Friday, October 28, 2005

Hardee's (Richmond, KY)

During a road trip, you’re bound to stop at several rest stops and random restaurants.  On our way to Tennessee, while making our way through Kentucky (all of the rumors are true), we decided to grab some quick grub at Hardee’s.  Now, I know what some of you might be thinking… he’s reviewing Hardee’s?  I know, it’s not an obscure diner or anything; but over the last 5 years, every Hardee’s within 100+ miles of my apartment (back in Ohio) have curiously closed their doors permanently.

I used to love their mushroom and Swiss hamburger, and often find myself dreaming about running through fields and jumping in puddles with a large representation of said sandwich.  This particular Hardee’s shared a building with a Quik Mart gas station, featuring an attendant who had a strong resemblance to Apu of The Simpsons fame.

During the course of my vacation, I accidentally deleted the picture I took of their front counter.  Which especially sucks, as I had to be all stealth, and do a couple somersaults to avoid their employees’ watchful eyes while taking it.  I did, however, snap a couple shots of the interior.  In the first two pictures, you get a glimpse of the painful wallpaper, floor tiles in Tetris shapes, and lots of the color brown.  The last picture isn’t a high quality image, but I kept it because it reminded me of the area, and how it fit perfectly with Kentucky stereotypes.  Across the lot, was a Western apparel and boot shop, as well as a couple of other things that just called out “we’re hillbillies, y’all!”  Whatever that means…

The food?  I had the Bacon Cheese Thickburger combo with Coca-Cola.  My first impression was honestly not too positive, and I don’t know how odd it is for me to say it, but my burger tasted too much like… beef.  Over the course of the meal, I became accustomed to it though, and by the end, even embraced its flavor.  It’s just a massive burger, and lest I forget, there are several other even larger burgers on their daily menu.  Once I got a littler further, and the fixings (tomato, lettuce, onions, mayonnaise, etc.) started mixing with the burger and bun, it was actually an above-average quality fast food sandwich.  I enjoyed it to the last bite, which is also pictured above in all its glory.  You can also see Amanda’s choice, some type of BBQ chicken sandwich, which she’s defined for me as “unique” and “slightly above-average”.  I tasted it, too, and found it palatable, albeit not particularly enchanting.  Damn… I sound like I actually know what I’m talking about!  Too bad I don’t put this much thought and energy into my schoolwork.  Lastly, I usually prefer traditional fries, but due to Amanda’s insistence, I opted for the crispy curl fries.  When I think of the term “crispy curl”, the mental image of the popular hairstyles of the 1987 starting line-up of the Utah Jazz comes to mind, and that’s not too appetizing.  They were kind of dry and insignificant, especially in comparison to Arby’s curly fries, but made for a passable, if not decent, compliment to my sandwich.

I look like I just ate something called a “Thickburger”.  Wait, I did… and, I think Amanda was smiling because we were about to get back on the road, and not because we were sitting inside a Hardee’s in the middle of Kentucky.  Aw, shucks, ma!

I can’t finish this review without mentioning this monstrosity of a soft drink.  It was huge!  For you Marvel Comics fans, this thing made Galactus look like Toad… can you dig it?  To give you an idea, I placed it next to a nearby mansion I temporarily borrowed, to put it in proper scale.  And you want to know the scary thing; this was the fucking medium size!

Upon closer inspection, that’s not the scary thing at all!  Oh no, not in the least!  I didn’t notice this until just now… but look at my total!  666!  The mark of the beast (and by that, I mean Satan, not Dan Severn) and all that crap.  In closing, if you’re bored this weekend and want to make some prank phone calls, there’s the number on the receipt; give them a ring, ask about the “Thickburger”, and tell them Brian sent you!

Overall Grade: B- 

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Transformers - Dinobots: Slapper & Triceradon

So, the 1980s were pretty rad, right?  Well, besides that one time when I fell down.  But, you can’t talk about the 80’s without talking about that decade’s absolutely brilliant plot hole-filled cartoons!   And, in many people’s eyes, near the top of the pack is the legendary series Transformers.  Its given birth to hundreds of toys, comic books, and at least 10 different animated spin-off series’, the most popular being the mid-90’s Beast Wars; which I’ll hopefully look at rather extensively sometime in the future.  So, what, dare I ask, is cooler than Transformers?  Not a lot is my answer.  I mean... they’re freaking vehicles and animals that change into robots!  It’s a totally brilliant premise.  Wait just one second, I’ve thought of something that is even cooler than a robotic fire truck that has a gun; of course, the answer rested in nature all along, dinosaurs are cooler!  Thus, a match made in heaven is born.  Robots and dinosaurs, now there’s a connection you can’t shake a stick it.  Hey, stop shaking those sticks at me!  I chafe easily.

