Saturday, January 25, 2014

UNCG's Best: Manhattan Pizza and Subs

Greasy, zesty, and delicious- It's the perfect, post-party study food.

I'm a senior now at UNCG, in my final semesters, and I find it weird that this last week was the first time I had ever been to Manhattan Pizza and Subs on Tate Street. It does lack the name-brand attractiveness many of the area eateries have (like Chipotle, etc.), and the interior is a bit dated. This in part may result in a less than gracious review by some on the internet (I've checked prior to writing this). However, UNCG students are notoriously finicky when it comes to their image they portray in public, and eating is a public activity. This isn't the North Face of campus dining, but it is a quiet hide-a-way that evades the crowed lines of the chain restaurants, and that in my opinion, is a restaurant makes really great food (at the expense of being cool).
Chance and his steak and cheese.

My favorite steak and cheese in Greensboro is by far, Penn Station, but I'll be honest, Manhattan's 12 inch, number 12 surprised me both in quality, size and taste (It's really, really good). They use real bread, a seasoned sort of Italian bread that is toasted with real shaved steak. Topped with your typical ingredients like provolone, lettuce, tomato and their special house dressing, it's a deliciously huge sandwich that comes together as an awesome University style fat sandwich. The flavors are just perfect.

It wasn't just me either, Chance (my son) who was out sick from school, and was tagging along with us and our classes, loved it. Shannon ordered a vegetarian falafel pita, and was happy with her choice.

Obviously I can't speak for their pizza, and Manhattan Subs may not have the shine or lure that other campus food options have, but I kind of like it's off-beat "it's not for everybody" attitude. Considering The Caf is always full, and serves the crappiest, unhealthiest, salt-laden food I've ever eaten, I'd take take my fellow student's opinions into consideration, but not let the status-quo dictate what's really good or not.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Penguin Burger

My New Year's Eve Facebook status reads in part: "I ate a penguin", and it was true. Sure... it was a Penguin Burger, but I did pet a reindeer, and drove through three miles of Christmas lights followed by setting off a surface-to-air Chinese lantern which consumed itself on fire and landed in a neighboring housing tract.

The Penguin is a historical landmark in Charlotte (circa 1954). The restaurant which still operates today has been featured on shows like Food Network's Man Versus Food, and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. Their legendary Pimento Burger is supposed to be the best in the nation. The question of course, is it?

No. The best remains Johnson's. (Previously: The 10 Best Cheeseburgers in NC.) However, it was good, really good, and just because it doesn't displace my favorite burger joint doesn't make it worth a visit. However I should disclaim now, that it was very, very expensive. Almost $70 with tip for five people, and a very standard order (drinks, sodas [unlimited refills] alone cost $2.75 each, however I should note that we were brought an entire pitcher of Cheerwine for the kids). By comparison, the same order at Johnson's would be less than $40. Then again, this is a bar, and pub food tends to be pricey. Interestingly, what we came away with is a consensus that the Penguin Burger, while unique, wasn't as spectacular as all the hype. It's fun and unique, but it lacks one key component that I think it should have: chili. The funny thing is they sell chili, probably one of the best in the state, and they have a chili burger- they just don't combine it with their infamous Penguin Burgers.

The Penguin Burger, comes in two forms:
  • $5.95 Pimento Cheeseburger: Pimento Cheese, fried pickles, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise.
  • $6.95 Kitchen Sink Burger: Pimento Cheese, bacon, onion ring, slaw, tomato, and Penguin Sauce.

The problem with these combinations, is both lack chili. If I were to create my own Penguin Burger I'd do the following:
  • Penguin Burger: Pimento Cheese, bacon, fried pickles, chili, onion ring, tomato lettuce, and Penguin Sauce.
Unfortunately this option doesn't exist, unless you special order it. I suppose a Kitchen Sink, minus the slaw (I just don't like coleslaw), and add chili, might just work. The truth is, I loved their chili. It's super spicy and perfect on their french fries. I'd definitely be sure to make a chili-cheese ($6.25) fry a part of your order.  So overall, if I had to do it again, I'd order a KSB, and add chili (minus slaw for me).

Despite the lack of chili, it was a good burger. The meat is standard ground chuck, similar to what you'd make at home. The toppings, less the Pimento cheese and fried pickles were standard issue. Overall, it felt a bit dry and like it was missing something, however adding some mustard really made it a good burger for me.

I loved the staff, it was a great meal, and the chili-cheese fries are to die for! Their chili is one-of-a-kind, and while the burger needs a bit of adaption, I'd drive to Charlotte for the chili fries alone. 

Image credit: Chance Jones