Qdoba Craft Two

Qdoba Mexican Grill Marches Into The Fair Lawn Promenade

Qdoba LogoI know I might catch some flak for writing this review because it is on a chain restaurant, but as the Yolo generation says, Haters Gonna Hate! The truth of the matter is that I believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants, and as long as they are serving food that doesn’t look and taste like it fell out of an animal’s hind quarters, I am willing to pay them a visit, especially when one moves in down the street from my current homestead.

When the luxurious Fair Lawn Promenade was erected, not only did this new construction provide high end apartments located in the wonderful town of Fair Lawn, it also brought with it several dining establishments. If you follow my blog you probably noticed that I have already visited and reviewed the Habit Burger Grill which is located in the Promenade, and now I have decided to review Qdoba, in the same plaza. For all of you that are not familiar with Fair Lawn the actual address that can be placed into the googles is 23-31 Route 208, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

To clarify my aforementioned comment, I do sincerely believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants as they provide casual dining at an inexpensive price point in a quick and efficient manner. I am not talking about the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the food world, I only eat there when I have had a little bit too much to drink, and I assure you, I regret it more than most people regret their one night stands. I am speaking of franchises that still care about the quality of food they are providing to their customers, and I feel that Qdoba is truly one of those establishments.

First and foremost, what drew me into the Promenade to experience all that Qdoba had to offer actually had nothing to do with their food. If you are a Bergen County resident like me, you know that avoiding Route 4 and Route 17 is more important than eating, sleeping, and on Saturday you can add breathing to that list too. So the addition of a causal dining Mexican Grill like Qdoba moving into what is basically my backyard, thus allowing me circumventing the need to travel on those above-mentioned horrendous parking lots that Bergen County calls highways, was a gift from the Traffic Overlord ConeZilla!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Since my commute was five minutes, and I was only cut off once on my way to Qdoba, when I entered the restaurant with Kat, my foodie partner for the evening, I was much calmer than I have ever been at those Burrito shops located in the 7th ring of traffic hell known as Paramus. To add to my elation, as soon as I walked into the building, I noticed a sign that simply read, “Extras Aren’t Extra!”   Could this be true? Is this a Dream, I thought to myself. They can’t just give stuff away for free, right? Or could they?

Qdoba, Extras Aren't Extra!

If it is free, it is for me, I’ll take three!

Since Kat and I are experienced restaurant reviewers at this point, we knew to peruse the online menu prior to our arrival so we were prepared to order the perfect meal. Qdoba is set up like most of the Casual Dining Mexican Grills that are sprinkled throughout our fair land, so the actual procedure of ordering was simple. When you enter, you walk into the queue and wait for an employee to assist you in constructing your epic meal.

This is my favorite part of the experience people; you literally get to build a custom Burrito, Taco, Quesadilla, Burrito Bowl, or Taco Salad that is chock full of everything that makes you happy. I know this method of serving customers has been around for quite some time now, but every damn time I venture to an establishment that uses this system, I can’t help but smile like an infant that has just farted!

As you can see from the menu, Qdoba offers quite a few entree options that can be fully customized, but I decided to go big and order the Craft 2 which is two perfectly sized portions of Qdoba’s most popular dishes. My two choices were the Mexican Gumbo with chicken and a steak taco and a pulled pork taco, one hard and one soft. (TWSS) Kat on the other hand was trying to maintain her girlish figure and opted for the health conscious burrito bowl with shredded beef. Since we both love guacamole and Queso, we made the decision to both order chips with a side of each. We rounded out our order with two medium sodas and called it day.

Our creations were assembled by a very helpful and cheerful employee that explained each step in the process making sure we did not miss any of the delicious ingredients we could add to our dishes. I could list all of the yumminess that can be added to your meal, but it would be about as boring as watching Seabiscuit, a movie about a freaking horse that does not even talk!

Once our concoctions were finalized, we paid, filled our soda cups from the awesome Coca-Cola Freestyle machines which dispenses 146 different flavors of soda, and sat our keisters down in a nice comfy booth ready to begin our feast.

Qdoba Chips

I love Queso more than most people love their significant others!

In hindsight, we may have ordered with our eyes and not our stomachs. The amount of chips provided with a single order would have been more than enough for Kat and I to share, and we will remember that for next time. Although some establishments provide free chips with your entree, Qdoba’s chips do seem to be better than the free ones, and the Guacamole and the Queso were much better that the competition’s offerings. The Guacamole is bursting with flavor, and the hint of garlic makes it very pleasant on the palate. The Cheese Sauce is also flavorful, but unlike most Queso, there is not an abundance of salt, so when the chips come into play, it is the perfect marriage.   We had to muster up some serious willpower to stop dipping these crunchy bits of corn into these enjoyable sauces.

