Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Universal Joint

A new restaurant recently opened in Greenville.  Crazy right?  I feel like I start every other blog post with that sentence.  It still is amazing to me just how many new places are popping up around the upstate.  But the one unique thing about this new place is that it isn't located in the heart of downtown, it's nestled on Stone Avenue right in the middle of the North Main community. 

The North Main neighborhood is a beautiful area with sweet little bungalows just oozing with charm.  The neighborhood also boasts having one of the only two houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the state, see the house here.  While the neighborhood itself has been booming, the areas surrounding it have been a little slower with their revitalization.

Enter Universal Joint.  A trendy open-air restaurant just off of North Main Street.  T and I decided to visit about three weeks after their opening night.  Even after three weeks, the place was still packed with people.

The menu to me seemed a little all over the place, I'd like to see the chefs hone the menu down over time once they decide what they're really good at, and what people seem to like.  They had anything from edamame to fish tacos to burgers and a whole lot of randomness in between.

We started with the edamame, which was very tasty.  They give you some kind of soy sesame sauce to drizzle over top which was good, but a bit oily. 

This has been the summer of gin for me, so I ordered a gimlet to go along with my meal.  A gimlet only has three ingredients, so you'd think that it would be a pretty easy drink to make, but it amazes me how many bartenders don't know how to make one.  Since its a pre-prohibition style cocktail, I'm sure people don't order them that much.  Regardless, the bartender did a great job, and my drink was very tasty.

For my entree I ordered the brisket taco.  It's supposed to come with chips, but there must have been a mix-up in the kitchen because they came with french fries instead. No sweat to me, this girl will never turn down a french fry.  I'm glad that it did come with fries, because they were actually the best part of the meal.  The tacos just didn't do it for me.  The brisket lacked flavor and tenderness and the salsa that it came with was very pedestrian. It tasted like it was ordered in bulk, there was nothing original about it.

So while the food wasn't my favorite, the location is great, the atmosphere is fun, and the drinks are cold.  (The parking was a bit sparse, but since its a neighborhood bar, most of the patrons are walking anyway.)  I think the restaurant has great potential, and once the newness wears off I hope that they will be able to streamline their menu and really focus on perfecting a few key menu items.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Life Lately

Life lately has been a little crazy, but I've managed to snap just a few pictures to capture what we've been up to. 

Our garden has finally started to produce some veggies.  I harvested a few tomatoes and a jalapeno the other day and was so excited to use them.   I'm not a big raw tomato fan, so I have to get crafty with incorporating them into other recipes.  I've been scouring Pinterest for some good recipes that called for tomatoes, and these Baked Parmesan Tomatoes really intrigued me.  They'll be added to our menu for next week.

We celebrated the 4th of July weekend in Murell's Inlet with T's family.  T's sister made this gorgeous trifle that tasted just as good as it looked. 

We had a great time at the beach,  but as always our time there was just too short.  I'm already looking forward to our anniversary trip to Wilmington at the end of next month.  I just can't get enough time at the beach.

And as for George, he got his first big boy haircut.  No more puppy cuts for this little dude.   I can't believe how big he's gotten, and refuse to acknowledge that he's still growing.

 And that's what we've been up to.  Hope y'all are having a great week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Babaziki Mediterranean Grill

T and I rarely get to eat lunch together on the weekdays. We work on opposite sides of town, so our one hour lunch break usually doesn't allot enough time for us to eat together and travel back to work within an hour. There are however a handful of restaurants that are just close enough for us to get there, eat, and get back in time. Babaziki, a new Mediterranean Grill, (think Greek version of Moe's) is the newest addition to our list.

Magnolia Park, that new development right off of Woodruff Road, has really made leaps and bounds in the last year.  The area used to house the old Greenville Mall, and since its demise in the early 2000's it's been quite an eyesore.  But as of recent, several new businesses have moved to this area and it's looking great.  This is the same space where the new Cabela's just opened, and we'll be getting a Nordstrom Rack soon, too.  Can. Not. Wait.

So back to Babaziki.  I really liked this place.  The menu is very streamlined and easy to follow, which makes the process quick, and avoids a bottleneck caused by someone who can't make up their mind. This is a great thing for those of us who have an hour for lunch and not a minute to spare.

They've broken the ordering process down into 4 easy steps.  Step 1: Choose Salad, Sandwich, or Plate.  T and I both chose the plate.  Step 2: Choose your protein.  I had the falafel and T had the grilled chicken.  Step 3: Choose three toppings/sides.  We both had the tomato, cucumber and feta salad, the tabbouleh, and the carrot salad.  The plate also came with warm pita, hummus, and your choice of rice or couscous.  That's a lot of food for the price!

And finally Step 4 is to choose your sauces.  They have six different Mediterranean sauces, some spicy some creamy.  We tried the Tunisian Harissa, the Lebanese Green S'hug, and the Greek Tzatziki and all three were great.

Overall we were very pleased with Babaziki.  The food seemed to be high quality, and the prices were fair.  I really like the changes that I've seen to Magnolia Park, and this place is the icing on the cake, or shall I say the hummus on the pita?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Swamp Rabbit Brewery & Taproom

A few weeks ago, T and I tried out the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom with some friends.  If you didn't already guess it, the brewery is located just off the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.  In the last couple of years, Greenville has had a major influx of breweries popping up.  And now with the Stone Bill's passing, I bet we'll be seeing even more.

