Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lula's Louisiana Cookhouse

PLACE: 113 S. Washington, Owosso (Just south of the M21/Washington corner.  Parking available on the street or behind J.C. Penney's/the bowling alley, if you want the exercise.  ;) )
PHONE NUMBER: (989)720-5852

PRICE: $$-$$$
CUISINE: Cajun/Creole
WAIT TIME TO ORDER: About 5 minutes
WAIT TIME TO FOOD: About 10-15 minutes.

STAFF IMPRESSIONS: I'm not easily won over by service.  I've worked in customer service, and honestly, I'm kind of picky.  This place...  The service was excellent.  The waitstaff was attentive without hovering, very acceptive and sweet to our small child.  We also had the owner of the restaurant come out to speak to us, which was a nice touch (I have never had anyone from "the back" come to my table, so that truly stands out to me); I noticed he made sure to speak to as many tables as he could, which was absolutely wonderful, and I appreciated the personal feeling that it gave our meal.

•The Dolma is amazing - an explosion of lamb and grape leaf, with the rice sopping up the oil/garlic/herb flavor.  Add the tzaktziki sauce and it almost turns into a cake with a creamy, yoghurt-like frosting.
•The Gator and Catfish were coated with a phenomenal breading, that was not too salty or spicy, but gave a wonderful Cajun-like bite.  I've had Cajun that wanted to burn your tastebuds off in place of flavor...  This was not one of those times.
•The only steak on the menu was exceptional - tender, juicy, with a little Cajun tang...  And cooked to perfection, even to a picky eater with a rare way of ordering.
•The pasta was the perfect, just-below al dente texture.  The Cajun creme sauce is divine (think Alfredo with a twist), and worked exceptionally well with the Crawfish in the dish.
•Crawfish itself was a meaty, wild, more earthy-flavored lobster; it was kind of the backwoods cousin, what venison is to beef, if you will.
•The beignets...  Well, first, let me show you the only picture of our meal that I managed to take (food...too...delicious...can't...stop...eating!):
That is all of the powdered sugar that we couldn't eat.  I love powdered sugar, so that is...amazing.  The little tiny puffs taste like the high-class cousin of an elephant ear.  I love them.  I want more,

DRINKS:  The sweet tea is not sickeningly so, which is refreshing (no pun intended).  Other than Coke, teas (sweet and iced), and milk...  I was too busy drooling over the food menu to notice, I'm sorry.

SATISFACTION:  I'll only be satisfied if they put a location closer to Flint.  They are phenomenal!


NOTES: It is small, but doesn't feel crowded.  I estimate about 20 tables are there, and they fill up QUICKLY, so definitely come early.  They also are open from 12-2, then reopen 430-9, so plan for that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

To Tip, or Not to Tip

So, lately, I've been looking at articles and blogs about restaurants, and there's one thing I've noticed REALLY tends to rile up everyone and their brother.  This topic literally hijacks entire comment sections in articles about totally different topics.*


Some people say it's voluntary, other's say it's not; some people say that 15% is an "average" tip, other's say 25% is "okay"; some people get all kerfuffled and refuse to tip, citing that federal law requires all employees to make up the difference between "restaurant wage" and legal "minimum wage" for their staff, and for every person like that is a server who has only worked at places where the management refuses to do such a thing, and fires anyone who asks.  Some people tip, but will not leave so much as a piece of pocket lint for what they feel constitutes bad service, and others vilify those people for not leaving "at least" a penny, if not 10%.

Another interesting thing someone brought up at one of my recent family gathering was shared checks, wherein one party pays, but the other has a differing opinion on the tip given.  Some people admitted to leaving a tip when the person who picked up the check didn't leave one.  Others admitted to taking a tip off of the table and either returning it or - in the case of one now-shamed family member - pocketing the cash.  Interestingly, in the case of a credit card, the pro-tippers still tended to leave cash on the table, while those who disagree generally cross out the tip line.

So all of this brings me to my question: What is proper tipping protocol?

Now, before anyone asks me exactly how I feel on tipping, let me just get it all out of the way: I tip.  I have walked out without tipping once before, when I felt that a server did not treat me with any form of common courtesy (not even a smile!); it is not a habit of mine.  I do have a "usual percentage" that I try to stay around, but I'd rather not say what that is.  I wouldn't mind paying higher prices to abolish tipping - it seems so hard, to not know exactly what you'll bring home any given hour - but until that happens, I won't go out to eat unless I can cover my meal and tip.