Qdoba Craft Two

A Mexican Food Marriage Made in heaven!

When I was finally able to force myself to stop demolishing the giant pile of chips that was in front of me, I turned my attention to my main course. The Mexican Gumbo, which is described as a unique dish that combines tortilla soup, cilantro-lime rice, beans, salsa, and cheese, intrigued me, so I tried this first. I fell in love with this cardboard cauldron of savory goodness at the moment that spoonful hit my mouth. I made Kat try this dish immediately, and she confirmed that it was rather amazing. The slight smokiness of the tortilla soup and chicken mixed with the heat from the salsa and the calming effect of the cheese and rice combined forces to create a depth of flavor that is hard to achieve.

Qdoba Gumbo

Gumbo is not just for swamp people anymore!

The tacos were on par with the rest of the Mexican Grills that I have visited with the added bonus of the Queso Diablo sauce, which I found extremely tasty. I do recommend eating the Hard Taco relatively quickly because the juicy awesomeness that the no cost extras provide is no match for the structural integrity of the shell. In other words, eat the hard taco first or it will crumble faster than a game of Jenga being played by a T-Rex, The Incredible Hulk, and Mike Tyson.

Qdoba Burrito Bowl

YAY!!!! It is Nakey Burrito time!

Weighing in at just under 700 Calories, Kat’s Burrito bowl was not only tasty but somewhat health conscious. Is it a side salad and a fruit cup? No, but this bowl O’ burrito was also much more filling than your common diet fare and tasted delicious to boot. The fajita vegetables were the star of this dish as they appeared to be fresh cut and sauteed in house and treated with a very pleasant spice profile.

I am not going to tell you that Qdoba is the next Orale in Jersey City, but as far as Casual Dining Mexican Grills are concerned, I feel they are a strong contender for the leader of the pack. I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of choices Qdoba offered when I was creating my perfect meal. I also have to say I was very surprised that the Extras were actually not extra. I was almost sure that when I reached the cash register the receipt tape was going to start to fly as the cashier nickled and dimed my meal way up past the regular price, but they didn’t. Furthermore, the ingredients that were served to us seemed fresh and were seasoned quite well.

Qdoba Smothered Burritos

Smothered Burritos + The Blue Collar Foodie = One Happy Tummy!

If you need another reason to visit Qdoba, they just introduced their newest permanent menu item, The Smothered Burrito! These are dubbed, “Smothers,” and include one of three sauces that each offer their own unique flavor. The Tangy Verde is the Mild version, The Bold Red Chili is a robust toasted chile sauce with a dash of sweetness, and the Smoky Chipotle Cream is the hottest variety which is said to pack quite a wallop. I just missed the release of these alluring sauce covered bombshells and can’t wait to head back over to Qdoba to taste test these bad ass burritos.

Overall, I would recommend checking Qdoba out if you have not done so yet.   If you do plan to visit this location, I suggest signing up for their rewards program to earn free swag and coupons!

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Tierney’s CopperHouse in Fairfield, NJ

One of my favorite aspects of being a food blogger, or Gastronomer, is the fact that I get to chat about food all the time.  Food is something that I can talk about for hours on end and never get tired of telling tales of the perfect steak I once had in Nebraska, the greatest hot dog I ever ate in Chicago, or the time I ate nothing but meat at a Brazilian Barbecue spot in Newark for three hours straight.  These conversations usually lead to an enjoyable night of drinking and reminiscing, but they sometimes result in a wonderful payoff for this aspiring epicurean author.  In the midst of participating in these hedonistic, often embellished, tit for tat dialogues, if I am lucky one of the contributors might bring up a new restaurant that is not on my foodie radar.  When this happens, I can’t help but get excited because I have been doing this for quite some time now and finding eateries that inspire me is about as easy as combing the desert, for a princess, with an afro pick.

SpaceballsTrooper

Combing The Desert

This wonderful happenstance occurred the other night while I was out at a bar with friends.  Due to the fact that much like beautiful women and rich men, foodies tend to hang out with other foodies, our conversation soon turned to edibles, and we were immersed in a round of culinary “fish stories.”  During this sybaritic discussion, a friend of mine began talking about a Dry Aged 48 Oz Porterhouse they had heard wonderful things about that is served at a restaurant in Fairfield, NJ by the name of Tierney’s CopperHouse located at 4 Little Falls Rd. After hearing my fellow foodie friend describe this colossal slab of meat with adjectives that I have only seen on bathroom stalls of bars of ill repute, there was absolutely no way I was not going to pay the CopperHouse a visit.

