Finally Tried the Cuban at Metro Grill II

The last time we tried to go to Metro Grill II they were closed so Brian and I were finally excited to be able to eat there. It’s been at least a couple of weeks now but I’ve been behind on the blog so I’m just now writing about it.

Here are some pictures of our sandwiches.

I had a chicken sandwich that was mighty tasty.

Brian liked it even better than his Cuban, and that’s his favorite sandwich.

Everyone does something different with their Cuban sandwich and Metro Grill II is no exception. Their twist is they put potato chips in it. It’s odd but it does give it a nice crunch. Brian, even with the added twist of the potato chips, the sandwich itself was just okay. The pork needed more flavor and it was missing the sweet pickles that he likes.

Their potato chips are homemade and very good. Just had to add that bit of info.

These potatoes are seasoned very well and also delicious.

You know what else is delicious at Metro Grill II? Their desserts.

The only downside of dining at Metro Grill II is that you end up smelling like food when you leave because of the open kitchen concept.

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I really like Metro Grill II overall. Their Cuban may not be as good as other Cuban sandwiches we’ve had but everything else they make is delicious. I have never been disappointed.

Brian and I really loved the chicken sandwich I had. It’s called Tuscan chicken and it’s got the perfect blend of flavors. We’ve decided that we’re just going to split it on our next visit because it’s large enough to feed two. And then we’ll actually have enough room for dessert, which we missed out on this last time because we were both too full.

It’s all good though, because now we have another reason to return.

Harry Caray’s at Midway

This blog is so behind. I’m having trouble keeping up.

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These are picture from the Harry Caray’s at Chicago Midway International Airport, where Darcy and I were delayed on our way back from New Jersey. I believe storms were the reason for the delays that day.

Always one to find the silver lining in everything, I felt like it turned out okay. We got to have a nice leisurely dinner at a place I’d never tried before.

It seemed to be a popular place to eat. Either that or there were several delays that day and everyone had the same idea: eat at Harry Caray’s. LOL.

Midway has more food options than the Wichita airport but it’s still an airport. There may be several options but there’s not that many good options. Harry Caray’s I guess just happens to be one and therefore it’s popular. I think we had a 30 minute wait. Not that we were in a hurry because our flight was delayed anyway. We had time to kill. Apparently, others were in the same boat because there were quite a few people ahead of us and they were willing to to way at as well.

I missed taking a photo of our actual meal. However, I did get a photo of the homemade potato chips topped with bleu cheese crumbles. It’s rare that you run into homemade anything inside an airport. If you ever get stuck at Midway, I highly recommend Harry Caray’s. Either that, or you could do yoga. There happens to be a little yoga studio just around the corner.

Originally we were going to arrive at 10 PM so I had planned on going to work the next day to complete mid-year reviews with my team members. Due to the delay, we didn’t arrive back in Wichita until well after midnight and I didn’t get home until after 1 AM. Despite my good intentions, there was no way I could make it to work by 7 AM the next day so I ended up taking the day off.

It worked out okay because I was still able to complete my mid-year reviews the following week, right before the holiday. Yeah. This blog is really behind. I still have to share with you guys 4th of July photos and everything else that happened. I may just have to write one long, catch up blog.

Have a fantastic weekend!

The Cheesecake Factory Two Nights in a Row

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When we were in Edison a couple of weeks ago we ended up eating at the Cheesecake Factory two nights in row. Why? Because there’s nothing else in Edison. LOL. I didn’t mind actually because I like the Cheesecake Factory.

The nice thing about the Cheesecake Factory is they have a huge menu that has dishes from almost every cuisine imaginable. There’s bound to be something on the menu that strikes your fancy. I’ve yet to try a dish that I didn’t like. And, they’re very consistent. The same dish tastes exactly the same no matter which Cheesecake Factory you visit.

On our first trip to the Cheesecake Factory in Edison, we started with crab cake bites. They were yummy.

I can’t remember what this is called but it’s what Darcy had and she said it was really good. I had the bang bang chicken and shrimp (below), which is my favorite dish they make. I always tell myself I’m going to order something different but some always end up with the same dish.

The next night we’re dining with people from other utilities and we end up at the Cheesecake Factory again, for lack of better options in Edison. Long wait this time because there were some graduations going on that night. We were told 30 minutes but our pager never buzzed. About 40 minutes into the wait, Darcy finally went back inside to check. They told her that they’d been paging us. Not sure why they didn’t try calling because they had one of our phone numbers also.