Here are our featured toys and beloved plastic friends.  First, let me introduce you to Slapper.  For future reference, when I refer to Slapper, I’m taking about the Dinobot; and not that disturbing porno with the one girl in it.  Secondly, feast your eyes upon Triceradon!  Could you imagine facing this guy on the battlefield?  There are a few other two-packs in the Dinobot series, which are equally awesome, but I’m a sucker for triceratopses.

Slapper is an ankylosaurus with an attitude; well, technically I can’t vouch for that attitude quip, but it sounded neat.  In his dinosaur form, albeit not the most visually impressive sight, he’s still earned enough cool points to chill with my posse.  Slapper really shines in his robot form.  It took me a couple minutes to assemble the complete transformation, as I didn’t follow the instruction book and opted instead to use my intuition.  But, unlike Spider-Man, my intuition sometimes fails me and I almost broke poor Slapper in half.

Once in his complete robot form, he’s surely a sight to behold.  One of his hands is a gigantic dinosaur head, and the other holds a massive gun; although, I doubt he often has to resort to shooting enemies.  One of the other Dinobots walks into the mess hall and notices Slapper take the last glazed donut, “Hey, are you going to share?”  Slapper would just slap the loudmouth, pun intended, with his dinosaur hand.  Imagine, for a second, the ramifications of having a dinosaur hand?  The possibilities are endless!

"Daddy, there’s a chunk missing from my dinosaur!"

In conclusion, these things really are quite great.  In either robot or dinosaur form, they’re perfect for any toy collection, although their design could have been improved slightly in regards to the transformation process.  They’ve earned the rare status of being placed on my mostly bare computer desk, joining the infamous Pizza Hut mousepad I scored in a desolate thrift store.  If you like Transformers, or action figures, then I’d recommend adding these to your personal collection.

Overall Grade: A- 

Friday, October 14, 2005

Homestyle Dumplings & Chicken

So, it’s my usual Tuesday night, I’m walking around the supermarket debating on which packet of Kool-Aid to buy and daydreaming about that episode of The Simpsons where Marge ends up on the wrong side of the law because Homer doesn’t take her to the ballet.  Then I see this… practically instant chicken and dumplings?  Score.  The only find that’d be any better would be walking in a shady alley in the middle of the night and stumbling upon a gym bag with hypodermic needles full of love.  I kid!

(Note: Amanda deleted the two pictures that were supposed to be here because she’s a butthead.)

Amanda went from being unimpressed to obviously having a riot.  We can thank Betty Crocker for that.  I was told it was a relatively painless procedure preparing, but I wouldn’t know personally, as I was in the other room watching an episode of Sonic X.

In the first picture you get a glimpse of our meal in its earliest stages.  For the unimaginative, it’s just a pile of powder, but to us with imaginations (thanks Muppet Babies) it instantly becomes a wild sand dune for our Micro Machines to race over!  Who said cooking wasn’t fun?  This second picture… well, I’ll go ahead and say what you’re obviously thinking, it looks like barf!  Vomit!  There… I said it!

In conclusion, was this quick fix worth the hype?  I’d certainly say yes.  The lima beans in the background are not included… those are mine.  Within a half-hour, rather effortlessly, we dined on chicken and dumplings and had enough for smaller second helpings, too.  Versus homemade chicken and dumplings in a steel cage match, the obvious victor would be the traditional variety, but you shouldn’t be ashamed to expand your horizons… and save a couple bucks.

Overall Grade: B- 

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Justice League - Power Escape Superman

(Note: This article was written for one of my old websites.  I dusted it off and thought you’d enjoy it.  It’s awfully quaint, but its heart is in the right place… kind of like Clark Kent’s.  Enjoy!)

Although Justice League itself consists of some of the most kick-ass characters in all of comicdom, the toys based upon the animated series have not really interested me thus far.  For the price tag they carry, they just don’t seem to offer much.  Then, I stumbled upon this baby for a little over $2.00 on clearance.  Score!  Right?

