Monday, February 25, 2013

Jasper White's Summer Shack (Uncasville, CT/Mohegan Sun)

I have mentioned in the past that Mohegan Sun is a veritable dining wasteland in comparison to it's primary competitor, Ledyard's Foxwoods Resort Casino, a building that houses numerous fine places to grab a delicious bite to eat; Jasper White's Summer Shack's Mohegan location is one of the few exceptions to that.  Offering fresh seafood and a few other, primarily southern inspired, entrees to their customers, the Summer Shack is not up to the level of a David Burke Prime Steakhouse or Craftsteak, but it is a good place to grab a beer and something to eat during a night at the casino.

I have had some truly fantastic meals at the Summer Shack, including their fried chicken, which took forever to make but was, as the waitress assured me when she overheard me gripe about the wait, absolutely worth the time, and the gumbo was superb, especially the time I didn't make the mistake of ordering it with the jerk sauce mixed in...oh, my, god.  Tears of pain just remembering that.  Delicious though.  Just ask my buddy Joe.

On my most recent trip, I tried a special, seared sea scallops with mashed potatoes and roasted brussel's sprouts.  Each meal begins with a soft roll and a piece of corn bread served with some soft whipped butter; both are fine, nothing special, but a good way to start dinner.  The scallops, though perfectly cooked, with a nice sear on one side, were essentially flavorless; only the pieces of fatty bacon added some real flavor to the primary part of the dish.  The potatoes were fantastic, but it's not a really good thing when the side is better than the main part of the meal.  Sadly, the brussel's sprouts did not match up well with the potatoes, as they were boring, not that well cooked, and lacking seasoning.  They were, in fact, reminiscent of the brussel's sprouts I remember having eaten as a kid; aka, the reason I didn't actually like them until a couple years ago.  The best thing I can say about this entree was that it was all very fresh tasting, but that's just not enough to make me happy.  It was definitely not worth the nearly $30 the dinner cost (including beer, of course), and I was thankful that I had some bonus points from the casino to pay for most of it.

Overall, I actually do recommend this restaurant, I simply had a poor meal there; this was a first, and I suspect it will not happen again.  Order the right things, and you'll be fine.  The beer list is a disappointment most of the time, offering primarily crap (you know, Bud Light and such) on tap, but there's also usually a Harpoon IPA or similar in there, so you'll be fine in the end.  Vegetarians...uh...good luck.


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Charlie's Kitchen (Cambridge, MA)

Located a short walk from Harvard University and numerous clubs and bars, Charlie's Kitchen is a popular late night spot to grab a beer and a burger and hang out.  My first trip there was several months ago, after a night out at the Hong Kong, another local hotspot, and I loved it from the minute I set foot in there.  Split between two levels, the downstairs is narrow, with a lengthy bar and some tables and booths, while the upstairs is more spacious, with a second, slightly smaller bar, numerous tables and a little bit more room to move around, and the bar is poorly lit, dank, with a feeling that maybe, just maybe, you don't want to eat there because lord knows the place doesn't look that clean.  But I was a little tipsy the first time, and wanted a burger, so I dealt with it.  With over a dozen beers on tap and a significant number of bottled options, you can just about guarantee that you'll be satisfied at Charlies if you're there to drink.  Both times I went, however, it was more about the food than the beer (though beer was consumed both times, of course).

The first time I went was, as I said, a late night after being out at a club drinking, and I got a basic cheeseburger and fries, which were greasy, delicious, and just what you need at that time of the night.  This time, at the urging of my friend Joe, I went for the Double Mushroom & Swiss Cheeseburger, which was exactly what it sounds like; a double cheeseburger, made with swiss cheese and a plentiful helping of sauteed mushrooms.  Very simple, but very good.  Once again, it was greasy and delicious, cooked relatively well (with the thin patties they use, it's tough to get a real "rare" burger, but they did a good job overall), and the mushrooms were great, big chunks and slices that were cooked just enough to have some sear on them, but without becoming soft and textureless.  This wasn't the best burger I've ever had, by any means, but it's a really good, satisfying, homey burger, that is perfect when you need something to soak up the alcohol in your system after a night of drinking, or if you just want a decent, greasy burger to remind you of having a backyard bar-b-que with your friends. 

The burger came with a few waffle fries, that were fine, nothing special; they were salty enough to make me happy, without a ton of unnecessary grease, but they were really nothing you couldn't get anywhere else.  They tasted good though, so I suppose that's all that matters.  For beer I went with a Chimay White Cap, which was good, but less awesome than the Blue Cap, though it did go well with the burger, since it's light and doesn't overwhelm anything.

Overall, this is a place I'd highly recommend if you're looking for a snack at 2am, and don't want IHOP (right around the corner though, if you do) or if you just need a quick, simple, cheap (for Boston) burger.  It also appears they have a few vegetarian options for those of you who are so inclined.


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