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Friday, February 25, 2011

California Garden Family Restaurant

  I had taken notice of this small restaurant near a Best Buy when I was recently shopping at Big Lots.  Mrs. Dayton Dining and I were trying to decide between this place and another, and decided to swing by for a closer look.  The sign out front was not lit up at all, but I remembered the place had California in the name from earlier.  This is the second time in just the past few weeks where I've wondered if a place is open when approaching it.  A slow drive-by made it pretty obvious it was a family restaurant, and there were small but bright LED signs on at least 3 sides of the building proclaiming it open.  Even so, we got there just before 7, and they were about to lock the door.  You can get it just before 7, then sit down and have a nice meal, but they don't want anyone new coming in after the 7pm mark, evidently.  (note that while the menu says they close at 5, the doors admit new customers until 7)

  The main area inside has roughly a dozen tables, with another small, more private dining area on the north side with about 4 tables there.  A single medium to large sized flat screen TV dominates the central eating area, but thankfully it was not turned on while we were there.  The walls have some ornamentation depicting various locales in California.  The menus were the largest I have ever seen - any larger and they might have been difficult to hold without them flopping over.

  The restaurant is essentially American fare, but also has all day breakfast, some healthy California style selections (veggie reuben, anyone?), Italian, stir fry and Mexican.  On the table, underneath the glass, I noticed a flier of sorts advertising the restaurant's 9th anniversary.  According to the flier, from Feb. 17 to March 17, they are having a month long anniversary celebration, offering buy 1 get 1 free on any meal. (1 per check)  We verified this, and that no coupon was needed for the offer.  It is always nice to run into an unexpected buy 1 get 1 deal!
  Both of us were in the mood for some healthy fish this time, so Mrs. Dayton Dining ordered the broiled trout, while I got the broiled orange roughy.  For sides we got applesauce, broccoli and hash browns.  I also ordered onion rings as an appetizer.  The appetizers and sides were brought out in only about 5 or 6 minutes, while it took about 14 or 15 minutes for the fish to be ready.

  The broccoli seemed a bit tough, almost as though it was harvested a bit late, or perhaps it had dried out a little during cooking.  Hash browns were actually a bit soggy, and not very browned at all, except a tiny bit on the outside.  This is unfortunately very common at many of the restaurants I've visited - I suppose I need to specify that I want them to be nicely browned and crispy next time.  Onion rings were decent enough, but I was hoping I'd be able to lavish a little praise on them.

  As for the main course, I was very happy with the broiled orange roughy, which had a slightly buttery and lemon taste, with a bit of black pepper.  Unfortunately, I was barely 1/4 done with it when Mrs. Dayton Dining told me how disappointed she was with the broiled trout.  She said it had a very strong fish flavor.  Now I know from past experience that she doesn't tend to like fish cooked with the scales/skin on it, so I went ahead and swapped with her.

  She had a point this time - the trout was a bit fishy, but the slightly too strong flavor was ameliorated by separating the flesh from the scales, leaving it acceptable to my taste, though certainly not as good as the orange roughy.  Thanks to my Grandfather, I have some experience fishing on Lake Erie, and have eaten a number of species of the fish we caught up there.  If I had to make a comparison, I would say that the trout being served at this restaurant has a taste very similar to sheepshead (freshwater drum) taken out of Lake Erie.  I think it is fine, though nowhere near as good as perch or walleye.  Since the prices are within a dollar of each other, I would caution you to steer clear of the trout, and try the orange roughy (or perhaps the halibut) if you are interested in broiled fish.

  At just under $14, we went with some of the more expensive choices on the menu.  You can spend a bit more with the ribs and shrimp & ribs choices ($17 & $15.80, respectively), but most of the meals are in the $7-$10 range.  Considering the variety of choices they offer, and especially given that the place is offering buy 1 get 1 free meals through March 17, it seems like this would be a good time to give the place a try.  Next time, I believe we may try the breakfast menu.

California Garden Family Restaurant
address: 2190 Shiloh Springs Rd.  45426
telephone: (937) 837-3518

Copyright 2011 Dayton Dining

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pizza Coupon Roundup

  I got a slew of pizza coupons in the mail recently, and thought I would share them.  I feel these are some of the best coupons I've seen in a while, including the ability to get a 1 topping extra large for just $7.79 (brick & mortar coupon), and a buy 1 get 1 (online only) coupon that lets you get 2 large 1 topping pizzas for just $5.50 each!

Excellent price, especially for the extra large pizzas.  I also like the look of that Philly Cheese Steak pizza!

  Use this one if you are ordering online - similar deal, but only good on large pizza size, low as $5.50 each with one topping.

  Here is a Domino's "carryout only" deal through March 1 (hopefully the link stays current through then)
Large, 2 topping, only $5.99 each:
click here, then click on offer at bottom of page

       This scan isn't the best quality, but the coupon itself is one of the lowest prices I've ever seen for a large 1 topping at Cassano's

Copyright 2011 Dayton Dining

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hardees - 3 dayton area locations

  I have a love-hate relationship with Hardees.  I love their thick, juicy burgers.  I hate the fact that they swallowed up Burger Chef, which was my favorite fast food place when I was a kid.  You may not have heard of Burger Chef, but in early 1968 they had almost as many restaurants as McDonald's! (914 Burger Chefs vs 970 McDonald's)  McDonald's had the superior marketing and advertising, but not the better burger.  Burger Chef may be gone, but their fantastic mushroom burgers are not forgotten.