Anyway, we should have known service wasn’t going to be great from then on. Darcy any I didn’t have any problems the previous night though, so we didn’t think anything of it.

After we were seated it took a while for our server to come back and take our orders. I think he was a little put out by the fact that we were all on separate checks. The people at the other end said that they heard him mutter, “So I’m going to get stiffed.”

The service we received reflected that attitude also. The food took forever. After we got our food, no one ever came back to check how it was. Drink refills didn’t come. We had to specifically ask. And when we did ask, he would forget and had to be reminded.

It was so bad that, even though several of us talked about wanting to order some cheesecake for dessert, he just brought us our checks without offering dessert. My thought was, he would have gotten a much bigger tip if he would have let us order dessert and rack up a bigger tab. Some people are just not very good at their job and not very smart. Either that or he was having a really bad day.

But hey, at least I got a couple more food pictures of it. I didn’t take pictures of mine and Darcy’s dinner because I got the bang bang chicken and shrimp again (surprise, surprise) and that’s what Darcy had too.

A couple of people had shrimp and chicken gumbo, which they said wasn’t very good. That’s kind of bummer because that was the only redeeming quality of the restaurant, I thought. The service was terrible but at least my food tasted good.

Anyway, the disaster didn’t end at the table. I went to the restroom before we left and two of the stalls were completely out of toilet paper. The trash was overflowing and they were out of paper towels. I’m not sure what shape the men’s restroom was in but the ladies’ room looked like it hadn’t been serviced since that morning. They must have been really busy that night.

I normally like Cheesecake Factory restaurants. They’re a safe bet because the food is consistently good and, from my previous experience, the service has been pretty good too. The one in Edison is terrible though. Must be an Edison thing because the Hilton Garden Inn there was terrible too. So relieved I don’t ever have to go back!

NY Munchies with Darcy

Darcy and I stopped at several places while walking around New York. First stop was Brasserie Cognac at around 11 AM. This was the place with the snobby waiter who said we couldn’t stay for just coffee because of their non-existent lunch rush. I’m not an alcoholic but I did end up ordering a peach bellini. Darcy had a glass of sangria. We finished our drink and continued our NY adventure.

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Next stop: Ivy in Hell’s Kitchen. This place had huge accordion windows that open completely so you feel like you’re outside inside. It was awesome. It was like we were out on the patio but we had the comfort of AC. We stay by the window which made for some great people watching.

At one point one of the NY bus tours was stopped in front of the restaurant. That’s NY traffic for you. I waved at the people on the bus but none of them waved back. They all had this uniform look of disdain. Not sure if it was the heat or what, but not one person was smiling. We had walked by several people peddling bus tours. It’s great for if you can’t walk long distances or don’t want to, but Darcy and I agreed it didn’t look like much fun. Seeing those people’s faces just proved us right.

Darcy and I ate a substantial breakfast at the hotel before we left so neither of us were really hungry for lunch. We decided to just get the artisanal cheese board and a pitcher of sangria. We were already drinking so might as well keep going.

Darcy knows more about cheese than I do so I let her do the picking. She chose Brie Fermier Jouvence (cow), Westfield Farm Capri (goat), and Pyrenees Brebis (sheep) so all the animals were represented. They were all really tasty with the grilled baguette but the honeycomb stole the show. I’d never had honeycomb before. It tasted amazing. Darcy recommended spreading both honey and cheese on the grilled baguette. I’d never had cheese that way before either. It was so good. The honey really highlighted the cheese flavors. My favorite combo was the honeycomb and capri on a baguette.

Love, love, love! Now I’m craving honeycomb. I don’t know where to buy it here, though.

We walked around some more then when we were ready to stop again, we stopped at Hudson Station. They mostly had bar food which didn’t really appeal to us so we just had drinks and left. Darcy found a place with good reviews called Marseille so we walked over there. Except our timing was a bit off. The kitchen was closed at the time and didn’t open again until 5 PM. We ended up going to Nizza down the street instead. The host at Marseille recommended it.

The best part about being in Hell’s Kitchen is all of the great restaurants. There’s so many of them. Although, out of all of the stops we made that day, Ivy was my favorite of all. I’m totally taking Brian there when we return this fall.

