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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fazoli's - pizza baked pasta

  Their website still has the motto "Fast, fresh, Italian", but Fazoli's isn't quite as fast as it used to be.  I remember the first time I walked into one of their restaurants, back in ~1993, that I was impressed by the endless breadsticks, and the concept that the food was pretty darn quick.  Since it was considered a fast food restaurant (pay up front, wait in line for your food), you were expected to bus your own table, and no tip was needed.  However, they still came around every 8-10 minutes or so and asked if you wanted more breadsticks.  Ah, those breadsticks - endless if you sat around long enough!

  A few years back they tried doing away with the endless breadsticks, and offered them only as a side item choice where you paid a certain amount, and got a couple of them.  That went over like a lead brick.  Today the company seems to have undergone a change where they are trying to become less of a fast food restaurant, and more of a traditional one.  The lines at the front are gone, but you still pay up front.  Now you go wait at a table instead.  My wait this time around was about 10 minutes for lunch.  Instead of serving yourself, they bring the food to you.  I also no longer saw a convenient place to dump my own trash and put my tray afterwards, so it appears that they are now expecting to clean up after you, which would mean that tips are expected.

  Although I usually try some lasagna when I eat Italian food, this time I decided on a new offering, "Pizza baked pasta", for $3.99.  They implied that the price may be going up soon, so it may be a bit higher.  When presented with a choice between pizza baked spaghetti, ziti or ravioli, I went with the latter.  The Pizza baked ravioli is essentially a dish of cheese ravioli topped with what you would traditionally think of as a pizza topping.

  If I'm thinking of Italian food, I often at least consider dining at Fazoli's.  They were playing a mix of 1940's, 50's and Italian music in the background this time, with very occasional advertisements.  The place was very clean, and they brought me some breadsticks within a few minutes of sitting down, while I was waiting for the food.  They even offered to let me have more than just 2, which was great.  The chairs in the place are a nice touch, with the backs formed into large red hearts.  About the only tiny complaint I can come up with is that perhaps the interior could use a new paint touch up - the walls had a good number of scrapes from people backing their chairs into them.

  One thing that I thought was funny is that they offered to let me add Parmesan cheese to my pizza baked pasta for an extra dollar.  Parmesan cheese is already readily available at all the tables for free, so why would I do that?

  The Pizza baked ravioli arrived in an extremely hot ceramic dish.  The mild cheese worked very well with the pepperoni topping, which was essentially ~1/4" of cheese and sauce on top.  It was hot enough that I was able to sample the occasional bite by blowing on it on a spoon, but it was another 4 or 5 minutes before I could really dig in.  Once I had finished, I noticed there were self serve doggie bags.  I didn't need them this time, but it was a nice touch!



Fazoli's - 5230 Cobblegate in Moraine  (just off of Springboro Pike, not far from the Kroger's)
telephone: 299-3457
website: fazolis.com
hours: Sun.-Thur. 10:30am - 10pm, Fri. & Sat. 10:30am to 11pm
delivery available at most locations (there are 4 in the Dayton area)

copyright 2010 by Dayton Dining
www.DaytonDining.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

McOatmeal



  I saw this at a local McDonald's recently, and thought "Now I've seen everything."  Oatmeal is certainly healthy, and I'm sure a lot of folks have been trying to get McDonald's to make its menu healthier.  The question is, will anyone order it?  I mean, I can't imagine driving somewhere to eat out, waiting in line to order, and getting ... oatmeal. (which you can fix in 2 minutes at home)

  Can anyone think of a good caption for this sign?  It seems like it deserves one...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TGI Friday's coupon Buy 1 Get 1 free sandwich or salad

  TGI Friday's has a printable coupon available, which allows you to buy 1 sandwich or salad, and get 1 free.  Coupon is good through Sunday, November 7.

  I've always loved a buy 1, get one free deal!

Details:  http://fridays.qrs1.net/greatdealsapp/13.html?CMP=30386

Menu:  http://www.tgifridays.com/menus/menus.aspx
(also has restaurant locator in upper right corner)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Panera Bread

  I decided to try out Panera Bread recently, partly because they were at the top of a recent "healthiest places to eat" list, and also because I had a gift card, and free is good.  There are 3 locations in the Dayton area: 6550 Miller Lane, 1203 Brown Street and 2751 Fairfield Commons Blvd. (Fairfield Mall, Beavercreek)  As in the past, I found the place mostly populated with students doing studying and eating.  Of course, that makes me wonder - how can you really enjoy the food if you're trying to memorize human anatomy for an exam while eating?  Maybe some folks are just naturally better multitaskers than I am.



  I've only eaten there a couple of times previously, mostly because the word "bread" in the title is not exactly something that gets me in the door, to be honest.  I think of bread as something you eat with hot dogs or peanut butter to stretch the budget.  Kind of like rice - a staple, but nothing fancy or exciting.  (probably why most Chinese places aren't called "Rice & ...")  For the most part, I don't think of bread as being the highlight of most meals, although if you have some fresh Rye bread, I might reconsider.




  Anyway, I noticed a couple of recent additions to the menu, and decided to try both of those by doing a "U Pick 2" combination.  That's where you can get a smaller amount of something, but you get more variety. (2 items, rather than 1 to try)  I have to admit, I'm really not a fan of the "signature upcharge", and still am not really sure how they calculate the costs.  Evidently some items are "signature", and others are not.  I don't think it is supposed to denote that some are fantastic, and others not - only that some are more expensive than others, really.  Perhaps they use more expensive ingredients, or take longer to prepare?

  I ended up ordering the new "Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Signature Salad", and also got the new "Cuban Chicken Panini on Focaccia".  Total cost came to just under $9.50 with tax.  The salad is described as a balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil with Asiago croutons, fresh mozzarella, field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh basil & onion.  The Panini was described as natural chicken, smoked ham, swiss, chipotle mayo, sweet pickle chips and sun dried tomato ale mustard.



  How did it all stack up?  The panini tasted good, bread was crispy, but the meat was really thick in some places, and almost nonexistent in others.  I would have liked a little more uniformity in that regard.  I would give it about a 7 out of 10 score.  As for the salad, the mozzarella was rather tasteless, but I suppose that went along well with the salad itself, which was very flavorful.  Most of the greens were what I would call a "Mesclun mix", with somewhat pungent leaves.  Croutons were stiff but oil drenched - I prefer them dry and on top of the salad, rather than mixed in like this.  I would rate the salad probably an 8 out of 10.  The meal was filling, and certainly seemed healthier than what is offered at many restaurants.





phone: 937-890-1500 (Miller Lane location)
website: panerabread.com

Copyright 2010 Dayton Dining
www.DaytonDining.com