A chronicle of my Frugal Feasting exploits as I travel my way about life

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Capital Q Texas BBQ: DC (Dine Cheaply)

Capital Q Texan BBQ on Urbanspoon

Washington, DC is quite the bustling town. Not only is it the control room for the greatest nation on the face of the planet, but it’s also a Mecca for young, aspiring professionals eager to make it big in the world. There are people that come from, literally everywhere in the country to be in DC; and the city does a good job at catering to the great diversity of people it hosts. The area known as Chinatown is probably the most popular part of DC. This is where the Verizon Center, which houses the Washington Wizards, is located along with a cornucopia of stores, bars, clubs, and restaurants.

This is where I found myself last night, after night out on the town. As I’m sure many cantestify, the perfect meal after some a nighttime escapade can easily transform a good night out into an amazing adventure. So, eager to fill myself up with some fantastic people fuel, I had myradar set on great food for a great price (as always). It didn’t take me long to find just what I was looking for. Right on 7th and H St, just a few steps from the Gallery Place Metro Stop I found Capital Q.

Capital Q is a Texas style BBQ restaurant and bar, which claims to put the “bar back in barbeque”. As soon as you walk into the place you feel the southern hospitality so well known to come from the Bible belt. It’s a quaint establishment decorated with Texan paraphernalia on the walls covered with scribbled-on dollar bills left by past patrons, and of course it wouldn’t be DC if there weren’t pictures of politicians who visited. Just recently the began to stay open late on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to cater to the nighttime crowd, and even made a special menu for midnight marauders. The wonderful thing about the late-night menu is its prices! $5, Everything. Italian Beef, $5. Pulled pork, $5. Burritos, $5. EVERYTHING! Needless to say I was quite happy indeed. Being that I’m a fan of all things swine, I went ahead and ordered me a Pulled Pork Sandwich and boy was it “Some Pig” (← Charlottes Web reference for those with a deprived childhood, or illiterates).

The sandwich was very simple but equally delicious. Slow cooked, juicy, delicious pork stuffed between a bun topped with pickles bathed in some kind of sweet chili sauce, dressed with yet some other kind of delicious tangy house sauce. The pork was so moist that the bun began to fall apart after a few bites because it couldn’t absorb any more of the juiciness it contained between its two slices. This sandwich definitely made a messy meal but luckily, like any considerate and self respecting BBQ establishment, Capital Q had plenty of rolls of paper towels along the bar top for the inevitable messiness.

Over all the experience was short, but very enjoyable. The two staff members they had working there were extremely friendly and welcoming, the food was great, and the physical atmosphere was appealing. All of this for $5 with 50 cents tax!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Los Verdes: Oh MyCitos!!!

Los Verdes on Urbanspoon

Once again I find myself in the magic city of Miami, the 24-hour paradise playground that seems to never run out of things for a young adult to become distracted with. During my visit home, I was lucky to have stumbled upon a gem lighting up the streets of Miami with its two neon “OPEN” sign and enormously green logo. Well in reality I didn’t really stumble upon it rather I was dragged there by one of my best friends, Paula, but nevertheless the opportunity presented itself, beckoning me to chase it …and so I did.

Los Verdes was its name, and Colombian fast food is their game (^corny). If you aren’t familiar with Colombian fast food, here is a quick rundown. Over recent years, Colombians have been notoriously taking over the hotdog game. Their “perros calients” are known all over for their off-the-wall and intense amount of toppings such as potato sticks, quail eggs, bacon, pineapple, bacon(yes I said it twice), beef, pork, chicken, and just about any thing else they can come up with. But they don’t limit themselves to just hotdogs; Colombian folk love to get just as creative with their hamburgers, Arepas Rellenas (stuffed arepa), Chuzos(kebab), their Salchipapas, a mixture of sliced Salchicha (sausage) and Papas(French fries), and of course today’s focus: Maicitos! All these foods are intended to be eaten on the go; they are the perfect street food for anyone to munch on. But los Verdes is far from a food stand you might find at an intersection somewhere in downtown Miami.