Efes Restaurant

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Darcy and I ended up at Efes on our first night in New Jersey because we didn’t want to be too far from the train station. We walked up and down the street and didn’t really find anything that appealed to us. Efes looked quaint and promising.

The naan and the sauces were good. Service was super slow, though. I was really thirsty and I think she only refilled my water once. I had to ask for a water refill and had to wait a really long time.

The hummus and falafel were good but neither Darcy nor I liked our entree, which was a bummer because it was one of the house specialties and came highly recommend by our server. We should have known she was clueless.

The description made it sound yummy and the server’s recommendation sold us. We both got the chicken dish, which Darcy describes sweet and sour chicken without the sweetness. It had a very pronounced sourness to it. Maybe we just don’t know our Turkish foods.

I wish that I would have ordered the salmon dish instead. It was that or the chicken dish. However, the chicken dish was a house specialty and our server told us it was her favorite and very popular. Usually, the house specialties are a good bet. Oh, well.

Maybe we just ordered the wrong thing because the restaurant is rated pretty well on Zagat. So disappointing.

The poor service didn’t help matters any. Our server never came unless we tried to get her attention. And, I really, really needed some water to tone down the sour flavor of the sauce. Darcy recommended just having more bread. I wanted my water, darn it!

The best part was the upside down “wash your hands” flyer in the restroom. The person who posted it couldn’t be bothered to make sure it was right side up. Seriously. You had one job! I had to take a picture.

Maybe this restaurant was good at one point but I’m guessing it’s been a long time since anyone who works there really cared.

Belated Anniversary Treat for Mom and Dad

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During last weekend’s visit, we treated Donna and David to our favorite steak place — Cy’s Hoof & Horn Supper Club in Sedgwick. It’s a long ways from our home in Southeast Wichita but totally worth the drive. They have the best chicken fried steak I’ve ever had and it’s a huge portion. It’s more than enough for two people to share.

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Of course, I ordered the chicken fried steak because it’s my favorite thing on the menu. Donna ordered the same. David had the prime rib special.

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Brian wanted to try one of Cy’s legendary burgers but, after he told them to take everything out of it, it wasn’t so impressive. LOL.

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He said the onion rings were good, though.

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The homemade dessert that night was banana walnut cake with ice cream.

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I’m not sure what was going on that night. Maybe they were just super busy. The food was good but not has good as we’ve had it there. The service was slow and my mashed potatoes were on the cold side. Though I wished that it was hotter, I didn’t say anything. I hope that mom and dad enjoyed the dinner despite the service shortcomings.

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Belated happy anniversary, Mom and Dad B!

Grandma and Brian’s Joint Birthday Celebration

Brian and I are not really huge fans of Olive Garden but we had dinner there last weekend in honor of Brian and grandma’s birthdays. They’ve celebrated their birthdays together since the dawn of time (or really since Brian was born) and have only missed three years. The missed years were when Brian lived in Memphis.

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We don’t really care where we eat as long as we are all together. Brian’s mom and dad came up from Oklahoma. Kevin, Kasey, and their kids Kyndra and Andrew were able to join us for dinner as well. Here are some fun photos we took at dinner.

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It took some doing but I finally got a good photo of David, Kevin, Andy, and grandma.

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Here’s a good one of Andy and grandma.

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Brian and I got grandma a gift card to the Nifty Nuthouse, everyone’s favorite candy shop, and she got a bunch of other goodies from Brian’s mom and dad, including these giant chocolate covered strawberries.

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These strawberries are the size of apples!

Brian got a couple of Superman prints from his mom and dad, which are now hung in his bathroom in the basement. The placement is a little awkward but to each his own. Besides, we’re have a bathroom decorating contest in the basement and I’m convinced that my bathroom, which has the lithos we got from Julie and Viktor eight years ago, will win (with or without the help of the awkwardly positioned Superman prints).

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Brian really loved his prints! Thank you, mom and dad!

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Here are some pictures of food.

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Brian got his usual.

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David got his usual.

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Donna and I both got the chicken and shrimp carbonara.

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I was disappointed that they no longer put frozen peaches in the peach bellini iced tea but they let grandma order out of the kids’ menu and they gave us a whole basket of Andes mints at the end of our meal so all was forgiven.

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We had a great time at dinner (perhaps a little too much in Brian’s case). Thank you so much to everyone for celebrating with us.

