Chew On It
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By Andrew Kochirka GoErie.com staff blogger
Food has been an integral part of Andrew's life from a young age; from cooking with his mother and grandmother to creating recipes in his own kitchen. Now he scours the area's non-chain restaurant scene to find the best of the best of local food from chicken wings to French cuisine.   Read more about this blog.
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Summer Foods

Places where the Beard ate Summer Foods
Posted: June 14th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my summer food tour of local restaurants. To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send me an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

Now that summer is almost here, all of your favorite warm-weather spots are starting to open. The bayfront area is a great place for scenery, sun and food. Last night, Amanda and I went to Rum Runners to get dinner. I was disappointed that we couldn’t eat outside because of the weather, but when it is nice, the patio is a perfect way to enjoy the water and breeze. There were a few bigger parties inside, but plenty of room to sit. Our server gave us some menus and a few minutes to look them over. The menu isn’t huge, but it has lots of appetizers and quite a few sandwiches, burgers and salads. If you are looking for healthy eating, this might not be the place for you. Most of the items contain some combination of breaded, battered and/or fried. Though delicious, not too friendly for anyone who is on a summer diet. There were a few specials on the menu that looked tasty, so I decided on a Summer California Chicken Salad with a side of seafood chowder and Amanda ordered a Georgia Rueben and a side of gumbo.

The soups were okay. The seafood chowder was what I expected for a $3.00 cup of soup. A few small shrimp were mixed in with some crab stick in a creamy potato base. The rich tastes in the cream were there, but the texture of the seafood was a little off-putting. Amanda’s gumbo was good. The sausage was well cooked and gave some really good flavor to the tomato broth. The veggies fell apart a bit, but over all, it was a good cup of soup.

My salad was just what I wanted. A huge bowl of lettuce was topped with sliced almonds, bleu cheese crumbles, sliced strawberries, craisins and a perfectly grilled chicken breast. It also had a sesame/poppy seed dressing on the side which really let the berries shine. The chicken had a fantastic grilled taste and I really love the combination of bleu cheese and craisins. The Georgia Rueben wasn’t quite at the same level. This sandwich is like a traditional Reuben, but made with turkey instead of corned beef. Like my soup, the taste of the sandwich was pretty good, but when I picked the sandwich off of the tray, I had to wait for the grease to drip off before I could take a bite. That really made it not as appetizing. Our meal came to just under $22 without tip so it isn’t priced as well as some of the other places we’ve visited.

If you like water, fresh air and boats, this really is a fantastic outdoor space for summer. You can dock right on the patio and enjoy the bar. The drinks are good and priced well, and the bar style food fits in with hungry drinkers. It wouldn’t be my first recommendation for a dinner out, but the location makes up for it.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Rum Runners on Urbanspoon

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Posted: June 21st, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my summer food tour of local restaurants. To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send me an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

Hopefully, one of these weeks I will have a clear night to eat outside. The 15 mile trip from Erie to Edinboro Lake is great. Route 99 is scenic and quick. Amanda and I arrived at the Sunset Grill shortly after 6 P.M. The inside tables were all reserved for a party, but that didn’t matter because it was the outside seating we were interested in. With tables just feet from the water’s edge, the outdoor patio style dock is perfect for summer dining. Our server, Laura, gave us a few minutes with our menus while she got us some drinks. She told us that she really did enjoy all of the food, but gave us some of her favorites as well as some of the more popular dishes. We were torn between salads and pizza, but both of us decided pizza was a better path. I went with Annette’s Spicy Sausage pizza and Amanda ordered the Spinach Artichoke pizza.

We got a hummus appetizer to start with. It was a little on the small side for a $6 appetizer, however, I am glad we ordered it because the kitchen accidentally burned one (or possibly both) of our pizzas, so with the remake, it took a while to get our food. The pizzas were both very simple as well as delicious. On the menu, they have spinach artichoke dip and spicy sausage dip (as well as a few others). The pizzas that we ordered were just flakey crusts with some doctored up dips. If it isn’t broke, why fix it? Annette’s Spicy Sausage pizza is hot sausage mixed with diced tomatoes and some cream cheese instead of a normal red sauce. It is topped with sweet peppers, black olives and a blend of cheeses. The heat was subtle, but delicious. The cream cheese really allowed the flavors of the sausage and the peppers to shine. Next time, I might ask for some pepper flakes or hot sauce, but it is for sure a pizza I would order again.

Amanda’s Spinach Artichoke pizza was very similar. The spinach artichoke dip was spread over the crust and topped with chunks of tomato as well as big pieces of chicken. The chicken really had that home cooked taste to it and finished off the pizza perfectly. I think there needs to be more artichoke in the dip. Maybe grilling a few hearts and adding them would do the trick.

