Monday, October 17, 2005


New blog feature

I've added links on the sidebar whenever I review a restaurant with a website. So far, two of the places I've reviewed have them. I was amused to find that the homepage for the Sunset Grill has not one, but two Certified Angus Beef logos. This is getting to be a running joke.


Now that's customer service.

I don't intend to review big national chains on this blog. Not that I have anything against big national restaurant chains, but it's just that they are pretty much the same anywhere. If you've been to one Pizza Hut, you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect at any other Pizza Hut in the United States. You might get a few surprises if you walked into a Pizza Hut in Tokyo, but in most cases, a sign from a national restaurant chain lets you know that you're in for a familiar experience.

While food quality is often quite uniform throughout a chain, management is going to be different. The staff will often reflect the manager's commitment to customer service, or lack thereof. Tonight I want to tell everyone about how well the staff at the Covington branch of Longhorn Steakhouse handled a slip-up.

On Saturday, my fiancee and I had dinner with two of our friends before going to the Corn Maze. Our friends both ordered steaks, one medium, one medium-well. Both of the steaks came back bright red on the inside. These were not medium by anyone's definition.

Once the waitress came back to ask how our food was, we pointed this out. She promptly took the steaks back to be cooked some more, even though both of them were already half-eaten. While they did a good job getting the medium-well steak done, the other one refused to change. On finding that the lady who ordered it was still not pleased with it, the waitress immediately offered her a choice of a fresh new steak or taking the entire steak dinner off the bill entirely, meaning that the sweet potato, salad, and the extra potato they brought out with the new steak would all be free. They didn't ask any questions or make things difficult; they just glanced at the steak and said they would do their best to make everything all right.

Now that's customer service for you.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Cosmo Joe's

I'm not too sure this blog has very many regular readers yet. But if you are one, you might get the impression I only put up positive reviews. Actually, that's just because I have started this blog with some of my local favorites. I also write reviews when I'm not particularly impressed, such as with Cosmo Joe's.

Cosmo Joe's might best be described as a mediocre greasy spoon. The menu offers hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, and a couple of sandwiches and salads. They have some comments about the hot dogs being Chicago hot dogs, but I wouldn't be able to tell a Chicago hot dog from a Springfield imposter anyway. Although they aren't quite a fast-food place, their prices are about the same as what you'd pay at the golden arches. I tried a regular cheeseburger, which was edible but decidedly unimpressive. The french fries were unpeeled and thin, sort of like what you'd get at The Varsity. Altogether, the quality of the food seemed a bit below what you would expect from an average national fast-food chain. It could be a lot worse, though - it's not pre-Thickburger Hardees bad, for instance.

The decor is, at least, relatively interesting. I'm not sure who Cosmo Joe is supposed to be, but from their logo it appears he is a bush pilot with a dog. Perhaps there is some sort of schtick they plan to build around him like McDonald's did with Ronald MacDonald (not to mention enough other characters to make a kid's TV show). The entire building is decorated with a 1930's airport theme. It's certainly different, and a relatively tasteful theme.

The odd thing about Cosmo Joe's is that it completely looks like it's a chain restaurant. However, I haven't been able to find any others, either in person or on the Internet. They may have some ambitions about starting a chain, but I think they ought to work on perfecting their food first.

1427 Highway 138
Conyers, GA

Update: As of February 2006, Cosmo Joe's appears to have gone out of business.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Sunset Grill

The Sunset Grill serves Certified Angus Beef (tm). They do not want you to forget that. They put the Certified Angus Beef logo on the hostess's podium. They put the Certified Angus Beef logo on the menu. They put the Certified Angus Beef logo on the steak itself with a little plastic pin. Thankfully, I have not seen any waiter sporting a Certified Angus Beef tattoo.

The food is quite good. They have a fair amount of seafood and several chicken and pork selections. The staff has obviously put some time into coming up with good combinations of herbs and seasonings for these. They also offer an interesting chopped salad with cinamon-roasted nuts and a variety of soups. Most of the dinners also come with an interesting Sunset Grill trademark, rolls with mango butter. And, of course, there is a large selection of steaks, which can be topped with your choice of nearly a half dozen kinds of herbed butter. All the steaks are, in case you might forget, Certified Angus Beef. Not that I have ever been able to tell the difference between how an Angus cow and a Herford cow taste.