Tierney's Copper House

Tierney’s Copper House

Considering, the Googles is the Watson to my Sherlock, I consulted it immediately.  While my 3G did my research for me, I found that the reason that Tierney’s CopperHouse was not on my radar was not because my radar lost its bleeps, sweeps, and creeps, but rather because Tierney’s CopperHouse just opened in April.  With that in mind, the fact that their fare was already being strewn about in epicurean blitzkriegs, like gourmet grenades, said something about this fledgling eatery.

As we approached the building, the first thing I noticed was that this was not a small establishment.  The expansive modern exterior looked quite alluring, even in the misty rain that decided to fall on us as we got out of our vehicle.  As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted at the door and escorted through the bar area, complete with a warm inviting brick fire place, into the gorgeous dining room.  Once seated, we were given our menus and we ordered our first round of drinks.  I was very pleased to see that Tierney’s CopperHouse offers a large selection of craft beers featuring some Cricket Hill selections, which are born and raised right in Fairfield, NJ.  This fact alone is worth getting off your couch and making your way to the Copperhouse, considering that Cricket Hill creates some of the finest beers in New Jersey, if not the country, and I am always overjoyed about the chance to drink a fresh draught out of a frosty mug. One great thing about fine dining in New Jersey, and just from the looks of this place I had a feeling I would be dining quite fine, is that the prices of beverages always seem to be much more reasonable than those over the river, and I don’t mean at Grandma’s house.

Warm Inviting Fire Place

Warm Inviting Fire Place

With our drink orders in, it was time we got down to the nitty-gritty, the most daunting task of any meal, ordering the main course.  I attempted to sway my partners in crime to assist me in devouring the TC Family Bedrock Steak, which weighs in at a formidable 64 Oz of meaty goodness, only because it would have been the largest steak I have ever ordered in my foodie career.  Alas, I was only able to convince one of my fellow patrons to join me on a gluttonous meaty adventure and therefore, we decided upon the aforementioned Dry Aged Porterhouse for two, which was accompanied with two sides of our choice, the grilled asparagus and Spinach Mushroom Quinoa, and rang up at $79.00.  Our better halves, that apparently did not want to eat damn near half a cow, opted for dishes that were slightly less excessive but sounded equally as appetizing, electing to order the Free Range Chicken described as an Amish free range half chicken paired with potatoes and asparagus for $19.00 and the TC Chicken Pot Pie described as free range chicken, carrots, Yukon gold potato, peas, corn, pearl onions, with puff pastry for a modest $14.00.

Tierney's Copperhouse Menu

Fancy!

The anticipation of this Fred Flintstone sized steak, which was in my mind carved from the flank of a Brachiosaurus, was causing me to salivate like a Pavlovian test subject.  Each time the kitchen door swung open, I was distracted from our polite diner conversation, in hopes that the server that exited was carrying our savory feast.  Sooner rather than later, my hopes were realized and our table was adorned by a plate that was only matched by the beauty of my wonderful wife. (10 points for me!)  Not to say that the other food that was delivered to our table did not look eye-catching, but I mean, come on people, this was a 48 Oz. Steak I was staring at; it is like comparing other girls to Marilyn Monroe, it is just not fair, not fair at all.  I could barely contain myself through the picture taking phase and almost said the hell with it, and dug in, but I was a virtuous little food blogger, and waited until all the photos were snapped before digging into the pre-cut slices of pure happiness that graced my plate.

48 Oz. Porterhouse Steak

48 Oz. Porterhouse Steak

If the price that I mentioned above frightened you away from ordering this behemoth steak, I want you to know that this steak damn near forced me to reevaluate my frugal tendencies.  Every bite I took was packed with flavor and only made me want to have another delectable morsel.  For those that are not math majors, I alone, ate 24 Oz. of this meatastic meal, and I think I could have eaten 24oz more.  Combined with the side dishes this meal was well worth the price tag and was a feast fit for a king.

The perfect porterhouse bite

The perfect Porterhouse Bite

Even though, it was hard for me to stop partaking in this succulent beef barrage, I had to force myself away to try the other dishes that were ordered.  I was lucky enough to be dining with people that support my gastro gallivanting and they had no qualms about me eating a small portion of their meals to uphold the integrity of my writing.

TC Chicken Pot Pie

TC’s Chicken Pot Pie

I tasted the TC Chicken Pot Pie first and it was delightful.   In my opinion, Chicken Pot Pie is an extremely tough dish to make because it must be perfectly seasoned and have the proper texture in order to really be a respectable dish when surrounded by other high end meals.  Executive Chef Jeff J. Orel has found that balance between comfortable and innovative, which is quite difficult mind you, and served us an amazing Pot Pie.