I understand how some people get frustrated when they go out to eat, see a $20 pricetag on their meal, and realize they'll have to add an extra $4 to their bill for because that's now what's expected. For them, it seems like false advertising ib the menu, and I sympathize.  In this day and age, and within this city, though, people need to eat, and in order to eat, they need to work.  It's hard to insist on proper wages when management knows that there will be someone else out there willing to work for less than $3 an hour, while just being thankful for a job.  Unfortunately, the system has been so warped that we, the consumer, now have to pay what should be an extra (for recognition of good service) to help people make ends meet, instead of their employers doing it.

Here comes question #2: Do you have a tipping procedure?

Want to answer me?  Feel free to Tweet me:

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(*For an example of this, I recommend:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Alexander J's Smokehouse

PLACE: 5490 Fenton Rd, Mundy Twp (Just north of the Fenton/Hill intersection)

PRICE: $$-$$$
TIME TO ORDER: About 5 minutes
TIME TO FOOD: 10-15 minutes for 4 entrées, 5 minutes for our appetizer.

STAFF IMPRESSIONS: Waitstaff was nice, but seemed unsure of himself.  Did not know about the beers, and let us order beers that were not available at the time, not once but twice.  We wanted a chance to look at the menus, but the waiter hovered either at our shoulders or at the table next to us, so we felt rushed.  It was early afternoon, though, and we were the only table, so perhaps he was bored.

•The bacon boats were delicious.  Truly. The soft starchiness of the potato, creaminess of the melted cheese (Colby?), and the bacon!  Applewood smoked, I believe.  Excellent!
•The sauces were good, especially the candy apple, I believe it was called?  It was sweet, with a spicy kick as part of the aftertaste.  I forgot to write down the names, but if I could buy sets of the sauces, I would.  They'd be good gifts - there's something for everyone, and even the spiciest one had a really good flavor.
•Perhaps it was because we came in almost exactly when they opened, but the meat...  I tasted no smokiness, no dry rub, nothing without the sauce, which had been heaped onto the center of the sandwich & soaked into the bun, which made the bread oddly sloppy.  I would have liked my meat to have been completely coated in sauce, though.
•Honestly, the best part of the trip was dessert.  We tried the Kentucky Pie, and it was amazing.  I'm not a fan of pecan pie, but pecan pie with a chocolate chip cookie baked into it?  Sign me up!

DRINK SELECTION: I believe Coke products.  As for beer, I'd suggest deciding on a few beers, just in case some are out.  Their menus are posted on their site: for the full menu, or 


WOULD RECOMMEND?:  I'd like to return for dinner, to see if we came in before the kitchen was actually "ready" for us.  I know it can take some time to actually be ready for a big order, and we did order a lot of food.

NOTES: Our waiter was very sweet and attentive to the child we had with us, and there are spaces wide enough for high chairs, with room to walk between tables.
The restaurant was VERY clean!  VERY, VERY, VERY clean.  I was impressed.  The restaurant has a very fun and lively atmosphere, so it's easy to see why the trivia and karaoke nights here are popular.  They also schedule events quite often, so it helps to check their website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Have a place you want me to visit?  Contact me:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Table & Tap

PLACE: 555 S. Saginaw St, Downtown Flint (Corner of S. Saginaw and W. 2nd St - NOT AVENUE. Between Kearsley & Court).

PRICE: $$ for beer and food
CUISINE TYPE: "Bar Food", with a high-class twist.  And Beer, Glorious Beer!
TIME TO ORDER: Beer-0 mins; we held off on food for about 10 minutes.
TIME TO FOOD: 10-15 for a group of 4, on a moderately busy Saturday afternoon.

STAFF IMPRESSIONS: Very friendly, helpful, and knowledgable.  We even got tipped-off to a possible tap-takeover that may be happening in September.  Also, the server made sure to add a personal touch, adding (only good) commentary on our beers, and getting our names.