If I had to capture the essence of Los Verdes in a few words I would have to employ the use of “Guy Fieri cooks for Adam Richman, after a run-in with Johnny Walker, featuring Daddy Yankee”. That is to say Los Verdes is open until 6am on weekends and 3am on weekdays. These fantastic hours of operation make it ideal place for late-night, post-club, intoxicated dining which make their food so much more tasty, but its just as delicious when sober. Not only is the food spectacular but it also comes in vast amounts, and it massages the ears with the loud thump of Reggaeton music that resonates from the speakers that sequin the ceiling. If your coming in fresh from the nightclub the atmosphere is definitely appropriate, however the volume of the speakers doesn’t change if you visit in the middle of the day which makes going out to have lunch with a friend a bit of an uncomfortable experience. But then again, if you often find yourself in the midst of awkward pauses when you engage in conversation, Los Verdes will definitely give you a semi-deafening helping of noise to fill in those voids of awkwardness and lack of personality.

However what I’ll be focusing on this time around is something you might not be too familiar with; a wonderful dish known as Maicitos. …So you’re probably asking yourself: “what exactly are Maicitos?” Well the best way to describe it would be corny, cheesy, saucy, crunchy, meaty goodness. And by that I mean that the base ingredient is corn, thus the name Maicito (Maiz is Spanish for corn). It’s accompanied by some special mixture of sauce and cheese and lined with layers of crushed potato chips to give it a nice little crunch. In addition to that, you have the option of throwing in some form of meat into the mix such as steak, chicken, chorizo, bacon, or all of the above. The result is a myriad of flavors polymerized into a surge of deliciousness that is quite unique. I might not look too great when you just look at it because its simply so much blended into one dish that it really just looks like Colombian slop. However it as tastes just as delicious as it looks messy.

I went ahead and ordered my Maicitos with steak, which I feel was probably the best possible choice. The reason being that it was the most tender churrasco chopped into pieces and mixed in with the rest of the ingredients and it definitely was a great compliment to the dish. To me this dish was a beautiful blend of textures that all had a great affect on the entire chewing experience and mixed well with the flavors they worked with. The corn added a nice texture to the meal as the kernels burst with every bite I took, the potato chips threw in the crunchy effect, while the cheese made it gooey and oozy. In addition to what already comes with it, Los Verdes gives you the option of putting a little bit more into your maicitos with any of its four additional sauces they provide. The options are Pineapple sauce, Green Sauce, Pink Sauce and Ajo(garlic sauce). All four sauces are pretty tasty my favorite is probably between the green sauce and the Ajo sauce. It’s pretty hard to tell exactly what is in each of the sauces, but I know for a fact that they all will go well with your maicitos except for maybe the pineapple. For me it was just a little too sweet but it definitely compliments the hotdogs PERFECTLY.

It seems to me that this dish definitely is a reflection of the city in which it was prepared. Just a Miami is a melting pot of the world’s diverse cultures, lifestyles, and mindsets. Maicitos are equally diverse in their flavors, textures, and the ingredients you can throw into them. But like always the best part of any dish you can find on this blog is, of course, the price. A measly $5.89 to enjoy a meal that perfectly reflects the city of Miami in a setting and atmosphere that perfectly reflects the city of Miami, I don’t think you can beat that.. Sure its not the healthiest meal on the planet but the body surely could do well with a little greasy deliciousness every now and then (especially after a long night out on South Beach). So definitely try and make it out to this establishment if you’re ever in town and given the opportunity. Also if you ever find yourself in front of any form of Colombian fast food I implore you to dive in and take a bite… you definitely will not be disappointed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

BZ Grill: Going Greek

Bz Grill on Urbanspoon

Greece: Land of enchantment, an ancient Mediterranean paradise whose images humble even the most persnickety amongst us and cause us to revel in wonderment at this source of all the myths and legends we’ve all come to know and enjoy. Thousands of years of history and culture compressed into a landmass roughly the size of the state of Mississippi. But of course, as is the case with every country, culture, or any other organized grouping of people found across the world, what shines out to make it most unique and distinct is none other than that which provides us with the nourishment to sustain our daily lives: THE FOOD!

I have somewhat of a soft spot for Greek food, mainly because I consider it the twin cousin to my favorite cuisine found anywhere on this little blue planet we call Earth; that of course is Arab Food. Greek and Arabic Cuisine are like two parallel lines that mirror each other but never quite intersect, they share quite the few similarities which mostly stem from the fact that Greece and much of the Middle East were under Ottoman rule for quite sometime. That along with the fact that Arab countries such as Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt all had direct interaction with Greece due to the fact that trade between them via the Mediterranean Sea was so frequent that the mixing and sharing of culture was inevitable. But despite their similarities, they each have their staples that set them apart. Such as the sauces they use, meat they consume, etc.

