peek at what is to come. In these appetizer posts you can expect a few notes on what stood out and/or what you can expect. It should tide you over until the restaurant has a chance to settle in and we visit for a full review. Enjoy!

1

Farm Burger‘s premise is locally sourced ingredients, grass fed beef, and outstanding burgers. The build your own burger selections offer lots of unique options (bone marrow anyone?) and you can pair your burger with “adult” floats, craft beers, or wine in addition to the usual suspects.

A few notes from our visit:

  • I highly recommend the #5. Goat cheese on a burger really works.
  • The milkshakes are supremely drinkable (hooray!), with a thinner consistency that seems hard to find around town. This means you can a) actually drink it and b) finish one without being left with a belly full of sugary regret.
  • Soda selections are canned sodas, not a fountain.
  • The default is for the burgers to be cooked medium (which the staff makes sure you are well aware of when placing your order) but if you want something different, they can do that too.
  • Expect to spend around $10/person for a burger, fries and a drink

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The menus vary by location (that whole locally sourced thing at work) and the Huntsville menu has not been added to Farm Burger’s site yet. But behold! I scanned a copy for you so you can see exactly what the options are (click either image to see a .pdf of the entire menu). Note that they have a kids menu, appetizers (retitled as “snacks”) and a special lunch price.

Farm Burger1

Farm Burger2

 

Find them just east of the Parkway on Bob Wallace.

Pinhook Provisions

Pinhook Provisions

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Food trucks came roaring onto the Huntsville scene a few years ago, propelled by Downtown Huntsville’s Street Food Gatherings and updated zoning laws which are slowly making more areas available to them. The gatherings were hugely popular, which meant a long wait in line for the early birds and sold out offerings for late comers. Some food trucks had default locations or regular schedules, but many varied day to day and week to week, making it difficult to know where to find them.So I was delighted when Pinhook Provisions opened up.

The concept is a simple one–they are a “street food park”. Various food trucks and tables set up on a rotating basis in the outdoor space. Indoors, in the “Canteen” is a permanent dining area which allows you to dine in climate controlled comfort. In addition to heating and air conditioning the space offers restrooms, televisions, a dedicated kids area with a box of dress up items and a large chalkboard area, and free wifi. There are plans to add permanent coffee and beer vendors to the indoor space however currently all food and beverages are sold by the vendors outdoors.

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The decor is minimal, playing up the reclaimed/distressed style which is so popular right now. One wall is covered with reclaimed wood, which extends down onto a bench seat. The tables are made of wood and the seats are a mix of wood and metal. Strands of overhead bulbs supplement the ceiling light panels.

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Considering checking it out? Watch the Pinhook Provisions facebook page to see who is on the schedule this week. Curious about the various vendors? These are the Pinhook vendors we’ve reviewed on Huntsville Eats:

Fire and Spice
Food Fighter’s Bustaurant
Sugar Belle Cupcake Truck

 

Lizzy B’s Bakery and Deli [4/5]

Lizzy B’s Bakery and Deli [4/5]

Lizzy Bs (6)

When Lizzy B’s opened last spring, I immediately added them to my “must try” list. A new bakery? I was on that! Then I was put on bed rest and have been (im)patiently waiting ever since. My hubby and I finally made it in for lunch on a cold Monday. I had a heads up that they served Piper and Leaf tea in the original jars, so we brought ours along for a refill.

Walking in, I wandered over to the bakery case to check out the selections–a banana pudding cake looked promising, as did several cakes frosted with the smooth sheen of chocolate ganache. The restaurant was quiet, with just one staff member acting as greeter and server. She welcomed us as we came in and told us to seat ourselves where ever we liked. The space was filled with 2 up tables pushed together to make larger groupings. A mixture of wood chairs and padded metal chairs made up the seating. We found a table with two padded seats which proved quite comfortable.

Once we seated ourselves, our server came over to take our drink orders. There were three flavors of Piper and Leaf tea available–Front Porch Special, Orchard Peach, and Birthday Cake. We both opted for lightly sweetened Front Porch Specials and turned to peruse the menu as she left to fill our jars.

In addition to the more standard cobb salad and chicken salad sandiwches, the menu had lots of novel offerings. Breakfast is served all day and includes a breakfast burrito and made to order quiche. The sides menu includes things like black bean salad, cucumber salads, fresh fruit and broccoli salad. The sandwich offerings range from updated grilled cheeses (including apple slices) to a “Grandmother’s Sunday Dinner” open faced roast beef and gravy sandwich served on a biscuit. The specials for the day were in line with the cool weather–chicken pot pie and potato soup.

I opted for the Grandma’s Sunday Dinner sandwich with a side of Copper Pennies (described by our server as cooked carrots and onions in a vinegarette). My husband selected the Chicken Pot Pie with a side of a cheddar and pineapple bake.

We chatted as our food cooked, taking in the vibrant decor. Lime green and a splashy pink adorned the walls and the black tables sported paper with equally loud designs lacquered down over the tops. The long counter by the bakery case featured blue bar stools and purple and blue accents were found throughout. A large clock behind the bar had spatualas, spoons, and whisks to denote the hours and a neon pink rim.

Our food arrived quickly and we happily tucked in. My roast beef (shown at the top of this post) was falling apart, swimming in a thick, almost creamy, brown gravy and served atop both biscuits (my sandwich) and a side of mashed potatoes. The drop styled biscuits were buttery with a tight, fluffy crumb instead of flaky layers. This meant they stood up well to the weight and moisture of the roast beef. They did run a touch salty, but overall it balanced fairly well. The mashed potatoes were super smooth but had a slightly pasty texture like they needed just a little bit more butter or milk. They were an excellent vehicle for the robust gravy however.

My side of  “Copper Pennies” surprised me by being served chilled. I am so used to cooked carrots being served in warm, butter based sauces that I had assumed these would be warm as well. Instead, they were almost more like a relish with cooked carrots mixed with small pieces of raw onions and bell peppers and enveloped in a thick, clingy sweet vinegar sauce. The onions and peppers added a satisfying crunch and the sauce reminded me strongly of the flavor of sweet pickles.  I greatly enjoyed this dish, but I could see those who prefer sour flavor profiles finding it cloyingly sweet.

Lizzy Bs (11)

My husband reported that his chicken pot pie was “very good”. This was pronounced after the first bite and several “mmmms” followed. The bite I swiped was lovely, the sauce was thick and smooth without becoming a gravy. He also enjoyed the balance of his pineapple and cheese bake–the cheese mellowed the tang of the pineapple–while the roll was “pretty good”.

Still tempted by the banana pudding cake, we decided to split a slice for dessert.

The layer cake alternated levels of “cake” which perfectly replicated the flavor of banana pudding but in a bread pudding consistency with a creamy vanilla frosting. The denser texture made for an intense whallop of flavor and I was happy we had shared a piece because it would have been far too much for me alone. The cake was topped with crushed vanilla wafers, gone a bit soft from sitting in the frosting, and a dollop of freshly made whipped cream.

Lizzy B’s is full of delightful surprises. The menu blends fresh new offerings with classic standbys and they don’t shy away from intense flavors. Dishes are clearly house made with a freshness that sparkles but some of the flavors will be a “love it or hate it” proposition with little middle ground. We’ll absolutely be back to check out some of their dishes and explore more of the bakery case.

Total for the meal: $31.82 (Includes two entrees, two Piper and Leaf tea refills, and a slice of cake)