The drive out there and the ambiance of the lake would be worth it alone. Throw in some good food and it really makes the night. Thank you to Laura for the great service. I will be back for sure.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

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Posted: June 29th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my summer food tour of local restaurants. To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send me an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

Twenty-five miles west of Interstate 79 on Route 20 is The White Turkey Drive-In. Just over the border in Conneaut, Ohio, the White Turkey has been serving up turkey sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs for 58 years. Whether you want food to go or you want to eat at the diner-style counter, this really is a stroll back in time. Amanda and I got there around 6:15 Tuesday night, and it was just starting to get busy. There were four girls working the front of the house and a few cooks in the back, so service looked like it was pretty quick. Our server, Ali, came over and got us drinks while we looked over the menu board. The different burgers and hot dogs all sounded great, but the house specialty is the hand-shredded turkey sandwich (as well as their root beer), so it was hard to pass up. We both decided on the turkey sandwich, and Amanda got the homemade coleslaw and I ordered the hand-battered onion rings.

The turkey sandwiches were fantastic. The turkey is raised on the family farm and cooked and shredded in-house. A handful of shredded light and dark meat is placed on a toasted, buttered and salted bun and served plain with your choice of condiments. I put a little mustard and mayo on mine, and it was perfect. The turkey was moist and full of flavor. The salt on top of the bun really was a great touch and, in my opinion, made the sandwich. The sides were both delicious as well. The coleslaw was crisp, creamy and refreshing. I typically like an oil-based slaw, but this creamy one was great. The onion rings were perfectly fried and crunchy. I used a combination of BBQ and ketchup for them, and it was a good addition to the meal. My only issue with the meal was that I wanted more. The sandwiches aren’t the biggest, but they are delicious.

After we finished our sandwiches, we had to try the root beer floats. The floats are served in frosted mugs and fully capped with vanilla soft-serve. The root beer was just the right amount of sweet and not syrupy at all. Thank you to Ali for the great service and food. This is a great location for a summer drive and some even better food.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

White Turkey Drive-In on Urbanspoon

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Posted: July 6th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my summer food tour of local restaurants. To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

For 64 years, Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs has been a Meadville, Pa., staple. Amanda and I were joined by two Saegertown, Pa., natives (and soon-to-be-newlyweds) Whitney Graham and Justin Catalano. We met them at Eddie’s shortly before 7 last night. This hot dog stand is just that; besides the foot-long Smith’s hot dog, you can order a sloppy Joe sandwich or nachos and get chips or fries as a side; simple and to the point. This was my first Eddie’s experience, so I wanted all of the suggestions I could get. I let Whitney and Justin order first so I could get a longer look at my topping choices, as well as steal some ideas from what they ordered. I found out that you can split a foot-long and get two sets of toppings, and because I couldn’t decide on one thing, this was perfect for me. Amanda went first and ordered hers with kraut, relish and mustard and a side of fries. I got mine split in half. The first half had the works: ketchup, mustard, relish, onion, kraut and sauce. I stole the idea for my second half from Whitney and got cheese, onions, jalapenos and Joe and a side of fries as well.

Each hot dog is cooked to order, so we had a few minute wait. I was hungry and couldn’t wait to try these hot dogs. They are really known for their “sauce,” so I saved that half for last. The combination of the cheese, onion and peppers overpowered the taste of the sloppy Joe. Don’t get me wrong; the other toppings were good,. but I would have liked to get more of the Joe taste. I will ask for it to go on last so it is the first layer of flavor in the bite.

My second half was delicious. Ketchup, mustard, onions and relish are pretty standard on my hot dogs, with the occasional kraut, but it really was the sauce that made it. The secret “sauce” is a family secret that very few people know. I got a separate cup on the side so I could taste it without everything else to try and determine what all was in it (as well as just eat it). The sauce has the consistency of thin chili with a few crumbles of ground beef in each bite. With pureed tomatoes and some tomato paste, it has good acidity as well as a little sweetness. It almost has the flavor of the sauce from Spaghetti-O’s, and I mean that in a good way.

On top of the sweetness, it has a bit of heat, maybe from red pepper or Sriracha sauce. I don’t think I will be able to figure out all of the ingredients, but I guess that is why it is a secret. I think that sauce mixed with pretty much anything will make for a good hot dog. The French fries were fantastic as well, perfectly crisp and piping hot. I covered them in ketchup as well as some malt vinegar, and they were just the right companion to the dogs.

If I were from the Meadville area, I think going to Eddie’s would mean a little more to me. The hot dogs were good, but to me, Smith’s are Smith’s no matter where you get them. The sauce is what really sets Eddie’s apart. The prices are reasonable, the service is great and the sauce is fantastic. I don’t know if I would make the 40-mile trip just to get a dog, but it is a must-stop place if you are in the area.

