Rant and Review: Tasty Grill

While waiting for my flat tire to get repaired, I decided to eat at a local joint called "Tasty Grill," recommended to me by non other than my mechanic. I figure mechanics eat good food (as opposed to other professions?), so I took his advice. After eating at this only-slightly-above average restaurant, which was rated as a mind-boggling 4.5 stars on Yelp, it got me to thinking about these ratings.

As a true indication of the quality of a restaurant (AKA, one that synchs up with our own ratings, detailed in a previous post), I like to use Philadelphia's Yelp ratings. I think that's due to several factors: the size of the city (small), the quality of the chefs (amazing), the passion for the food (excessive), and the appropriate ratio of restaurants to people (not overwhelming, but lots of choices). That last aspect is probably one of the biggest factors affecting Yelp ratings in any city, as you can see that there is a relative deflation of Yelp ratings in places like Manhattan (higher restaurant:person ratio), whereas there is a marked inflation of scores in places like Long Island or Boston (lower restaurant:person ratio). Of course, better chefs will also flock to the city as opposed to the 'burbs. When you have competition between many chefs with celebrated resumes, the quality of the food will inevitably increase.

In any case, the moral of the story is that a high Yelp rating means nothing without context. And, Manhattan rules.

Now, on to the restaurant. Tasty Grill is a Greek diner with a clean look and friendly service. It's got outdoor seating, fresh food, and a small, but not limited, menu. This place was set up for at least a good score, and yet, there were just too many drawbacks for me to give this place a 4.0.

Let me preface this by saying that I've recently gone to Greece and experienced authentic Greek cuisine, so any Greek restaurant will be placed under the microscope. I wound up getting the beef gyro platter, which comes with a Greek salad, strips of beef gyro meat, and a side (I got sweet potato fries). The only thing that made the salad "Greek" was a large hunk of quality feta cheese and some olives. I'll give it the due praise of not being over-dressed. The entree came out FAST. Like, 30-seconds-into-my-salad fast. I found out why as soon as a took a bite of the thinly sliced, yet overdone gyro meat. I think they pre-sliced their orders and then proceeded to heat them up. Ugh, this was a disaster. I might as well have placed an order for shoe leather. I won't even begin to comment on a supposedly Greek diner having choices of "beef gyro" versus "pork gyro." The sweet potato fries were crispy, but who the hell cares? Sweet potato fries don't know what they want to be, and you can't even eat them with ketchup because it's just disgusting. I'm done with them.

Strips of Leather and Lack-of-identity Fries

Rating: 3.8/5 feta cheese blocks


Insight Into Our Scoring System

People ask me all the time, "General, why are you so handsome? Also, please give me your recommendations for places to eat." Naturally, I point them in the direction of this website (or our twitter handle, @Battlefood). Sometimes, however, that's not enough. These same people come back with confused expressions on their faces wondering exactly what our rating scale means, and then they get physically aggressive for some reason.

So, I thought that now would be as good a time as any to clarify exactly how we score the restaurants we rate. In general, our scores tend to be higher (you'll notice that the large majority of the places we go to are 3.5 or higher) because we cherry pick our restaurants based off of extensive research on yelp.com. You might think this is unfair to the poorly-rated joints on yelp, and to that I'd say, "Well, yeah." No one wants to eat crappy food.

This is not to say that we haven't had our fair share of duds, and that just goes to show you that for the most part, we are always right, and other people are always wrong. So keep reading Battlefood.

As far as how we score restaurants, a lot of it has to do with gut feeling, and usually Napoleon and I are within 0.2 points of each other just based on the visceral reaction to the food placed in front of us. We do tend to overlook mediocre service if the food can overcome small flaws, but if a waiter or waitress goes beyond the call of duty and puts bodily fluids in our food, then the restaurant will be docked some points. We also don't hand out extra points for above average service, unless of course it is exceptional. Same goes with ambiance. The food is really what we're about, and many of the places we go to don't have the advantage of having amazing ambiance or service (such as food trucks), so it doesn't make sense for us to include that as part of our rating.

As far as the actual points, we have some benchmarks that we rely upon. For instance, in order to achieve a rating of 4+, a restaurant must be good enough that we feel we would go back to the location or recommend it to a friend. A 4.5+ is an exceptional restaurant that has several dishes that are amazing. And of course, a 5.0 is a perfect restaurant, one in which you can be confident that any item you order on the menu will be amazing, and at least one or two dishes on the menu are transcendent.