Tierney's Free Range Chicken

Tierney’s Free Range Chicken

Next up was the Free Range Chicken that was served in its natural au jus.  This dish was not dry, yet still had a crispy flavorful skin.  I have a hard time accomplishing this task cooking one chicken for two people, so the fact that the Chef was able to pull this off while cooking 20 other meals and balancing a whole kitchen staff is a complement to his skill and professionalism.

TC's Cheesecake

TC’s Cheesecake

It may have been the alcohol talking or I could have been a bit meat drunk, but even though I had just eaten two days’ worth of calories in one sitting, I had a hankering for desert.  My tablemates agreed that a nice sweet ending to our dinner would be appreciated, and we decided to share two plates between the four of us.  The dessert we decided upon was a slice of cheesecake that literally melted in our mouths and a chocolate Ganache cake that was so decadent that sugar itself is jealous of it.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Tierney’s CopperHouse is a must visit eatery for any foodie in the area that is looking for a cold craft beer paired with a phenomenal meal in a faultless setting.  For those of you that were scared off by the prices of these meals, if you check the menu out on the CopperHouses’ website I assure you, you can find something that is in your price range that will be just as amazing.  There are some restaurants that I eat at that are forgettable, this is not one of those places, after one meal at Tierney’s, I could sense that they are passionate about food, and I will be returning again and again, although next time I plan on conquering the 64 Oz. Bedrock, whether my companions consent or not!

Tierney’s CopperHouse

Address:
4 Little Falls Road, Fairfield, NJ 07004

Hours:

Mon. – Fri. 12:00PM – 12:00AM
Sat. 4:00PM – 12:00AM
Sun. 4:00PM – 10:00PM

Tierney's Copperhouse on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Helps You Decide! Restaurant Week 2013 Edition

Restaurant Week 2013

Restaurant Week 2013

It is that time of year again folks! New York City Restaurant Week is about to commence and this year 317 restaurants will be serving up some of the finest food New York City has to offer, from January 14th until February 8th.  Each and every year more restaurants jump on the proverbial chuck wagon and attempt to compete for your business during the most hectic two weeks in the New York City restaurant business and the hardest part is choosing which restaurant to visit.  If you are as bad at making a decision as Notre Dame was at playing football this week, The Blue Collar Foodie has got you covered!  I have reviewed, inspected, and studied the New York City eateries participating in restaurant week this year and handpicked a few of my favorites to make your decision making process go a wee bit easier.

Before I get to the restaurants that made this exclusive list I first want to explain how these establishments were selected.  I evaluated each restaurant using the following criteria; the restaurant’s history, the building the restaurant is housed in, the menu offered, and of course the food they serve.  I then used a complex algorithm, not really but this sounded way too awesome not to write, and selected restaurants that not only serve remarkable food but also provide an amazing eating experience for the customer.

Considering I only get to visit these prestigious restaurants twice a year during restaurant week, due to budget restraints, my restaurant selection has to be more than just about food.  I want to visit famous buildings, have the chance to rub elbows with celebrities, dine where history actually happened, and do it all for 38 bucks plus tax and gratuity.  If you are looking for the best food this immense list has to offer this is not the review for you, but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime New York City experience keep reading!

It should be noted that I have not visited all of the restaurants that are on my list, so most of my research was done using the interwebs.  So if the restaurant that you choose is not as amazing as I say it is, please forward all your hate mail to dealwithit@Doyourowndamnresearch.com

To make your life even easier, I have broken down my selections to match the “by cuisine,” categories that are used on the NYC GO website, which lists all the restaurants that are participating.  I have also decided to follow Twitter’s lead and only use 140 characters to capture the essence of each eatery, I call them TweeViews.  If you like what you see in the Tweeview please visit the restaurant’s website to see more about the venue, by clicking the establishment’s name.  Furthermore, these selections are in Alphabetic order by cuisine type then restaurant name.  If you use this list to pick a restaurant out, I would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below, so please post.  Remember an outing into the City is really what you make of it, so as Barney from How I Met Your Mother would say, “Suit Up, and have a Legend, wait for it, Dary evening!”

 

Food Map

Gastronomic Map

American New

Butter:  A unique interior design inspired by nature paired with an eclectic menu featuring uncommon dishes make Butter a force to be reckoned with.

Hospoda:  Czech inspired fare paired with fresh pilsner instead of the normal wine creates a fresh take on fine dining at this upscale eatery.