First off, here’s Kal-El (or Superman) looking insanely cool.  He’s wearing his Krypton gear here, which to any hardcore comic fan is worthy of at least two orgasms in and of itself.  Now, the gimmick behind this particular toy is that, once configured, by pressing two buttons Superman will break free of his shackles and destroy a brick wall in the process.

These directions might have well been printed in Krptonion, because they made absolutely no sense to a scholarly young man like myself.

After much hard work and laboring, here’s what it looks like completely built and ready for destruction.  When it came time to finally press the buttons, and free Superman from his mystery oppressors, guess what happened?  Nothing.  With the exception of his left arm lifting up slightly, it was a joke.  After another ten minutes of battling this beast, I finally got it to work somewhat as advertised, but at this point I felt like a blast of Superman’s heat vision on my bare ass sounded like a better alternative to spend my evening.

Finally, in the end, this is where it ended up, in the trash with the other garbage.  Thanks Mattel, for eternally altering my prospective on Superman and wasting thirty minutes of my life.

Overall Grade: D 

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Red Squirrel (Colerain, OH)

For those of you without a Red Squirrel restaurant nearby, which would likely be 99% of you, I offer you my deepest sympathy and regret.  This is the third location I’ve ate it, and they all specialize in delicious double-decker sandwiches, as well as host a variety of other alternatives on their menu.

I don’t live in Colerain, but find my way up there for the occasional dollar store trek, mall visit, and ruckus house party.  The visibility of this particular restaurant isn’t what I’d call perfect.  I actually ate there this particular day by chance; out taking photographs and working up a serious appetite, I wandered in by the smell of roast beef and smiles.

A waitress that looked like a Dick Tracy villain seated us near the back in a booth.  After we made our respective orders, she brought us out our drinks; I had root beer, which was rather pleasant.  If my memory serves me correctly, though, I didn’t receive any refills.  Dang!

As I mentioned earlier, this place is known as a supreme sandwich shop.  They didn’t disappoint on this evening.  On the left, Amanda ordered the turkey/Swiss double-decker.  Amanda has a very bizarre habit of, no matter where we’re at, deconstructing her sandwiches (of all varieties) and eating them in odd arrangements.  This day was no exception.  I opted for my personal favorite Red Squirrel sandwich, the ham/chicken salad double-decker.  My cousin Eric (who assuredly doesn’t read this site… no hard feelings, but you’re officially off my Christmas card list, pal!) recommended this combination to me years ago and when I finally built up the nerve to order it, was extremely pleased.  It’s a little sloppy, but the taste factor alone sets this thing in terms of quality way above anything on a McDonald’s menu.  Each sandwich comes with potato chips and a pickle spear.  I freaking love saying that… pickle spear!  “I am Alexander the Great, and I’m here to invade your country, with my trusty pickle spear.”

Afterwards, I went for my customary hand washing, when I found this oddity.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice, so allow me a chance to explain.  The bathroom had one regular size stall, and then near the sink and urinal, was a separate second stall.  It was the size of a tiny closet, and that’s being very generous.  By the time I got in there and closed the door, the exercise of unzipping my pants was as difficult as playing Mrs. Pac-Man blindfolded… and I should know, how do you think I spent my 8th birthday?

Overall Grade: B 

Monday, October 10, 2005

Caramel Apple (Jones Soda Co.)

While walking around a Target store, blinded by the materialistic marketing madness, I stumbled upon a curious finding.  Jones Soda Co., makers of delicious beverages, had answered our ghoulish Halloween prayers, and delivered a drink just for us.  Coming in four different spooky varieties, I choose Caramel Apple; I thought it had the highest percentage chance of actually tasting good.  I e-mailed Matt from X-E, as I knew this promotion would be right up his alley, and lo and behold, he later reviewed the entire set.  It’s taken a little longer for me to write my article, but maybe the soda is to blame; coursing through my body it has weakened my will to write, and strengthened my will to howl at the moon like a madman, that is until the neighbors call the police and I run back inside to the solace of my futon.

So back to Target… this place is freaking nuts.  I’m looking at costumes, wondering if I’d make a better generic ninja or generic wizard, when some guy comes up to me with a blank expression.  “What, is that chili all over your neck, or are you just happy to see me?” I ask.  He looks hurt by my query.  I scurry to the next aisle and beginning looking at various colored dishtowels like it’s my duty.  Weirdo!