Today’s run in with Greek food happened during the first of what I am positive will be many visits that will result in eventual permanent residence in the City of New York. …New York City, it speaks for itself. Nothing can be said about this perpetually roused metropolis that hasn’t already been spoken. It’s a unique melting pot of the worlds diversity blended and spread throughout five distinct boroughs. I visited this city for the weekend and was astounded not just by its diversity but by its seemingly infinite array of restaurants catering to just about any and every taste whether it be Greek, Chinese, Soul Food, Thai, Dominican, Middle Eastern, Italian, Vietnamese, Mexican; just name your preference and you can be sure that it can be found somewhere within the unceasing bustle that is New York City.

When in New York it’s pretty much impossible to walk down more than two blocks without running into some sort of food cart at the intersection of any given road. Maybe about 80% of the time that food cart will have Arabic Calligraphy sequined across it and the distinct block letters “HALAL” residing somewhere within the sea of overlooked foreign typography. Its here that one will might find probably the most easily identifiable and most well known of all Greek foods, the Gyro. Pronounced “yee-roh” by Greeks and “jai-roh” by everyone else, this Mediterranean morsel is one of my favorites because it so closely resembles my absolute favorite treat (Shawarma) in appearance, content, preparation, and somewhat in flavor. In my opinion, the gyro has surpassed the Hot Dog in personifying everything that is NY street food. Surprisingly enough however, the Gyro I will be presenting to you was not bought on the street but in an actual restaurant.

The restaurant in question is none other than BZ Grill located in the heart of Astoria, Queens. BZ Grill is a quaint little establishment that boasts the best Greek food in all of NY. It’s critically acclaimed and can definitely back it up. The meal I had on this wondrous occasion was their Gyro Sandwich. The name itself doesn’t do the meal any justice and is somewhat misleading. For those who don’t know any better, its easy for one to immediately assume that by ordering a “Gyro Sandwich” you will get your run-of-the-mill gyro meat wrapped in a pita with Tzatziki sauce… If that is what you thought the case was this time around, you might find that you are refreshingly mistaken.

The BZ Grill Gyro Sandwich is made with a little twist that made me fall in love with this wrap. Pork is the star of the show; juicy, tender, succulent pork. Now I’m no expert on Gyros and their preparation but as far as I am concerned, the pork was an unexpected yet much appreciated curveball. The combination of the pork and the Tzatziki sauce made for a perfect collaboration for this meal along with the crisp lettuce and fresh tomatoes thrown in. As I took each bite, I couldn’t help but wonder where else could anyone ever find any Gyro on this side of the Mississippi that can match up to this masterfully crafted wrap. Now although the Gyro was not accompanied by any side or anything else of the sort, the whole thing alone made for a good lunch snack on a chilly November Sunday afternoon.

At a price of $5.97, the Gyro Sandwich at BZ Grill might be a little pricy. But the way I see it is that you are paying for quality ingredients for quality preparation in a quality environment. I definitely recommend that if you ever find yourself in Astoria, Queens in NY look for BZ Grill and take a bite out of this $ix Dollar $itdown.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Los Paises: Torta Hunting

Los Paises on Urbanspoon

It’s been a loooooong while since I put up my last post, a little more than a month to be more specific. But that time has been productively spent on saving up for a new camera (with out which I would just have to extremely and very vividly describe my encounters) as well as doing field research during my lunch breaks. But now that those time are over its time to get right back into the full swing of things! With that said I bring to you my latest culinary endeavor: Los Paises

Now along with sustaining our economy by providing a labor force that acts as a crutch for our entire agricultural system and in essence our fiscal existence, Mexico has provided our country with a number of great things; tequila, mariachis, the inspiration for Taco bell, Selma Hayek, and of course the topic of today’s discussion.

In Orlando, there are a few things that there are a whole lot of (Puerto Ricans, Vietnamese Restaurants, and tourists just to name a few). But authentic Mexican food is few and far between. Sure you have your run-of-the-mill, corporate Tex-Mex establishment lighting up the night with its red and green chili pepper at every other corner. However a real, south of the border experience is something to cherish in Central Florida. Which is why I felt the need to highlight this quaint little establishment I happened to stumble upon one day on the way to work.