The Swamp Rabbit Brewery had a wide selection of beers.  Some beers for the beer snobs, loaded with hops and malt, and some beers for the light beer drinkers that were fruity and wheaty.  I liked that they had a wide variety, something to please everyone.  I've found that some of the other breweries don't offer such a wide variety, which can pose a problem when you're visiting with a large group. Since this was our first time, we opted for the pick 5 deal, where you pay around $12 and you get five fills of any beer that you'd like, plus you get to bring the souvenir pint glass home with you.  They fill the glass up about half way, so its a pretty good deal for only 12 bucks, and let's be real- who doesn't love a souvenir glass.

Up until a few weeks ago breweries in SC were not allowed to serve food, but now that the Stone Bill has passed, they can serve food within their establishments.  The SRB&T is not serving food yet (and I'm not sure if they ever will), but they do have food trucks come and park in their lot.  We got to try out a food truck that I've never had before, the Ellada Kouzina truck, a Greek food truck that's run by the owners of Never On Sunday.

T and I shared the Chicken Souvlaki Pita and the Greek Fries (fries topped w/ gyro meat tzatziki sauce, and feta cheese)  Both were very tasty and the portions were hefty.

We brought our friends Kate and Jack with us who were visiting from Charleston.  It was so great spending time with them, and the back porch of the brewery was a perfect place to catch up.

The inside of the brewery is pretty large, and I think they've done a great job with utilizing the space.  Like most breweries, they've got all of their large fermenters on display, which provide a perfect backdrop for the bar.  They also have tons of seating inside and out; something that I haven't seen in most of the other upstate breweries.  I think this lends itself to a perfect place to serve food as well.  They have large community tables (very HofbrÀuhaus of them), a good amount of bar seating, and a large outdoor patio with several tables.

T, the beer snob, wasn't over the moon about their beer selections.  He's a big IPA guy and the ones that they offered just weren't doing it for him.  I, however, loved the White Ale, the Raspberry White Ale, and The Marzen.  I thought all three were perfect summertime beers.  We loved the space, and can't wait to return.  We may even ride our bikes next time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tropical Grille

I recently tried out Tropical Grille (formerly Tropical Chicken Grill) for the first time.  T has been raving about this place for months, but their only location was 25 minutes away from my office; too far to pop over on my lunch break.  They have just opened two more locations closer to me, one on Woodruff Road, and one near the intersection of E. North Street and Pelham Road.

Tropical Grille is a Cuban restaurant popular for their Chops;  a protein of your choice chopped up and served over vegetables and rice.  I wasn't quite sure what I wanted, so I opted for The Classic, grilled chicken breast served over yellow saffron rice.   I feel like you can never go wrong with a menu item called "The Classic", and this dish did not prove me wrong.  What really makes the meal is the sauce that you put on top of everything.  I tried two different sauces that I loved. The first one was a cilantro garlic cream sauce, and  the second was a yellow curry sauce.  Both were packed with flavor and were a perfect compliment to the chicken and rice.   If you try the garlic cilantro, make sure you've got some gum or mints on hand.  You'll be breathing garlic for the next several hours.   

When I go to a restaurant for the first time, I can't just order one thing.  I think I may have a slight problem.  I feel this urge to order several menu items to really get a taste of what the restaurant has to offer. Luckily, Tropical Grille's prices were so reasonable that I ordered two things without breaking the bank.  I opted for the Baked Sweet Plantains, because at $1.79 who could resist?

The plantains (which look more like chicken wings in the picture above) were not that great.  The best ones I've ever had were in Puerto Rico, and since then I've been trying to find a good place to get them in the States.  They weren't sweet enough for my taste, and were a little too chewy.  If you are looking for good plantains in Greenville, check out Sacha's.  In my opinion, they're the best in town.

Although the plantains weren't my jam, the Chop was amazing.  Nothing about the dish is greasy either.  The chicken was cooked to order, and was all white meat.  And the fluffy rice isn't doused in butter or cooked with tons of oil.  The sauces that I tried both seemed to be cream-based, but they're so flavorful that a little goes a long way.  I left the table feeling comfortably full, but not disgustingly stuffed.

I've been trying to figure out a way to get back to Tropical Grille ever since I left.  If all goes to plan, I may be scheming T into picking up some to go for dinner tonight.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weekend Recap

I hope y'all had a wonderful long Memorial Day weekend!  T and I spent our weekend at Lake Wateree visiting my parents. The weather was great, and we had such a great time out in the sun.  I think I finally have the beginnings of a summertime tan. 

Apparently I have become one of those dog owners that lets their dog lick them in the face.  Never thought I'd see the day, and I'm not quite sure what to think of this. 

Saturday afternoon we got a special visit from this sweet thing, my niece Camille.  April and Ian came down from Charlotte for a few hours with baby Millie.  I know I may be a bit biased, but isn't she just the most beautiful baby?  I loved getting to hold her again; there's nothing like it.

I hope everyone had a fun and safe weekend as well.  Thank goodness it's already Tuesday!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life Lately

Its been pretty hectic around these parts recently- there's been a lot going on in our lives!  On Wednesday evening we welcomed my sweet niece, Camille Elizabeth, into this world.  I'm so in love with her, and I'm already scheming how I can see her again soon. 

I loved being a part of April's labor and delivery. It was such a special day with such an amazing ending to it all: holding this sweet thing in my arms. 

I took it as my task as Aunt to document the entire day; snapping pictures at every moment. I was afraid April may yell at me while my loud camera was clicking through her toughest contractions, but I knew she'd want every moment documented.   Having these pictures will hopefully make it easier to remember every minute of this incredible experience. 

I'll let April do the honors of sharing all of the other pictures with you, but I had to give a sneak peak of two of my favorites. Check out April's blog here, I'm sure she'll be posting Millie's birth story soon. 

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