•Baked Macaroni and Cheese was good (the crumble on top was crispy as opposed to mush, which can ruin the dish), but it wasn't anything special.  The pasta itself seemed a bit overcooked, almost rubbery, and the baked cheese had the same consistency.  The flavor was on the high side of average, but...
•Honestly, you don't come to T&T for the food.  The drink selection is one of the largest around, and is insanely diverse.  Trust me when I say, there's something for everyone - from Average Joe to Beer Snob to "I Don't Like Beer" (my pick for IDLB - the Kuhnhenn's DRIPA packs a punch without the bitter, hoppy flavor).

DRINK SELECTION: Coke, and a very good selection of beers.  They have their tap menu listed here, updated often:


WOULD RECOMMEND?: Absolutely.  I love a good beer.

NOTES: The tables tend to run too high for a high chair (unless you get the ones in the window nook), but the staff truly does try to make children feel welcome.  Unfortunately, with the small space (it's in downtown Flint) and tall tables, this joint isn't really kid-friendly.  Also, the bathroom is in the back, down the hall, and seems to be shared between the other commercial properties, which could be a bad thing after one too many beers.

Have a place you want me to visit?  Disagree with me?  Contact me:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Italia Gardens

PLACE: G-3273 Miller Rd, Flint Twp (Just east of the Miller/Lennon intersection).
REASON FOR RETURNING: Better Italian than Olive Garden.

PRICE: $$-$$$
TIME TO ORDER: 10 minutes.
TIME TO FOOD: 10-15 minutes, depending on order size.

STAFF IMPRESSIONS: Usually very prompt and polite.  This visit, we had one heck of a waitress - she was a riot!  She definitely kept my party laughing the entire time we were there!  Sadly, I didn't catch her name.

•The bread is a simple white bread, plopped into a knot-like shape and baked.  The butter has a simple cream-and-garlic flavor.  The bread comes to the table fresh & hot from the stone oven (visible to the dining area), and the butter is always cold.
•They serve a basic antipasto salad, but I'm not a salad person.
•The pasta is always good and slightly al dente, just slightly; if you can, the lobster pasta is absolutely amazing.  The creaminess of the alfredo sauce with the little chucks of melt-in-your-mouth lobster is absolutely stunning.  The lobster has a briny taste, though it's not as overpowering as shrimp.
•Their ribs are very sweet and tender, and it's not hard to put down a half-rack and come back for more.  The fullness does come, though, so be wary.
•The spitini is divine.  All this dish is is a simple meal of breaded, chopped steak, skewered with hunks of onion and bay leaves.  It is absolutely divine.  The simplicity seems as though it would underwhelm, but the meat has the taste of a long-marinated steak, and the texture is easy-to-chew, like a well-cooked burger.
•The parmesean-crusted whitefish is very good.  It doesn't have the usual fishy flavor that one would expect, probably due to the fact that these fish come from Lake Superior.  It's very flaky in texture, and has a sort-of chicken flavor to the meat.
• The tiramisu...  If nothing else, order a plate of this.  The not-overly-sweet taste of the mascarpone cheese (similar in texture to cream cheese, but not as sweet) in contrast to the "competing flavor" of chocolatey goodness, makes this rich dish work as one, instead of having a too-sugary dessert.

DRINK SELECTION: Coke products; Beer: Bud, Labat, Michelob and Moretti Italian; Wines (Red: Lambrusco, Valpolicella, etc; White: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, etc), $5/glass or $18/bottle.



NOTES: Kid-friendly, but it is a nicer/quieter restaurant, so please keep the other patrons in mind.

Have a place you want me to visit?  Disagree with me?  Contact me:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How a Farmers' Market Helps the Community

Ever walked into a grocery store - or any store, really - and just been overwhelmed by the selection of items on the shelves? Have you ever looked at a piece of meat or a vegetable and wondered how to use it, but no one seems to know?  Do you know from where your produce comes?  A lot of people, myself included, cannot always answer these questions in a positive way.  A lot of people just don't care, and want the cheapest price for the items on their grocery lists, and that's fine - we all have our way of doing things.

Some of us, though, enjoy being able to establish a rapport with our food providers.  Some of us want to know exactly what we're buying, where it's from, and how to use it, and we want a personal touch added to our shopping experience.  Some of us want to help the Flint Area become a more self-sustaining and viable community.  For those of us, a farmers' market is a dream come true.