Los Paises is actually not a restaurant but a Mexican Grocery Store/Deli/Taqueria. It’s located in the Pine Hill area off Colonial between Powers and Hastings. In its two long aisles you’ll find an arsenal of all kinds of Latin American grocery items, an alter to the Goya gods, a wall of a million spices, and the most extensive selection of Jarritos that I’ve ever laid eyes upon. But I digress, I didn’t come to Los Paises to revel and bask in the presence of its inventory. I came to eat! And the target of my hunger being none other than the torta.

A Torta is a typical Mexican sandwich, circular in shape, about a 7” in diameter, and stacked with delicious ingredients native to what lies beyond our southern border. You can fill a torta with just about any kind of meat that your heart desires. Los Paises offers you the option of carne asada, carnitas(shredded pork), chicken, empanizado(breaded steak), fish, and the pick of the day: lengua. For those who aren’t very well versed in the Spanish tongue, lengua means just that… tongue.

Wait what? Did you just read what you think you read?? Yes, I had a beef tongue torta for lunch. No, actually, I had an absolutely delicious beef tongue torta for lunch. Now if you’re like most people you’re probably appalled by the idea of tastebud-on-tastebud action going on inside of your mouth as you are chewing away during your lunch break. If that’s the case, then, like most people you are not very much of an explorer and/or your just plain boring. But the truth is that beef tongue is a very common element of Mexican cuisine and cuisines from all over the world; including Germany, Portugal, India, the Philippines, Russia, and Japan. So think about it, obviously there are a number people all over the world who indulge on beef tongue. So maybe the whole weirdness of the fact that all these people eat cow tongue might not be that weird at all when in actuality it might be weird that you are the only one who doesn’t eat cow tongue …think about it.

Back to the topic at hand, so Los Paises definitely came correct with this Torta de Lengua. Not only was it a pretty decent size, but it was packed with all kinds of savory flavors. Within the confines of the two halves of that circular bun you’ll find the usual suspects of fresh tomato, crispy lettuce, and onion accompanied by some ingredients that will send your taste buds flying back across the border where these flavors came from. Now I’m a GIANT fan of avocado, so I’m usually more than pleased any time I find that those little, lime green chunks of splendor have found their way into my meal. This torta had a nice layer of a creamy avocado sauce, its wasn’t quite guacamole but I could see how some might classify it as such. Working in conjunction with the avocado was the jalapeƱo garnishes that were sprinkled in here and there as well. I’m not too particular on spices and chili peppers but I have to admit that this time it was essential for the enjoyment and appreciation of this meal as a whole.

But on to the focus of this torta(and that of any sandwich), the meat filling. Okay first off, I have to admit I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea that I was chewing on bits of chopped up tongue. However all of that was all in my mind and had nothing to do with the way this sandwich tasted in any way. The fact of the matter is that it was absolutely delicious. It was soft, tender, juicy, a little fatty, and full of flavor. The only inkling unpleasantness in my head was the thought in the back of my mind, as I was chewing, of what exactly was being eaten. But like I mentioned earlier, it was all in my head and I place complete blame for this on the close-minded, American cultural incompetence in which I have been submerged in, had no choice to grow up in, and have allowed to flood my judgment as I have navigated my way through life in America.

All in all, this torta was great it was delicious, flavorful, but more importantly cheap! $3.99 was the price tag on this culinary confection. Which left more than enough room in my $6 budget to go over to the refrigerated beverages and pick from my choice of a Jarritos soda; I went ahead and chose Mango. This left me with a grand total of $5.50. Not bad considering most of today’s value meals at any local fast food grease pit will run you about $6-8. Los Paises is definitely a spot I recommend for anyone to hit up on their lunch break or who just happens to be in the area. By the time your ready to leave the place, it will leave you with, a happy stomach, satisfied wallet, and a great impression.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Casavana: En esta Casa-vana ahorrar!

Casavana on Urbanspoon

Miami is a wondrous place filled with just about anything your overactive imagination can conjure up, with or with out the assistance of any illicit substances. Its a place known for all kinds of food, fun, and sun but also notorious for being particularly nasty on your bank account. But fear not because it isn’t impossible to find an affordable, quality, enjoyable meal in the Magic City. As a matter of fact there are several establishments scattered across the span of Miami’s different sub-cities that offer a meal that not only boasts a great price, but also backs up the great savings with great taste! Today I found myself in the Kendall area by the newly renovated Town & Country Mall. Inside of this resurrected plaza you’ll find a Cuban restaurant by the name of Casavana.

