The Great 2011 Dining Slump Round-Up

Damn I've been having a hard time motivating myself to write lately.  It's just so much more difficult when the food is mediocre.  I mean how many ways are there to describe food that's more or less "just okay"?  I've had these things piling up because I don't want to bother writing about them, so rather than waxing eloquent, let's just clean house...

1)  Basilio's Mexican Tacos

I'd heard about Basilio's from fellow taco truck fans for quite some time, and when I finally went to visit them on State Street, they were nowhere to be found.  I assumed they were MIA for good until a co-worker stumbled across them over in the business park on Kimball Place near Emerald Street in Boise.  I ended up visiting them twice, and came away with the same impression both times.  The food is VERY salty.  And this is coming from someone who drank soy sauce straight from the bottle as a kid.  Maybe it's because they service a business park and have adapted their flavors for their patrons.  If you can handle the seasoning, it's pretty good stuff.  Just make sure you have a beverage handy...

Carnitas Torta
Asada Taco

2)  Wild Bill's Barbeque (CLOSED)

I've said over and over that pulled pork is one of my favorite foods, if not my absolute favorite.  So, a new BBQ joint in the area is always a welcome thing as far as I'm concerned.  Wild Bill's has been open for a while now, but a good chunk of that was their "soft opening".  I kept saying I'd get around to trying them, and an e-mail from someone involved with the restaurant finally got me to do it.  We were in the market for some BBQ recently for a small family reunion kind of thing, and I suggested Wild Bill's.  We were only wanting stuff to go so we could do a movie night at my mother's house, so we opted for the aforementioned pulled pork.  I decided to try some smoked sausage as well.

Pulled Pork
Smoked Sausage

To be honest, even if we hadn't originally been planning on take-out, I would have suggested it after we arrived.  The place has kind of a plain cafeteria-style environment, so much so that the few decorations (lights and pictures mostly) stick out a bit.  But the most disturbing thing is the gun.  The proprietor wears one strapped to his hip.  And no, it's not a cute pearl handle revolver in a vintage-style leather holster there for the kitsch value.  It's just a modern pistol.  Now I don't want to use this blog as a forum to debate gun control, but I think a restaurant owner in a Meridian strip-mall toting a gun is a little distracting from the enjoyment of one's food.  Maybe it's just me though since none of the other people around, several of whom seemed to be regulars, seemed to care.  And what about the food?  Well, it was good.  That's about all I can say.  Problem is, there's better to be had in the area.  The pork was tasty and had good texture, but was nowhere near as smoky and flavorful as I like.  The sausage had a nice grilled flavor, but didn't stand out much from any smoked sausage you can get at the grocery store.  The big debate seems to be whether Wild Bill's or MickeyRay's is better.  Personally, I wasn't particularly impressed with either, but maybe it's a style issue since both of them do Memphis style barbeque.  The places I love tend to be the ones repping Texas style.  What about the sauce though?

Our bags had these convenience store coffee creamer-sized cups in them.  Strange for a barbeque joint to use packaged sauce, even if it is from Idaho.  I've considered going back since the food wasn't bad or anything and there's a lot more on the menu that I haven't tried, but it's hard to justify it when I know full well there are places I like better and places still to try.  Don't let me dissuade you though, if you dig the Memphis barbeque thing and are big on the right to bear arms, you'll probably like Wild Bill's more than I did.

3)  MickeyRay's Roudhouse Barbecue

Speaking of MickeyRay's, we recently did a return visit there (you can read about the first one here).  I still love the atmosphere, but once again there were just some off-putting things.  First of all, they were out of chicken when we arrived, which is not only strange for a barbecue joint but also inconvenient since my sister doesn't really eat mammals.  Then we had to request sugar for the iced tea three times before it was finally brought to us.  But the last straw was the grilled cheese.  My niece was with us, and that's what she decided to have.  When they brought our food out, they told us hers was going to take a bit longer because it got overdone and was being re-made.  When it hit the table a few minutes later, the kid took about two bites before abandoning it.  She didn't care for the taste, she said.  We didn't know why until they brought out the to-go boxes.  When her father was dumping her food into a box the sandwich flipped over, and while it had looked perfect on top, the bottom had clearly been burnt and an attempt made at scraping the worst of it off.  If a place is really good I can overlook something like that, but when I'm on the fence it's enough to ensure I won't return.  Their jalapeno poppers and ribs are pretty damn good though.  They just opened a second location in East Boise so obviously they're doing okay, and I guess this is just another example of my tastes and/or experiences clashing with the majority.

4)  P.F. Chang's China Bistro (dinner)

I've only been to P.F. Chang's once before, and that was to try their Happy Hour.  This time we went for the roommate's birthday dinner, since she'd been wanting to have the entrées again for some time.  Luckily for me we got there at the tail end of happy hour, so best of both worlds, right?  Well, yes and no...

Bacon & Egg Siu Mai

The one thing I ordered off the Happy Hour menu this time was the Bacon & Egg Siu Mai.  How could I not order something that strange?  The menu said it has bacon, egg, sticky rice, garlic, ginger and Sriracha.  I love all those things!  The final product, not so much.  Three dumplings for just over three bucks isn't bad when they're the big dim sum restaurant type, but these were small, overly chewy and the only flavor came from the bacon and the Sriracha.  I'm glad that I satisfied my curiosity, but I just wish the dumplings themselves had been more satisfying.  For the main event, the roommate ordered the Chang's Spicy Chicken.  I didn't get a picture of it, but I can tell you it was a pretty dish.  That's about all I can say about it though.  Spicy?  Not in the slightest.  She ended up dumping so much chili oil, chili paste and hot mustard on it to give it some kick that it became a different dish entirely.  As for myself, I decided to try the Orange Peel Chicken, and we split an order of Pork Fried Rice.

Pork Fried Rice and Orange Peel Chicken

We both agreed the fried rice was the best of the food items we had that night, but also that it was nothing really special.  At least the price wasn't that much worse than what you'll pay most other places.  The Orange Peel Chicken, on the other hand...where do I begin?  The first shocker was that for almost fourteen bucks, I didn't really get much more food than I would if I ordered take-out Orange Chicken from any strip mall Chinese place, and I'd have paid considerably less.  What about the quality and the flavor, you ask?  Well, just look at it.  My first thought was that it looked like the chicken had been coated with a mildly spicy ketchup.   Unfortunately, that's also the way it tasted (with some orange flavor mixed in of course).  Having just had damn good Orange Chicken from a truck recently, I felt positively insulted being served the worst version of the dish I've ever had the misfortune to try, and for double the price to boot!  The meal did have one saving grace...

Coconut Lemon Sour

One of the benefits of the P.F. Chang's happy hour is that you pay the price that bars usually gouge you for as opposed to the even worse normal P.F. Chang's prices.  Therefore, I got one of the best cocktails I've ever had at a restaurant for a mere six dollars.  The Coconut Lemon Sour is potentially dangerous though, it goes down like candy and I was immediately wanting another one.  Even now I can't help thinking about tracking down the recipe and ingredients so I can make a pitcher of it at home.

So that's it, kiddies.  Four meals down and the highest praise goes to a cocktail.  Oh well, nowhere to go but up, right?  Right?

Basilios's Mexican Tacos on UrbanspoonWild Bill's Barbeque on Urbanspoon
MickeyRay's Roadhouse Barbecue on UrbanspoonP F Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

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