Tag Archive for chicken

Ike’s Place

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This rapidly expanding Bay Area chain of sandwich shops got its start in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, and its devoted following has multiplied phenomenally in the seven years of its existence, enough to  support 13 stores in all. I was glad to bypass the legendary lines at the original location and accepted a friend’s invitation to check out the Danville store.

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Bright with thick block lettering and a quirky sense of humor, the store’s sleek design is enough on its own to appeal to broad, modern-day, American eatery sensibilities. Who wouldn’t want to try a sandwich called Love Triangle or Reading Rainbow? A good portion of the sandwiches are also named after celebrities and famous characters. The vast array of options on the menu at the Danville location—

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–is dwarfed by the options shown in their online menu. It might be an overwhelming number of choices, but I like not having to compile my own sandwich ingredient list, and Ike’s has nearly any combination you want covered. That includes sandwiches stuffed with jalapeno poppers! Vegans and vegetarians also have a bevy of options, and lettuce, tomato, and onion are givens.

Friend #2 cleansing his palate before the meal.

Friend #2 cleansing his palate before the meal.

Every sandwich comes with Ike’s signature dirty sauce, which tasted to me like a creamy horseradish sauce…but really, really light on the horseradish, which made it very good. The interwebs tell me that it’s actually a garlic and herb sauce, but I’d swear there’s a little horseradish hiding in their somewhere. The sauce is grilled into the bread and also added to the ingredient pile—some sandwiches even come extra dirty. The messier a sandwich, the more likely I am to love it, so I thought those methods were fantastic.

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The Cheese Steak Shop

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The Cheese Steak Shop is a Bay Area chain that’s been in operation since the early 1980s. They’ve done so well, they even have a couple franchises in the Philippines! I love a good Philly cheese steak, to the point that it was probably more than half the reason I visited Philly a few years back. The Cheese Steak Shop makes their sandwiches in that classic style, going so far as to ship in their ingredients from Philly-based vendors. I think that commitment has paid off.

At the Castro Valley store, chopped sirloin beef or chicken are the meat options. White American cheese comes with the standard sandwich, which you can get in 7-, 10-, or 15-inch sizes. They have plenty of variations, however, including provolone, meat tossed in barbecue sauce, mushrooms, and spinach. I’m partial to the green chiles and provolone cheese sandwich myself.

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That one is a 7-inch with chicken. The slightly saucy cheese is melted on the bottom.  The meat is juicy and nicely browned, and the bread is absolutely perfect—squishy Italian rolls that melt in your mouth along with the sandwich fillings. Grilled onions and hot and sweet cherry peppers topped off my roll. Subjectively, I prefer my grilled onions in slices rather than diced into nothingness, and the peppers were sautéed too long for my preferences. But I loved each and every bite of the meal. It successful made me marvel at the magnificence that is the greasy cheese steak.

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Maximillian’s Grill

Maximillian’s Grill
8314 Chapel Hill Road
Cary
Website
$19-$35

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Maximillian’s Grill, not to be confused with Maximillian’s Pizza Kitchen next door though I’m going out on a limb and saying they’re related, appeared this year on Greg Cox’s annual list of top 20 Triangle restaurants. It always flies under my radar; I keep forgetting people have recommended it, but the placement on Cox’s list stuck it firmly in mind this time.

The menu is manic, reaching into Asian, Mexican, Southern, and Nouveau American cuisines, sometimes all in the same dish. Spiciness in many forms is its main unifier. Usually the spice is conveyed through sauces with names like hellfire, demon, and voodoo. As a lover of all things fiery and kitsch, that is not a problem for me. Our waitress deserves bonus points for remembering the details of 2 appetizer specials, 6 entrée specials, and 2 dessert specials. This is not a restaurant that dreams small.

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With that sort of menu, I expected a bolder atmosphere, but Maximillian’s sticks with a cigar room and steakhouse feel. It’s pretty dark (standard apologies for the photos), and walnut wood paneled the walls. It’s also rather cold early evening, likely due to the floor-length windows and stone-tiled floor. But the place warmed up well enough when more people came in. By 7 pm, it was hopping. Contemporary pop played from hidden speakers.

The wine list underwhelmed, mainly because the cheapest glasses are $10. The cocktails are similarly priced, so I chose one of those instead, the Blood and Sand.

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It took an imaginative route toward a manhattan’s flavors by combining salty caramel vodka, Dewar’s scotch, vermouth, an orange twist, and a maraschino cherry. Pretty in the glass, and I was surprised by how the caramel’s sweetness imparted bourbon characteristics to the Scotch, thus invoking my impression of it as a roundabout manhattan. The caramel note lingered pleasantly.

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