Obviously, ratings can and do change. For example, recently we downgraded Las Bugambilias (in Philly) to probably a 4.5+ restaurant from a 5.0 simply because one of their transcendent dishes, the churros, was taken off the menu. I do not know what prompted this, but I do know that after I found out I cried for three days straight.

As a final note, since we are trying to rate food on an absolute scale, we are comparing apples and oranges. That is to say, a dive bar like Prohibition Taproom can and will be compared to fancy schmancy institution like Le Bec Fin.

And with that, I'm going to go pass out. Happy eating!


Will You Take Us Back?

So um, where do I begin? It's been a long time, huh? [Awkward smile.] Um, so I wanted to talk to you. I messed up. I miss us. I'm sorry for leaving you, and I want you back. Sure, we had our downs, but there were so many ups. And honestly, I've never had a blog audience like you before. You were the best audience that ever happened to me. I cry alone sometimes thinking of those posts we had together. I know there were a lot of broken promises, like that Centre City Sips review and that Boston extravaganza that never happened. But really, I'm a changed blogger! I'll put in extra effort. I even got a better camera so you can see what I've eaten. It'll never happen again, I swear.

Just to show you how much I've changed, here's a fresh blog. What do you say? Yes? YES! OMG I <3 U 4EVER.


So as you might have gathered, Napoleon and I are now in separate cities (Nappy's in Beantown, and I'm in the Big Apple). But fret not faithful Battlefooders, that just means twice the tasty treats we'll post for you! And even though we're in different places, our hearts beat as one and some other sappy B.S. *vomits*

As a throwback, today we'll be reviewing Paesano's, the sister restaurant of Modo Mio (a member of our very selective perfect rating club), located in South Philly. Paesano's looks like what we refer to in Hindi as a "dhaba." Basically, a dhaba is a kind of grimy location where you can get authentic, down-home cooking. It's all substance at these joints. No fancy decorations, no friendly service, just hardcore eats.

And what type of eats, you ask? Sandwiches! But these aren't your mom's bologna and cheese; no, these are gourmet sandwiches using the meats of the Gods, delivered from Mt. Vesuvius by Apollo himself. Just look at some of the menu items: beef brisket (the Paesano), whole suckling pig (the Arista), and fried chicken liver (the Liveracce), just to name a few.

While there isn't a bad apple in the bunch, the Paesano and the Panelle (chick pea pancake) are personal faves. Just make sure to schedule nap-time afterward. Oh, and cancel your next three meals.

The Gustaio (house-made lamb sausage)

Rating: 5/5 missing Philadelphias


Philly Food Related Things I Miss

1. Three pepper chicken from Szechuan Tasty House- my go to meal 2 nights/week
2. BYOBs- note how this is ranked higher than #3
3. General Tso- the person, not the food
4. The best banh mi ever from Nhu Y
5. Drinker's Tacos
6. Modo Mio + Paesano's
7. Jose Garces (I don't miss Starr though)
8. Foobooz + tons of other food blogs which I'm having a hard time finding in Boston
9. Food festivals- seemed like every other day
10. Qdoba gumbo- my backup go to meal

To be continued..


Clover Food Truck

Today I checked out the SoWa Open Market in the South End aka Food Truck Heaven. I have always been a fan of food trucks. Clover food truck was no exception. It was really tough to choose between the pimento cheese, eggplant and egg, chickpea fritter, or bbq seitan sandwich. They all sounded, looked, and smelled delicious! I decided on the chickpea fritter sandwich.

The sandwich was flavorful, with perfectly salty fried chickpea fritters. I really enjoyed the carrots and radish (I think it was radish) coleslaw for the coolness and crunchiness. I thought the cucumbers and pickles were unnecessary; I could barely taste them anyway with so many components in the sandwich. My only complaint that the sandwich was too heavy. Maybe using a lighter bread or somehow making the fritters smaller would make the sandwich more manageable to eat.

Overall I was seriously satisfied with this meal. Its funny, this $5 meal was way better than the $20 entree I ate in the North End last night. For the most part, you can't go wrong with food trucks. I think its a reflection of the food truck owners: they're young, smart, business savvy, creative, and know good food. I can't wait to go back to Clover and try more!