If you have your own Eddie’s stories or memories, share them here! I would love to hear what makes Eddie’s special for you.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Eddie's Footlong Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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Posted: July 13th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my summer food tour of local restaurants. To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

I know I went to Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs last week, but the overwhelming number of votes this week led me to another hot dog stand. At 8238 Perry Highway , across from Presque Isle Downs and Casino, sits Lucky Louie’s Beer & Wieners. This small build-your-own 6-pack / hot dog shop has only been open for about six weeks, but I think they are here to stay. I picked up my friends Tom Welch and Amanda Knopf at 6 on Tuesday night and headed up to eat. With seating for about 20, the place isn’t the largest, however they have a 300+ beer selection to make up for it. Behind the counter is a large white board with all of the different hot dogs on it so the three of us took some time to look it over while Chris got our drinks. Chris gave us some suggestions based on which dogs were most popular. With 19 combinations to choose from as well as having the ability to mix any ingredients you want, the decision was tough. Tom went with the Hog Dog and Amanda ordered the Rueben Dog. I wanted to try more than one so I ordered the Franks ‘N’ Beans as well as the Neener Wiener.

Like most other places in the area, Smith’s Natural Casing Wieners are the hot dogs of choice here. The hot dogs are split down the middle and served open faced on a grilled bun. Tom’s Hog Dog was topped with pepperoni, four (yes, four) strips of bacon, and cheese sauce. Tom was quite hungry and was kind enough to finish this before I could have a bite. It looked and smelled delicious and would be something I order in the future. Amanda’s Reuben Dog was pretty delicious as well (and I actually got a bite of this one). The sauerkraut had that perfect sour bite and crunch. If rye buns could be found, that would be my only suggestion to make this one better.

I ate the Neener Wiener first which just so happens to be named after my friend, Nina Ferrare. This is the way she likes her dogs and I just had to try it. The hot dog was smothered in chili, diced onion and crushed potato chips and topped with mustard and cheese sauce. The chili had some great flavors, but I thought it overpowered the actual wiener too much. I would get it lighter next time. The chips and mustard/cheese combo, however was my favorite part of this one. The Franks ‘N’ Beans was my shining choice. It was a food trip back to childhood. The open-faced dog was topped with a slice of bacon, baked beans, diced onions, mustard and a dusting of brown sugar. The beans and bacon were awesome, the bite of the mustard was cut by the sweetness of the brown sugar and the crunch of the onions really made this fantastic.

While eating, Tom and I came up with some fantastic ideas for new additions to the menu. Tom’s was a variation of the Asian dog using lo-mein noodles, General Tso’s sauce and sesame seeds. My idea was a breakfast dog with scrambled/fried egg, bacon, hash browns and hot sauce. Think about it, maybe a Bearded Breakfast Dog could be on the menu.

Although the hot dogs are filling, there aren’t any sides to choose from so this is not the place to come if you are looking for a complete meal. However, if it’s hot dogs and beer you want, this is the place. There are plenty of other options on the menu that I want to try, so I will be returning for sure. Thank you, Chris, for the fantastic service.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Lucky Louie's Beer & Wieners on Urbanspoon

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Posted: July 20th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my summer food tour of local restaurants. To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

This week on my blog was a special one. My dad is in town from Pittsburgh and got to eat with me. In all the years my dad has been visiting Erie, he had never been to The Sloppy Duck Saloon so this was the perfect opportunity. My dad, Amanda and I made our way down to the Bay Front around 6 o’clock for dinner. We were seated outside on the upper deck with a great view of the bay and the marina. Our server, Ashley, brought over menus, told us the specials and got our drinks. After a few minutes with the menu, we all decided on dinner. We started with a shrimp cocktail appetizer, my dad ordered the Crab Cake Sandwich, Amanda went with Kimmer’s Chicken Salad and I ordered the Crab Cake Salad. After we placed our order, a new server came to the table and informed us that she would be taking over and not to worry, because her name was Ashley too.

The shrimp cocktail came to the table first and for the price tag, it was a little disappointing. The menu says it is a half dozen jumbo shrimp and we received eight medium sized shrimp. For the $9 spent on it, I think it should be more on the substantial side. The house spicy cocktail sauce with them was delicious, but it is just a shame that you don’t have a lot of shrimp to eat it with.

My dad’s sandwich and my salad were similar. The crab cakes are homemade, lightly fried and fantastic. The cakes on the salad made for a great combination of flavors and textures. The crunchiness of the veggies and croutons with the crab was great. The accompanying honey mustard dressing was a good compliment to the dish as well. The sandwich has two crab cakes served on an Arnone’s kaiser roll. There isn’t anything much better than fresh bread. The sandwich is served with the same honey mustard as the salad, but I think serving it with a remoulade would make it even better.