  Recently we found ourselves on the way to see a play, and simply drove around looking for a fast food place.  We hadn't eaten at Hardees for a while, so we gave it a try.  Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a hurry to get to a play, so we didn't get to take our time eating as much as we would have liked.

  I decided to get some onion rings, because I typically prefer those to french fries.  I also decided to try one of their new chicken tender wrappers, which sort of looked like a breaded chicken tender in a burrito wrap.  I was also tempted by the Frisco burger, which I came to like while in college, but decided to buy a mushroom & swiss thickburger instead.

  The first thing I noticed was that there were french fries on my tray instead of the onion rings I had ordered.  It took a couple of minutes, but I eventually got my onion rings, plus the french fries for free.  No big deal, except that we were already in a bit of a hurry, and now I had a few minutes less to eat.  The onion rings were what I expected: a step above those offered at many 'mom & pop' ice cream places, but not nearly as good as the ones you find at county fairs.

  I enjoyed the Mushroom & Swiss Thickburger quite a bit, though I think I might give the Frisco Burger an edge over it in taste.  The meat was fine, but surprisingly I didn't taste any pronounced swiss flavor from the cheese.  I felt like it needed a bit of sweetness to it, like some sort of French dressing, but then again, I always put on a lot of catsup, and the original mushroom burger had some sort of sweet red sauce on top.  The bun also seemed a bit lighter than I would have liked.  I think I would have preferred some sort of hearty, denser bread to go along with a "thickburger".

  The new item on the menu was rather unremarkable.  It was certainly edible, and I'd even say it was enjoyable to eat.  However, my first thought when looking at it was that I don't think there was naturally a market for these things.  I really can't imagine that they had a restaurant where customers kept coming in and saying, "Hey, we'd really like to see a chicken tender in a wrap!".  I think instead somebody in management  said, "Hey, we have chicken tenders on the menu - have somebody in advertising figure out another way we can market them!"  Who knows, it may work.

Just for fun, here is some Burger Chef info:

hours: Sun. 7-11, Mon.-Thur. 5-11, Fri. & Sat. 5-Midnight

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Las Piramides Huber Heights

  I've eaten at Las Piramides before, though mostly at their Centerville location.  They also used to have a Kettering location, but it has closed.  I had heard that they have a buffet, and had my mind made up to try that.  However, I was not very impressed with their buffet after looking it over.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, given the small size of the place.

If you have a big appetite and don't demand much variety, the buffet might be a good choice, at nearly $9. (the buffet is only available Sundays)  I think I've gotten spoiled by having about 4x as many choices at some of the local Chinese buffets.

In the end I decided on a "lunch express" menu #6, which is one enchilada, one chalupa and one quesadilla for $5.75.  While I waited, I took a look at the artwork on the walls.  The Centerville location has a lot more of this, but it is fun to look at.

  Food was good, but I think the chalupa was my favorite.  Something was missing, however.  I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but then towards the end of our meal they started some Mexican music in the background.  That was it, I had been missing the ethnic background music!

  I think that the next time I visit, I'll try the Texas fajitas, with chicken, steak and shrimp.

  I noticed that some of the tiles at the front entrance are loose because of the ice.  Hopefully they can get this repaired soon, but until then, watch your step!

address: 6290 Chambersburg Road  Huber Heights, Ohio 45424
(SW corner of Brandt Pike/201 intersection)
telephone: 235-8634
hours:  Sun.-Thur. 10a-10p,   Fri. & Sat. 11a-11p

Copyright 2011 Dayton Dining

Friday, February 4, 2011


  Have you ever decided to visit a restaurant and almost walked away because you thought it was closed at first?  This is what happened to us at Pepito's.  Walking from the parking lot we tried to enter at the first door, which was locked.  I thought perhaps it was closed, but decided to walk on to the other end of the building, where I found the door open.  From outside, however, everything looked dark.  This business could really benefit from better signage, or a brightly lit sign outside of the main entrance.

  Once inside, we were greeted with a warm, well lit establishment.  We went into the back, away from the bar, and found ourselves a table.  We were in the mood for steak, so I ordered carne ranchera (ranch style beef), which is beef strips with onions and bell peppers.  We also got the Mexican-style New York steak, cooked to order, with rice and beans.  You can see from the photo that it has a lot of pepper.

  I wandered around a bit while waiting for the food to arrive, and discovered that they have karaoke.  If you are into that, you might want to call them to make sure which night they are having it.  They also have a game room in the back, with some sort of bowling video game.  For some reason it let me play a free game, but I was unable to do much more than gutterballs.  That's just a bit worse than I tend to do in real life bowling.  I just couldn't get the hang of using the big 'trackball' to control the ball.

  Both meals arrived with ample portions.  We were raving carnivores, so most of the meat disappeared in short order.  I think that my beef strips were a bit too heavy on the tomato sauce, and the spiciness was enough to make my nose run.  It was still enjoyable, but I did not quite finish it.  Rice and beans were about average.

  Food and service were decent, plus the place was clean.  It was actually a fairly quiet night there.  Waitress didn't pay us too much or too little attention.  Take a look at that menu, though - it still says 513 area code on the front!  If memory serves, I'm pretty sure it was 1996 when Dayton switched to the 937 area code.  I'm guessing they updated the rest of the pages on the menu, but forgot to ever change that.

address: 2412 Catalpa Drive (just north of Hillcrest)  Dayton, OH  45408
telephone: (937) 277-1476

Copyright 2011 Dayton Dining