The Oink Cafe

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BREAKFAST. LUNCH. BACON.

You can’t help but be curious of what this place is when you drive by and see the name. The Oink Cafe is a locally owned modern style cafe that serves both breakfast and lunch. The things that make this place stand out is their cocktail and espresso bar that includes a Bloody Mary flight, a 50-50 burger (half beef, half bacon) and of course everything bacon included with many of their entrées. They have eight flavored bacon choices (pepper, applewood, jalapeño, hickory, sugar-cured, apple cider, honey-cured, and chef’s choice) that can be ordered as a flight or included with one of their meals. The cafe isn’t incredible large, the walls are lime green and the decor includes paintings and mini statues of pigs. Also hanging on the walls are coloring sheets colored by kids (kids eat free M-F with an adult entrée and 2 beverage purchase if they color a sheet). Breakfast includes a variety of omelets and benedicts that are centered on bacon. Prices I would say are a tad bit higher than most breakfast places. The 8 bacon flight will run you about $11, which I think it pretty high for a side bacon (even flavored bacon). They offer 4 slices for $6. I got the jalapeño bacon per my server’s recommendation with my breakfast. I enjoyed the spiciness of it but wasn’t particular overwhelmed with the bacon itself. I guess if you are going to advertise yourself as a bacon joint I was hoping for some good-sized slices of bacon. My service was decent considering my server was covering quite a few tables. I didn’t try one of their popular Bloody Marys so I didn’t get the full treatment of this place. But overall I found Oink Cafe a fun concept with a possibility for a revisit in the future. Btw… they offer a free Best Maple Bacon Donut on your bday.

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Traditional Breakfast with Jalapeño Bacon

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The Oink Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings

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So I believe Louisiana Fried Chicken has opened a location here in AZ on a couple of occasions. I remember reviewing one awhile back in Phoenix during my Urbanspoon days and then it abruptly closed without any notice when I tried to return. So the Chandler area is now their newest experiment. Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings actually came out of LA in the 70’s and has over a hundred locations in the US. The Louisiana name comes from how the chicken is cooked –  Cajun battered and deep fried. They also have fried shrimp, chicken tenders and fish. There are several entree combinations to choose from with or without sides and whatever quantity you want. Side items include mashed potatoes, okra, red beans & rice and coleslaw. There’s a bit of an Asian influence with rice combinations and egg rolls. And they have gumbo too! The family pack combos must be popular because there were several people waiting in the lobby for large to-go orders. The restaurant itself isn’t very large but pretty clean. I thought the chicken was pretty tasty with just a hint of spice and a nice soft crunch to it. They have bottles of hot sauce available that you can spice your chicken up with. Overall Louisiana Chicken is a nice fast casual chain if you are looking for a quick affordable bite of some Cajun chicken (a 3 piece combo will run you about $8). It will be interesting to see how they do in Chandler across from Food City. Btw… they have a couple different slices of pie for dessert and boba tea.

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3 Piece Combo

Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bacon ‘n’ Egg Quesadillas

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* – from Rachael Ray

Ingredients

  • 8 medium flour tortillas
  • 2 hass avocados
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 8 large eggs
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 15 1/2 ounce can black beans, rinsed

Preparation

Place the tortillas in the oven in two stacks; heat to 200 degrees . In a bowl, mash the avocados with the lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

Working in batches, in a nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; drain on paper towels. Leave about 2 tablespoons bacon fat in the skillet, reserving the rest of the fat. Cut the bacon strips in half.

Working in 2 batches, in the skillet, cook the eggs over easy; transfer to a platter. Reserve the skillet.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface. Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup cheese; top with beans, 1 egg and bacon strips, then fold to enclose.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat over medium heat, add 4 quesadillas and cook, turning once, until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Repeat with more bacon fat and the remaining quesadillas; serve with the avocado mash.