Brian’s Birthday Weekend

Here’s the long story about this weekend for those who are interested. Last year I took Brian to the Dominican Republic for his 40th birthday. This year I wanted to do something special but not that grand. We were initially going to Kansas City, Missouri or somewhere drivable. Jay and Becca mentioned they were going to be visiting Sandals Whitehouse over Brian’s birthday and, if we wanted to tag along, we could get a really good deal now that Brian is moonlighting as a travel agent.

We’d been to Jamaica a few times already but we’d never been to Sandals Whitehouse so we were kind of excited about it. We were to leave on Brian’s birthday, Saturday, and return on Wednesday so I’d only miss three days of work. Since it was kind of a last minute trip, the hotel was already fully booked on one of the days so we just couldn’t make it work. Lucky for us, we held off purchasing airfare until we could secure our rooms so we weren’t out anything (except for some clothes and shoes I’d bought specifically for the trip but I can wear those this summer).

Because the Jamaica trip fell through, we had absolutely nothing going on. Naturally, I was accepting invites left and right. We got invited to a tasting lunch at Gianni Bacci’s, and then the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Beta Kappa Omega chapter’s 80th anniversary gala on Saturday, and then on Sunday we had a birthday dinner for Brian at Bonefish Grill (Thank you, mom!) and the Down to the Wire: 24 Hour Film Race showcase at the Wichita Orpheum Theatre. Had it not been Brian’s birthday weekend, I probably would have said yes to even more stuff. LOL.

SIDENOTE: It’s not very often that I have this much freedom on weekends because I teach Zumba every Saturday and Sunday at Andover YMCA. I just happened to have subs lined up this past weekend because I thought I was going to be in Jamaica.

Here’s our conversation leading up to the weekend…
BRIAN: You hijacked my entire birthday!
CHING: What do you mean? We had nothing planned.
BRIAN: That’s what I wanted to do.
CHING: Nothing? You wanted to do nothing at all? You are such a bump on a log! You need to live and do stuff.
BRIAN: I’m not a log.
CHING: No, you’re a bump.

I’d normally feel bad about taking the whole weekend over but we’d been celebrating his birthday pretty much all month (last weekend we had Abuelo’s and Redrock Canyon Grill) and we’re going to continue celebrating when his parents visit this weekend. On top of that, the weekend turned out fantastic. Even he will admit that he had a blast.

Anyway, we’ve been together for about 16 years now and we are compatible in every way. I think the only thing that really causes a bit of tension (though nothing serious because we don’t really have serious fights anymore, we make such a great team) between us is that Brian wants to do NOTHING and I want to do EVERYTHING. I suppose that’s how we balance each other out. I would probably die of exhaustion if it weren’t for Brian and he probably wouldn’t experience life as much if it weren’t for me.

Headed to Gianni Bacci's for lunch. Things were going swimmingly until it started raining. LOL.

This is a picture of us on our way to the tasting lunch at tasting lunch at Gianni Bacci’s. We had to pull over on the way there to roll the top up because it started raining.

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Brian got to try a couple of different beers with lunch.

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Thanks to our friend Ebony for the gala tickets.

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I don’t know about Brian but hearing Sheinelle Jones‘ keynote at the gala was definitely the highlight for me. She’s so inspirational.

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We got to hang with the Shermans also, which was an added bonus.

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On Sunday we met mom and Jenni at Bonefish for a birthday dinner in Brian’s honor.

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Mussels! Mmmm!

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Can’t go to Bonefish Grill and not have bang bang shrimp.

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Brian had the sirloin and crab cake with double mash side.

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Jenni had the fontina chop with au gratin potatoes.

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I had the imperial tilapia with double jasmine rice. I don’t care what they say about tilapia. I still like it.

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Mom had the bang bang shrimp tacos.

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We all shared a creme brûlée for dessert.

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We ended the evening at the Orpheum for the Down to the Wire: 24 Hour Film Race. What a wonderful weekend!

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P.S. This one is our favorite out of all of the film entries.

Lemon Parade from Eron Rawson on Vimeo.

Blackfinn Ameripub

On one of the nights our group walked to the EpiCentre in downtown Charlotte to find somewhere relatively inexpensive to eat. We were originally going to go to Fleming’s but it had four dollar signs next to its name on the restaurant list. We had to keep it three or under because some people ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and already blew the dinner budget. Yup. That happened the night before I arrived. I totally missed out!