They have a fair number of fruit-flavored tropical drinks. In fact, there is always a tank of berries soaking in vodka on the bar counter to make fresh Berry Ticklers, which are fairly sweet punch-like cocktails. If you aren't looking for an adult beverage, they have a wide selection of non-alchoholic drinks too. Their bartenders put just as much care into making an elaborate multi-layered fruit punch as into the ones with booze.

Cleanliness is usually quite good. They even keep an assortment of lotions and hair care items in the restroom. I say usually because the last time I was there it looks like their cleaning staff had not yet noticed a particular and probably recent, uh, contamination. I'm pretty sure this was an isolated case and happens just about anywhere.

But if there is one nagging flaw to the place, it is that it seems as if they've sold out compared to what they used to be. The Sunset Grill used to be a lot more offbeat, looking like a beach house restraunt in Key West had somehow fallen through a wormhole and landed in Covington. They still have two large saltwater aquariums and a few other beach cues, but it used to have so many wooden parrot carvings that you wondered if Jimmy Buffet ran the place. They also used to offer an astonishing variety of sandwich toppings, so you could skip the usual lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and onions in favor of a burger with avocado and bell peppers, with the diced peppers brought out in a gleaming stainless steel cup. I really miss some of their quirkier fare, and wish they hadn't tried to become more mainstream.

10205 Access Rd.
Covington, GA

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Little Phillies

As you have probably guessed from its name, the house specialty here is Philly cheesesteak, which they serve in a half-dozen different ways. It's a pretty good cheesesteak, a mammoth sub of meat, vegetables, cheese, and grease. Add a side of their wavy-cut fries, and you'll have a lunch too good to tell your cardiologist about.

One interesting option is the cheese steak salad. They take the meat, cheese, and everything else, and drop it onto a really big garden salad. It's even more filling than having it on a roll. My favorite one to order is a pizza steak salad, where they cook pizza sauce in with the meat. I just love it on top of a salad with honey-mustard dressing. Maybe it's just me, though, because I often find myself having to repeat that to an astonished cashier.

There are plenty of other common lunch items on the menu. They have several other sorts of sandwiches, plus burgers, hot dogs, Buffalo wings, and shrimp. I've been meaning to try some of these, but every time I go there, I find the lure of their cheesesteak too hard to resist, whether it's on bread or lettuce. Maybe it's because this place is run by an authentic Philadelphia transplant who learned how to make them at the source.

10255 Industrial Blvd.
Covington, GA

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Mellow Mushroom

Hands down, the 'Shroom is my favorite pizza joint. Ok, maybe joint was a poor choice of words, given its hippie atmosphere. Just about everything about their pizzas are top-notch, including an excellent selection of toppings that you aren't likely to find at larger pizza chains. For example, one of my favorite toppings is there is basil pesto. Combine it with grilled chicken, tomatoes, and broccoli, and you have a real knockout combination. Of course, you can order a basic pepperoni if you're not feeling so adventurous.

They also offer sandwiches, salads, and calzones. With their typical sense of humor, they describe the calzone as a "pizza turnover." The salads are especially generous, to say the least - a small salad is dinner-sized, and I haven't ever seen anyone order the full sized ones. I'd imagine they are the size of a large pizza if the "small" salad size is any indication. There is also a decent selection of beer to wash down your pizza.

The hippie ambience also contributes to the restaurant's charm. Psychodelic cartoons of talking mushrooms adorn the walls, while the kitchen is decorated with various bumper stickers ranging from liberal to libertarian. Rounding things out is an ample supply of copies of Creative Loafing.

If there is one drawback, it's that this may not be the cleanest restaurant in town. I haven't found any sticky tables or other real gross-outs, but this is the sort of place where you can expect a bit of writing on the bathroom wall. On the other hand, this is the only pizza place I've seen to have someone scrawling political slogans on the bathroom wall in Latin.

1880 Highway 20
Conyers, GA


A second blog

Planning to visit Newton or Rockdale County in Georgia? Looking for what your dining options are? This blog is all about the local restaurants, especially local chains or independant operations.

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