Farmers' Markets, at their core, allow producers to sell their goods directly to a customer, without having to use a middle man, such as a grocery store or other store-front.  As such, the producer receives a larger cut of the profits than they would when dealing with a corporation.  On the other hand, they are required to ship their own product to the location of the market, as well as pay a small fee to sell there, meaning that the product may be more expensive than a big-box store.

Unfortunately, farmers' markets are usually only seasonal, due to the availability of appropriate weather.  Does that make them any less important?  Absolutely not!  People are more likely to get out in the summertime, and having an extra place to visit is always a good thing; if they can purchase a few veggies or a pound of meat, and help support those in our community, so much the be tter!  Why not help keep our hard-earned money in the community?

The Flint Farmers' Market even tries to help those who are on government assistance to be able to purchase local, fresh goods: some vendors can accept bridge cards.  Going one step further is their program, a State program known as "Double Up Food Bucks", which allows a consumer to double their available Bridge Card purchasing power, up to $20.  It's a wonderful thing for those of us on government assistance, and in this economy, everyone knows someone who could use that knowledge.

The Flint Farmers' Market is open all year: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-5, and Saturdays, 8-5.  Their location will soon be changing, as they plan to move downtown next year!  You can find more information about the Flint Farmer's Market here:

The FFM isn't the only market in the Flint Area!  There are also:

•The Grand Blanc City Farmers' Market (Sun 10AM-3PM, Wed 4-7PM)
•The Linden Farmers' Market (Wed 5-8PM)
•The Durand Farmers' Market (Wed 10AM-3PM)
•The Fenton Farmers' Market (Thu 5-8PM)

And those were just off the top of my head!  I'm sure there are more that I don't know about, all hoping to help those in their community succeed, one tomato at a time!

If you happen to know of any other Farmers' Markets in the Flint Area, you can contact me via email or by Twitter:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

El Potrero

PLACE: El Potrero (5516 Fenton Rd.  Fenton/Hill intersection, next to the Secretary of State [or one down, I don't remember exactly]).
REASON FOR RETURNING: Favorite Mexican Restaurant, period.  Words cannot not describe my love for this place.

PRICE: $$, but some entrées do hit the low $$$ range.
WAIT TIME TO ORDER: Usually no more than 10 minutes.
WAIT TIME FOR FOOD: 10-15 minutes depending on the type and amount of dishes ordered.

STAFF IMPRESSIONS: Tend to either be immigrants or college kids.  Most of them speak Spanish fluently, though lately they seem to be getting quite a few people who have been learning it in the kitchen.  The turnover rate seems to be high, though, outside of a few "regulars".  Raquel always has a smile ready for everyone, and I adore her for it.

•Always order something with the queso sauce.  You will not be disappointed.  It's simple, creamy, and delicious, as well as very traditional.  If you want some with spice, get the ChoriQueso dip.  Your tastebuds may think they've died and gone to heaven.
•The chorizo has an a tangy, spicy flavor to it, as well as having a kick, instead of lacking one or the other like most do.
•The "Camarones al Chipotlé (Chipotle Shrimp)" is quite possibly the spiciest dish on the menu, depending on the cook.  Everything is made to the taste of the on-duty chef, which is what makes this place so charming.  I love the Camarones, though, because you can always taste the smokiness of the chipotle peppers, regardless of the heat. A lot of cooks play up the Pow, not the Wow, but I have never had that issue here.
•The tortillas are fluffy, but not too thick, and hardy.  I always get an extra order (3 to a tinfoil packet) for mopping up my cheese sauce.  FABULOUS.
•Get the fried ice cream.  Just do it.  You'll thank me later.  Lactose intolerant?  I am so sorry.

DRINKS: Coke; usual Mexican beers (Modelos and Corona); horchata (a sort of sweet rice-milk and cinnamon concoction); apple juice, sometimes orange or pineapple, too.  The happy hour margaritas are a great deal.

NOTES: Always kid-friendly - plenty of space, and the servers always have something nice to say or give to the kids.  If you go for Happy Hour, or tag along on a friend's meal, and only order chips, any order after the first is something like $1.50 to $2?  This isn't the case if you order food, though.