To David’s credit, he did get one of our vendors to take us out to dinner one night. They must really like David because they took us to a fancy restaurant called the Capital Grille. The food and service was fantastic. It was a wonderful dinner.

Anyway, he tried to find a different vendor to take us out the next evening. No luck. That happens when you’re just window shopping I guess. Vendors only like to wine and dine you if you’re actually in the market for their product. Our other existing vendors were busy courting new customers. We were on our own.

We ended up at Blackfinn, a two dollar sign restaurant that’s conveniently located right as you arrive at the EpiCentre. Several people in our group wanted to check out Howl at the Moon, a piano bar in the same area so it was perfect.

Here are some pictures of our food…

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I think these are the crab cakes.

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Steak!

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Meatloaf.

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Blackfinn Ameripub on Urbanspoon

I had the grilled mahi, except I subbed spinach for broccoli because I love spinach.

I didn’t get a picture of the other plates because they were either duplicates or too far for me to reach. To check out the other foods, I guess you’ll just have to go to the restaurant. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

Overall, I really liked Blackfinn. The food was good and the prices were reasonable. The menu is extensive so there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a steak or seafood person or you just want plain ol’ chicken, you’ll find something on the menu that appeals to you. It’s great for large groups with different tastes. No one will end up starving.

They also have a great selection of starters, some of which are quite filling. Blackfinn is a great choice for if you just want to have appetizers and drinks. We got to try the crab cakes and ying-yang shrimp starters. Both were very good.

They have flatbread pizzas; all sorts of salads; pork, chicken, steak, and seafood entrées; sandwiches and burgers; pasta and noodle dishes; and they even allow you to order extra sides for sharing. The dessert options looked really good too, but we didn’t have any. No one was interested after all of the cheesecake and other desserts they were feeding us at the conference. LOL.

After dinner Sunni and I walked back to our respective hotels. I registered late and ended up the Hilton Charlotte Center City, while everyone else in our group got rooms at the Westin. I found out the next day that, since Howl at the Moon wasn’t open yet, the group ended up at the Tendril after party at Whisky River, where they had an open bar all night long. They said it was a great time; even better than the piano bar.

I was bummed about missing out at first but, after finding out that some of them stayed out until 2 AM, I didn’t feel as bad. I really wanted to be at breakfast early the next day to get a good seat for Shawn Achor’s keynote so there was no way I could hang. Walking back to the hotel right after dinner was a good call.

Mimosa Grill

Mimosa Grill was my favorite restaurant out of all the restaurants I got to try in downtown Charlotte. I think I liked it so much because the food is so fresh. Our server made it a point to tell us that the vegetables are all locally grown at least half a dozen times during our meal. It was almost comical.

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Jokes aside, what I really liked best was the mimosa tea. It’s the most delicious non-alcoholic beverage I’ve had in a long time. I’ve had Arnold Palmer’s (half lemonade, half iced tea) before but their tea takes it up several notches. Chad liked it so much that he got multiple refills. I can’t pick on him too much about the refills because I did too. It was delicious. I wanted to go there again and again just for the mimosa tea.

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I had the lobster mac and cheese. Not the best choice. That part of the meal was just okay. I prefer the one here at Wine Dive better. I though the mac and cheese was a tad greasy. The salad was great, though. Probably because the veggies are super fresh. The super delicious tea made up for the lackluster mac and cheese so I forgave them.

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David had the sea bass.

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Chad had crab cakes, which is what I wish I would have ordered. The crab cakes were piled on top of each other with fried green tomatoes sandwiched in between. He said they were just as scrumptious as they looked. After seeing his plate, I really wanted a do over.

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Mimosa Grill on Urbanspoon

Alex got a very healthy salad, which looked amazing also. I bet it was really good. You know, because the vegetables are super fresh, being locally grown and all. LOL.

I joke around but, truly, I really liked Mimosa Grill. The prices were reasonable and the food was delicious and I wish I could have bottled that mimosa tea and brought it back with me to Kansas. I tried to talk the group into eating there again on our final day in Charlotte but no one really wants to eat at the same place twice, no matter how great it is. Usually when you’re out of town, you want to try a bunch of different restaurants. Specially ones that you can’t find your hometown. Such is the case for me, anyway.

Although, Brian seemed really interested in the Nascar Hall of Fame so I see another trip to Charlotte in my future. See you soon, Mimosa Grill!

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