Anyway, back to the spooky soda… above is a picture of me pouring the drink into a wine glass for closer inspection.  Ignore the video camera in the background, I had an open invitation casting call for auditions for my three-act play rendition of White Men Can’t Jump; my Grandpa was the only person who showed up, and he was just returning the bag of Cheetos I left at his place last weekend.

There she is!  I thought I’d never see the day Caramel Apple soda would exist.  I’m sure you’re dying to know what it tasted like.  Well, if you just take a reckless and quick gulp, as I did at first, you’ll possibly liken the flavor to that of ginger ale.  But, if you take a drink, squish it around in your mouth (akin to wine tasting) you’ll begin to discover its full potential.  Then, and only then, will you be able to appreciate both the caramel and apple splendor inherent in each and every can of Jones Soda Co.’s baby.  It is honestly not bad, folks, although I’m not a full-fledged fan either.  If I buy anymore, it’ll only be as novelty souvenirs.  If you’ve got a Target nearby, and love Halloween like I do, then don’t miss out on this limited edition soda.

Overall Grade: B- 

Friday, October 7, 2005

Boo Berry Lip Balm

Well, it’s 10:30 on a school night, and right now I should be starting on a six-page rhetorical analysis paper for my English class.  I choose to do the paper on Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Exposition Address.  But, it’s freaking October; the leaves are dying, candy is more readily available than any other time of the year, and papier-mâché bats are like… totally in!  Score!  In all seriousness, ahem, its Halloween season!

I wish I had the time and money to buy every Halloween related piece of junk I’ve seen this past couple weeks and write about them.  From the fancier department store fare, to the cheap dollar store variety, anything orange or with a witch on it has a place in my heart.  So, without further adieu, the first, and certainly not last…. Halloween related article!

Cereal spokespersons… know anything about them?  I’m not talking about that toucan, or captain guy, or even that silly rabbit with his pedophile tendencies.  How about Count Chocula?  Surely, you’ve heard that name, right?  In the early 1970’s General Mills introduced us to several monster themed cereals.  Count Chocula is the most well known, and still appears regularly in supermarkets to this very day.  In terms of favoritism, he’s just too easy.  What about Franken Berry, then?  With his pink hue and goofy disposition, he just doesn’t do it for me, although, his cereal tastes pretty damn good.

So who’s my favorite?  Boo Berry!  I mean, how could you not love a blueberry-flavored ghost… that’s wearing a freaking straw hat!   I don’t even want to get started on his ridiculously cool red bowtie.  Nowadays, Boo only makes appearances once a year around October, the last several years I’ve bought a box of his patented cereal and afterwards cut off the front of the box as a tearful memento of the time we shared.  General Mills, you’re not getting off the hook quite that easy… they also made Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute (featuring lime flavored marshmallows!), which failed miserably.

Background info… check!  So, now that we’ve discussed the cereal that inspired today’s review, let us feast our eyes on an abomination of marketing strategy!  Boo Berry lip balm!  My girlfriend, knowing the dork that she shares an apartment with well, saw this while out at a mall and brought it back for me.  To say I was surprised is an understatement, not at the kind gesture… but it’s Boo fucking Berry flavored lip balm!  Who invented this, and does he have a PayPal account, because he deserves my life savings!  Well, actually, that’s not a very nice compliment… since I’m broke, but I’d at least buy him a fish taco and diet soda.  Who said I wasn’t a giving guy?  (Note to my brother and all ex-girlfriends: Don’t answer that question.)

So Mr. Review the World, does it work?  Is it any good?  Does it taste like Boo Berry… we’ve got to know!  The answer is… kind of?  The lip balm is serviceable, it appears to do the trick and that’s fine.  Does it taste like Boo Berry?  Well, not exactly.  It’s blueberry flavored lip balm.  There… I said it!  But, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the effort.  I mean anything using the likeliness of my favorite ghost gets some bonus points.  Could they capture the authentic taste of Boo Berry in a lip balm?  I don’t really know, but I will be buying several boxes of Boo Berry cereal this year to stockpile it for the grueling Ohio winter months.  If you try to find me and steal it, I’ll kill you with a shovel like Tom Cruise did Tim Robbins in that creepy scene in War of the Worlds.  What now?

Overall Grade: B