Ramen Hood

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As a frequent out of town guest of Grand Central Market, I try to find a new spot to eat every time I visit. Top Chef’s Ilan Hall’s vegan ramen joint was the perfect spot for me this trip. The site of several patrons sitting at the counter hunched over a large bowl of curled noodles in a delicious steamy broth with chopsticks in hand drew me in. Ramen Hood usually has a decent sized line that moves somewhat quickly. You basically order your bowl and do your best to find a seat at the counter or one of the surrounding tables in the market. Menu choices are various ramen bowls, some sides and some add-on’s for your ramen (vegan egg, bean sprouts, oysters, mushrooms, etc). They also have a combo special that includes ramen, a side and a drink.

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I eat anything spicy and went for the Spicy Ramen. They have a variety of small plates to choose from for a side and I chose the avocado toast (a new thing I’m really into) for mine. The Spicy Ramen isn’t super spicy but they have plenty of ingredients on the counter that you can add more spice to it. The broth is very rich and milky because it’s made from sunflower seeds that are roasted and pressure cooked to obtain its natural oils. They also simmer kelp, white miso, onions and mushrooms in the broth. My Ramen bowl was fantastic and full of all types of flavor. The egg that is added in is vegan. The avocado toast was a pleasant surprise. It was one of the best avocado toast I have ever had (and I made my own creations at home). I’m not vegan and was really surprised how flavorful and filling everything was. I also enjoyed sitting at a counter and watching the kitchen staff work their magic. This was a really nice visit to the Market and Ramen Hood. I’m looking forward to a future visit.

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Avocado Toast

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Spicy Ramen

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Ramen Hood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Loving Vincent

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“Well, the truth is, we cannot speak other than by our paintings.”

 – Vincent van Gogh, July 1890

I’ve been excited to see this moving ever since I saw the trailer. Loving Vincent is a biopic about Vincent van Gogh, and in particular, the circumstances of his death. It is the first fully painted animated feature film. It is made up of 65,000 frames hand-painted by a team of 125 artists. Ever since I took an Art Humanities class ten years ago, I have been fascinated by van Gogh’s paintings. In fact, the first van Gogh I ever saw was The Starry Night when I was in New York City at MOMA. I just recently saw Bedroom at Pasadena’s Norton Simon MuseumFilmbar in Phoenix has added many shows of Loving Vincent because they keep selling out. The film has already been nominated for many awards and I look forward to seeing it.

In 2009, I saw van Gogh’s The Starry Night at MOMA and Bedroom at Norton Simon

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The Starry Night

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Bedroom

Helio Basin Brewing

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Quality Crafted in Phx

Helio Basin Brewing has become one of my favorite local breweries. Their slogan is Quality Crafted in Phx. They took residence in an old pool hall that I used to hang out at in Arcadia. Helio Basin is founded by Mike Conley and brewmaster Dustin Hazer. Chef Tamara Stanger creates the amazing food that is served here. It’s the perfect pairing of top quality brews with simple but innovating food. Many of the dishes here have some sort of representation of Arizona in it. For beers, their IPA and Blackberry Wheat are the big sellers. I think my favorite thing about this place is the sense of community they have created here. They have a few large tables for large parties and have the ability to open up the patio for outdoor events. From talking to many guests that I sit next to, Helio Basin had become a popular neighborhood favorite. I came here for their one year anniversary party with a buddy and my son. I ordered a beer flight got a nice variety of beers as my selection. The Robust Porter is one of my favorites. Chef Tamara put together some delicious roasted pig tacos with banana cornbread and Sonoran rice. We had a great time and enjoyed our beers and food. Hello Basin is a great addition to the Arcadia food scene and definitely check out their great happy hour and Taco Tuesdays!

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Helio Basin Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Black Rock Coffee Bar

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I just found out recently that this Portland-based coffeehouse opened in Chandler. In fact, we currently have three locations in AZ. Black Rock Coffee offers a variety of drink options, from drip coffee to mochas to espresso to hot tea. So what makes this coffee chain different from other ones? They really strive on connecting with people and creating an atmosphere to craft those stories. This location is very spacious and located in the southern part of Chandler. They have both walk-up and drive-thru service. The latte I got was pretty good and I thought the staff was really friendly. Black Rock seeks to build connections with the local community and were donating their proceeds of the day to a family of a local teacher that had been killed recently. I love hearing stories of local businesses seeking to make a difference and thought I’d stop in and show my support.

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Black Rock Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato