I have to admit that I am terrible at blogging on a regular basis despite the fact that it is one of the things that I actually enjoy. However, I have now tweaked things in a way that should simplify things a hair. Well, either that or it will make them more work. We will see.
The real issue will be whether I can finish writing/editing stuff that I have already started. I end up looking at what I wrote and not being able to convince myself that it gets across what I wanted to say.
Cost: About the same, shake was good and appropriately sized but pricy. Iprobably would not bother ne t time.
Ambiance: Bagger Dave's was definitely better. It was not nearly as loud and the seating felt a bit more comfortable. Kids liked the train along the ceiling. TVs were actually playing stuff we cared about but that could have just been timing.
Food: We both got burgers. In my case the beef was a bit dry but otherwise things were good. My wife was a big fan of the turkey and we didn't try the black bean patty. Red Robin probably has a better non-burger menu but Bagger Dave's at least gives a better impression of variety by giving you a list of toppings and asking what you want. No asking what they got, its just there. I wish Red Robin would just list the toppings and let you decide without having to have a long conversation with the waitstaff.
Drinks: Special mention for Bagger Dave's. The pop was apparently homemade. If we go back i will have to give it a shot and see if it is any good. The beer menu is a good selection of craft beer. No asking what they got, its just there. I appreciate that since most places I go I end up in a entirely too long conversation when I ask what they have.
Service: Weak, might have just been our server though. He seemed a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with his tables.
Location: Red Robin is closer than Bagger Dave's. We usually do not make it down to Canal Ave. it is likely that out of sight out of mind will limit our return visits.
Once, we go there I began to notice a couple of things. The first thing was that the was a noticeable division of old exhibits/buildings and new. The new exhibits were quite good and we got to see animals that we didn't get to see in the zoos we had been to. My favorite had to bee the aardwolf. I had never heard of such a thing. My wife was a big fan of the aardvark once we found it hiding in its den. The Polar Bears were also quite impressive. The one thing everyone enjoyed that I did not expect was the dolphin show. I had no idea they had a dolphins. If we were to go in the future we would probably skip the show itself and watch the dolphins from one of the under water viewing areas. These are free and I am betting it would be good time to watch them during the shows.
However the other things we noticed was less positive. It was clear they still had a lot of cleanup to do at the very least. There was no real flow to the zoo. We are used to an obvious path that allows you to see pretty much everything at the zoo. The map listed a couple of paths but when we tried to follow them we found that what we thought were entrances to the various zoo buildings were not entrances or were old entrances that were no longer in use. We had to back track several times to try and find entrances. This meant that our limited time was cut even further. I am hoping that in the future they will be able to use the unused spaces in the park to not just expand their offerings but to improve the flow. There was lots of concrete that just seemed to be taking up space. The other negative thing was the service/food quality of the place we got food. Someone needs to tell the cooks that bison meat is not the same as beef. It was ridiculously dry by the time I go it. The service was also terrible. The customers would get a number but often times after far too long a wait the food would be served up with a different number. This caused further delays and a great deal of frustration.
Overall it was a good time and I would not mind going back at all when we had more time. There were several areas we ended up skipping because we ran out of time or had to go over very briefly. I'd still skip most of the extra cost items like the trolley, dolphin show, etc. There did not seem to be much benefit to them unless you were someone who had been to the zoo a great deal and were looking for something new. The only lasting disappointment was we did not get many pictures because the battery died and we did not have any spares or the ability to charge it.
The guy, who I think was the owner, gave us the run down. Their schtick is that they bake skinless Koegel's or other sausages into homemade bread. This does mean you're limited to what they have on hand or you get to wait forty-five minutes for them to cook what you're interested in. However, they have plenty of their standard Papa dog's so we went with them. The kids went with basic white bread while Melissa and I tried the Garlic Cheese Bread and Pretzel Bread. The bread was quite good. I'd definitely like to see more hot dogs places take a moment and re-evaluate their buns. There is certainly room for the basic hot dog bun to improve. Another point in their favor is the toppings bar. The selection was huge. They had an actual salad bar full of toppings of various types; a cooler full of various salad dressings and other condiments; and crock pots of chili and cheese.
However, I am not really a fan of the dog being baked into the bread. I would rather have traditional shaped buns made out of their various bread types. There must be a trick or two that I am missing when it comes to keeping the toppings on. No matter what I did the dog rolled and dumped the toppings and a look at my family's trays confirmed I was not the only one. Still, I would definitely be willing to go back. The food was good and you could spend plenty of visits trying out various toppings/dogs combinations. The pricing was reasonable and the location is close enough that there's no real planning needed to go. If you want something specific than you will want to call ahead so they can have what you want available.
In this case, one of my co-workers and I decided to try a new Mexican restaurant that opened up near where we work. The name was Cinco de Mayo and it is in an old Perkins building at 3300 Alpine Avenue Northwest, Grand Rapids, MI 49544. It appears to be part of a chain of restaurants know variously as Cinco de Mayo, El Burrito and others. I'm not sure of the exact relationship and which ones are tied in but the restaurant I was at was clearly a work in progress. There was a small bar area that was unfinished and waiting a liquor license. The dining area was clearly redecorated Perkins but comfortable and appropriate for the style of restaurant. The menu was well laid out and had a large selection. The service quick and efficient. The food off the lunch menu was good but not great. Prices were reasonable for a sit down restaurant.
I would have no problem going again if someone wanted to go. However, there is nothing to draw me there again either. The whole experience reminded me of an Applebees. Like Applebees, it is a solid middle of the road restaurant where you can find something to eat. The problem is if you know what you want there are so many other specialized restaurants that are better. There are cheaper places to get your fix of Mexican and places that have a better Mexican. If you go, skip the lunch menu and the specials. You are better off digging into the menu and looking for something that they can hit out of the park.
The Shiraz identifies itself as a Persian/Mediterranean restaurant and the decor seemed to match it well enough. The location is just off 28th street so the exterior and view from the windows are not terribly impressive. We arrived around six o'clock and tables were mostly empty. The private banquet room was closed off and empty. The main dining area only had half a dozen tables in use. The wait staff took the time to explain the menu which primarily consisted of various Kabobs and Khoresh's, though there was other stuff as well.
Melissa got one of the Kabob's while I got one of the Khoresh's. They were both well prepared and portions were not completely out of control like many restaurants. The food was not spicy hot and there was no one flavor that dominated the meal. You could actually taste the ingredients of the meal and this is something I appreciate, greatly. However, like the decor the food was nothing to write home about. I enjoyed the food well enough that I would certainly be willing to go back and try and find their standout items. However, Melissa was not impressed by the food and was more interested in trying other area restaurants next time around.
The real question is the service. On arrival, the dining room was mostly empty and they wait staff took the time to explain the menu, answer questions and get us what we needed. However, by 6:30pm and later the dining room was filling up and the wait staff were clearly understaffed. They tried to provide the same level of service but this meant long wait times and at least one group got up and left without even ordering. If you go I would recommend an early dinner to be on the safe side and avoid the window seats.
They look like they filled about two thirds of the main space so that was nice. It was more vendors than layouts but there were still a lot of layouts. The layouts ranged from two foot by two foot displays to displays that required multiple volunteers to run. They also has trains form tiny Z scale to larger O scale. Henry was in hog heaven. I do not feel I am exaggerating when I say that he spent at least 45 minutes per layout. He just couldn't get enough. I had to pry him away a few times to get him to look at different layouts. I did not get a chance to look at much of the vendor stuff but some of the stuff they were doing to show off the modeling gear and trains were impressively detailed. It was definitely a win and I am very glad we went.
My first impression is that everything is slow. I am hoping that the final software running on newer hardware will take care of that. This gets mentioned up front because the slowness was frustrating enough that I did not go real in depth with the software. The other frustration I will mention is that it had on optional pen. Unfortunately, the pen seemed to work slightly different than just touching the screen with my finger and had issues dealing with the slowness.
The second thing I noticed was that someone was definitely trying to make an interface that is not just a tweaked copy of what came before. This something to be encouraged and followed closely. However the differences between iOS and Windows 8 Metro seem fairly cosmetic on the surface. The one thing that becomes clear with use is that MS is trying to be more flexible on screen size, shape etc. the execution, so far, tells me to withold judgement until the final version is released.
The one down side I will mention is that MS is still unwilling to commit to anything completely. A version of the classic interface is still present, useable and as best I could tell, necessary. I was hoping that MS would be able support legacy apps within the new interface. I personally found switching between the two a bit jarring. I'd expect to either stick with classic or avoid non-Metro software. This kinda reminds me of the issues we have had mixing 64-bit and 32-bit on our Windows 7 machines which caused us no end of grief.
The apps are little better than demos so I will not comment much. A few show some promise. The features are lacking in most though and what is there now shows little thought has been given to the finer details.
In the end, this version of the software and hardware killed an hour but that is it. It is certainly not going to replace any of my machines. I would also be loathe to do any long term evaluation based on this combo. I would like try out a newer build on newer hardware this summer when I have more time and the product is more fully baked.
The menu includes pizza, chicken, burgers, subs, pasta, some Mexican and a few other things. We got pizza, breadsticks and fried mushrooms. The mushrooms were excellent and the pizza was very good. The bread sticks were good as well but, than again, they're kinda hard to screw up. I am definitely interested in going back. They had an olive burger on their board and I would like to try the chicken.