Casavana has four locations across Miami including Kendall, Homestead, Coral Reef, and Miami Lakes. It’s a great family restaurant with fairly cheap prices. I’ve been to Casavana on several occasions and have rarely been disappointed by the food, service, and atmosphere. But on to the purpose of today’s post: the food.

Like any other self-respecting Cuban restaurant on the face of the planet, Casavana treats its guest with a complementary basket of

replenishable Pan Tostada (toasted bread slathered with a layer of butter) to munch on while they scan the menu for what they will be having. The toast was a great start to the meal; for having been away from Miami for so long I had almost forgotten about this beautiful custom shared by Cuban restaurants across the land and it served as a delightfully surprising reminder.

But the toast isn’t why I came to Casavana at all. The star of tonight’s meal still remained unassembled in the kitchen, awaiting an audience with my taste buds.

I introduce to you, the Frita Cubana

The Frita Cubana is what you would get if somehow a traditional Burger and a Pan con Bistec sandwich met and had a love child. It’s a grilled patty sandwiched between a Cuban bread burger bun, garnished with onions and ketchup, and smothered with what seamed like a pound of thinly cut julienne fries. It’s a fairly simple dish but absolutely delicious. As delicious as the sandwich was, it's taste wasn’t even the best part about it. I have to say that the best aspect of this burger had to be its price, just $3.29.

Having only exhausted a little more than half of my $6 budget, I had room to accompany my lovely sandwich with a single ham croquetta which set me back just $.95. Croquettas, or “croquettes” for the English-speaking crowd, have to be my single most favorite snack out of all the different foods that Cuban cuisine has to offer. Encased within its crispy, fried, cylindrical exterior, you’ll find a flour and meat based medley of finely chopped ingredients that work together to give this tiny morsel the intense taste it contains. Having eaten my fair share of croquettas in my day, I must admit that this had to be one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of indulging on. What made this the case was a subtle but ever present tangy flavor infused within the croquetta, which might have been either lemon or lime, that worked perfectly with the rest of the ingredients to really give this small snack it's huge flavor.

However, if you’re not too keen on indulging on swine there is still a slightly more expensive yet still affordable alternative. Papitas! …more commonly known as French fries. But these were no ordinary french fries my friends. My best friend and fellow surveyor of fine foods, Jared, was kind enough to allow me to sample his plate of these perfectly fried spuds. They were uncannily crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside. For a second I had my doubts that these fries were even made of potatoes. $1.49 was how much they cost Jared on top of the $3.29 for his Frita Cubana.

Overall, with tax included $4.53 is how much my total ended up being for this delicious $itdown, which gave me more than enough room to leave a substantial tip and still be within the $6 budget. Jared’s total with tax was $5.11. Having spent less than $12 for a meal for two and have it be a great meal at that makes Casavana a wonderful location to have a spectacular meal without having to strangle your wallet for every last cent that it has. I should also note that the service was outstanding, the staff was friendly, and the food was prepared surprisingly quick. For anyone who ever finds themselves in the Miami area and is looking to feast frugally whether by yourself, with a friend, or a group, Casavana is the place to go. Porque en esta casa, vana ahorrar!

Thursday, June 3, 2010



Okay so I like to eat, not only do i like to eat but I like to indulge. And what better way to indulge than to do so without doing damage to your wallet? Thus came the inspiration for this blog. As a college student with a big appetite and an ever expanding crave for not only new tastes but pocket friendly tastes, I've decided to chronicle my culinary explorations through this blog.

So how am I to do this?

...well I haven't quite figured that out yet but the general idea is that I will review every eatery, restaurant, diner, food stand, and any other vendor of enticing edible goods that I encounter that serves a substantial meal for less than $6. Then maybe I'll rate them on a few dimensions of satisfaction including but not limited to:

Price/Taste Ratio

well those are just a few ideas I have so far but I'm quite sure I'll add a few more once I give it some undivided thought and attention.

so with out further ado I invite you on my journey as I taste my way through life, the universe, and everything...

this is $ix Dollar $itdowns