Amanda’s Kimmer’s Chicken Salad was awesome. A grilled chicken breast is placed over fresh salad with pasta that is tossed in a basil pine nut pesto. The salad also has roasted red peppers, artichokes, black olives, croutons and almonds. All of different flavors married perfectly and made for some really great flavors. The pasta with the chicken and artichokes was my favorite bite of the salad. That is a salad I could probably eat every day. It really was fantastic.

Besides the slightly small appetizer, our meal was delicious and it was only made better by the atmosphere. I’m glad my dad got to join us and be part of my blogging experience. Thank you to both Ashleys for your service, our meal was great and you will see me back for sure.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Sloppy Duck Saloon on Urbanspoon

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Posted: August 2nd, 2011

I am sorry for the week hiatus, but I wanted to do a special review on local ice cream. Instead of visiting just the most voted for ice cream shop, I sampled the top three. Amanda and I headed to Connie’s Ice Cream at 3304 Liberty Street first. I have only had Connie’s at local festivals and outings, and Amanda had never tried it before, so we were both happy to visit. When we arrived, we were the only ones there. We got to chat with the two employees working and find out their favorites as well as the best sellers. I sampled the Black Cherry Cheesecake as well as the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Both were good, but we both choose to go with more popular flavors. I ordered a small cone of Turtle and Amanda went with the Mud Pie. The Turtle was super messy. With ribbons of caramel and chocolate in a chocolate base, it was hard to keep in on the cone. The ice cream also had some roasted pecans in to make it a true turtle. Amanda’s Mud Pie was a coffee based ice cream with thick ribbons of caramel and chocolate chunks. Both ice creams were good, but they both had a bit of an over-frozen taste. We were told that ice cream gets made once a week, so maybe these were just near the end of a batch.

Our second stop was Casey’s Ice Cream and Candies in Meadville. Our friend Anthoni Rossi joined us for our trip down. Amanda and I have both visited before, but this was Anthoni’s first experience. Once there, we had a tough time choosing. They make a lot of original and creative flavors like Sweet Potato Casserole, Fire and Ice, and Razz-Izzle-Bizzle. The small comes with two scoops, so we were able to try six flavors between the three of us. Anthoni got Cinnamon Bun and Butter Pecan, Amanda chose Fluff-n-Stuff and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and I decided on two local favorites, Meadville Mud and Conneaut Lake Crunch. The super premium ice cream here is all rich and creamy. The Cinnamon Bun ice cream is made with an entire tray of freshly baked and iced cinnamon rolls. The large chunks of pastry with icing really make for an incredible treat. It was one of the sweetest desserts I have ever had, but it is a must try for sure. The Butter Pecan has a good, subtle pecan flavor in a rich, buttery vanilla base. This also was great choice. Amanda’s Fluff-n-Stuff had peanut butter ice cream with marshmallow fluff swirls and chunks of fresh baked peanut butter cookies. This was one of the best and most creative ice creams I’ve ever tasted. The cookies are chewy and filled with peanut butter goodness. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is very traditional, but the huge chunks of homemade dough are fantastic. My choices of Meadville Mud and Conneaut Lake Crunch are two of their biggest sellers. The Meadville Mud is double Dutch chocolate ice cream with chunks of homemade chocolate fudge, swirled with fudge sauce. If you enjoy chocolate, this is for you. The blocks of fudge were my favorite part and really made for an amazing scoop of ice cream. The Conneaut Lake Crunch is their creamy vanilla ice cream with caramel and fresh roasted cashews. I am sure the local names are a great draw, but the tastes and textures really are unmatched.

Whippy Dip on 26th Street in Erie was our final stop. Shannon Warchol and her lab, Max, walked down to join us. Shannon isn’t a big ice cream eater, but Whippy Dip has a dog cone that comes topped with a dog treat that is perfect for Max. Whippy Dip is a place filled with nostalgia in the local community. Families love to visit with their children and have done so since 1965. Whippy Dip is a soft serve location with just a few flavors that change regularly. Last night, they had chocolate-vanilla, strawberry-vanilla, and orange-vanilla. The flavors can be ordered individually as well as in a twist. Besides cones, they also serve shakes, “snow storms,” and many other things. I tried the strawberry-vanilla while Amanda ordered the chocolate-vanilla. The ice cream is pretty standard for soft serve. The flavor was good, but to me, it is soft serve. I understand why it is a local favorite, but it really isn’t for me.

Next week, I will also be doing something special. I won’t give too much away here, but I will be contacting a few of the readers who have signed up to join me.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Summer Foods
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