The Lambs Club:  A famous chef and a building on the National Register of Historic Places that was home to one of America’s oldest theatrical organizations.

Leyla:  Boasting one of the finest menus on the restaurant week circuit, what it lacks in history it more than makes up for in culinary creativity.

Kutshers:  A modern Jewish American bistro, with roots in the Catskills, which offers Grandma’s favorites with a contemporary twist.

Park Avenue Winter:  A rustic American restaurant offering seasonal fare and a corresponding design that is only open until the end of winter begets spring.

Perilla:  With only 18, it is hard to score a table at this neighborhood restaurant, turned foodie mecca that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Sprig:  Located in the Lipstick Building this posh eatery offers artistically prepared seasonal fare inspired by Northern California cuisine.

 

American Traditional

‘21’ Club:  A former New York City speak easy, still frequented by many celebrities, expertly serving awarding winning food with high class flare.

The Darby:  This former legendary Jazz and Blues Club turned chic eatery serves up creative cuisine with a side of swag in the form of live music.            

 

Asian Fusion        

Ajna Bar:  Beautiful interior design, renowned DJ’s, and a collision between French and Asian cuisine make Ajna Bar an appealing spot for 2013.

 

Barbecue

Hill Country BBQ:  New York’s own piece of Texas, serving up huge portions of fresh Barbecue for all of us with a city addresses but country souls.     

 

Chinese

Hakkasan:  This ain’t your local Chinese takeout joint; this is refined Chinese fare which is combined with a sophisticated and stylish dining area.

 

Continental

The Russian Tea Room:   A New York City Icon that was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet and is frequented by the worlds’ most fastidious foodies.

 

French

L’ecole:  The ground floor of Fine Dining, located in the Int. Culinary Center; students from everywhere collaborate to create awe inspiring dishes.

 

Greek

Kellari:  A warm and inviting atmosphere that sets the tone for a Grecian inspired meal that the Chef lovingly prepares to celebrate his homeland.       

 

Indian

Junoon:  An extensive selection of interesting and delicious Indian dishes that offers the restaurant week veteran a wonderful escape from monotony.

Tamarind:  This trendy eatery is one of the most popular Indian restaurants in NYC, and one look at the décor coupled with the menu should explain why.

 

Italian

Asellina:  Sleek, posh, and chic describe this hip establishment where authentic Italian food collides with the modern day reality starlet scene.   

Barbetta:  Known as one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City, this is a great place for a couple to fall in love all over again.

Cipriani Dolci:  Located inside the majestic landmark that is Grand Central Terminal, Cipriani offers something to the architecture lover that others cannot.  

Pó:  An intimate space and fresh ingredients delivered daily by foot or bike by the surrounding markets, serving Italian food as it should be.     

The Leopard at des Artistes:  First time diners come for the buildings historical significance and the impressive art collection, but they come back for the food.

 

Japanese

Megu:  This establishment transports you to the Far East like no other restaurant I have ever been to, from design to dish, Megu is a phenomenal.

 

Korean

Bann:  A fantastic place to experience a variety of tantalizing Korean food while being surrounded by stunning authentic Korean décor.

 

Mediterranean

Ilili:  Ilili combines Lebanese cuisine with a Mediterranean flare, an epicurean delight perfect for the foodie looking to expand their palate.

 

Mexican

Maya:  Traditional Mexican cuisine meets modern culinary expertise at this contemporary eatery that promises warm Latin hospitality.

 

Pan/Latin

Raymi:  Billed as the best Peruvian restaurant in New York City with a menu and dining area that appears to back up that claim.

Rayuela:  A truly innovative and beautiful restaurant that created its own culinary genre known as estilo libre Latino or freestyle Latino.

 

Seafood

FishTag:  Mediterranean inspired seafood dishes expertly paired with wine from the imaginative culinary mind of world renowned chef Michael Psilakis.   

 

Southwestern

Mesa Grill:  Bobby Flay combines his passion for Southwestern cuisine and his love for grilling which leads to a marriage made in foodie heaven.

 

Spanish

Andanada 141:  A restaurant week menu truly built for adventurous foodies combined with a bull fighting theme makes this a great spot for thrill seekers.

 

Steakhouse

The Capital Grille Chrysler Center:  Located inside the Chrysler Center’s Trylon Towers, this highly rated chain steakhouse is an architecture aficionado’s dream.

 

Thai

Kittichai:  An exquisite design that lends itself to a romantic dinner for two with a menu that offers an inventive take on traditional Thai dishes.

 

Vietnamese

Le Colonial:  This one of a kind eatery transports you to a forgotten world known as French Indochina and serves French inspired Vietnamese cuisine.